Has anyone here done much furniture building with Alder?

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Forum topic by handsawgeek posted 02-09-2015 03:31 PM 1111 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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591 posts in 815 days

02-09-2015 03:31 PM

Hi, All, My next project calls for a wood that is suited for furniture frame and turned parts. I’ve never tried Alder before, but from what I have read it works very nicely and takes a stain very well.
I would very much like to hear what the pros and cons of this wood type might be.

-- Ed

18 replies so far

View jmartel's profile


6466 posts in 1570 days

#1 posted 02-09-2015 04:07 PM

I built a blanket chest for a wedding gift for a friend out of it:

Click for details

It’s very soft. It will dent quite easily if you aren’t careful with it. It also works pretty easy with hand tools. It also typically has a lot of knots in it. I couldn’t tell you about stain, though, as I don’t like to stain wood.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View pintodeluxe's profile


4825 posts in 2233 days

#2 posted 02-09-2015 04:16 PM

I haven’t used alder, but I would treat it like cherry when it comes time for stain. I would use a pre-stain conditioner, and make some sample boards. Most of the alder projects I see look blotchy, and the pre-stain conditioner (like diluted shellac) helps prevent that.
For cherry I like a 3:2 mix of denatured alcohol to Bullseye sealcoat. That makes a great pre-stain conditioner.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

1057 posts in 1950 days

#3 posted 02-10-2015 02:06 AM

I have used alder. It is a lovely wood to work with, but as jmartel says, fairly soft. About the same hardness as fir.

It blotches, as pinto surmises. To stain it evenly you’ll need to use a conditioner or sealer. Even better is to spray a toner.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

View LiveEdge's profile


476 posts in 1040 days

#4 posted 02-10-2015 03:50 AM

I have done a few things with alder and like it quite a bit. I can’t get the project to embed, but you can see a dining table that I did here.

I thought it would ding up, but we have used it at least weekly for a year and it has nary a scratch. I’m impressed. It will stain on the blotchy side. If you like that (like I do) then great, otherwise maybe a conditioner.

View Loren's profile


8159 posts in 3068 days

#5 posted 02-10-2015 04:48 AM

It looks dirty with brown stains. Maybe it can be stained
darker than I’ve tried and look good. Nice to work with
generally, stable and planes nicely. A local dealer to me
used to sell it pretty when I was getting started, but it hasn’t
been common to see it here in So. Cal in recent years and
I’ve had to use birch instead. I like the alder a little better
for working but birch is easier to finish.

I like how bland and fresh fresh-planed alder looks. The
figure is nicely subdued and this helps emphasize the form
of the piece while the natural pale color sort of lifts
up the piece. Dark wood swallows light.

View NoThanks's profile


798 posts in 949 days

#6 posted 02-10-2015 01:15 PM

I’ve used a lot of Alder. It’s a little soft but machines well. I don’t use a conditioner, I like the natural look of the wood. (could just be me) These units have a light colored stain on them.

-- Because I'm gone, that's why!

View Paul's profile


439 posts in 3009 days

#7 posted 02-10-2015 01:37 PM

Used a lot of it for craft work (not furniture). It is kind of an in between wood, not real hard or soft. I like it as it machines nicely and looks good. I’ve not stained it.

-- If you say 'It's good enough', it probably isn't.

View Rob Drown's profile

Rob Drown

783 posts in 3253 days

#8 posted 02-10-2015 02:08 PM

It is nice to work with. Machines and works well. Keep chisels sharp or it can crush. It can be blochy when stained.

-- The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools. Confucius, 经过艰苦的努力的梦想可以成真

View Nubsnstubs's profile


810 posts in 1150 days

#9 posted 02-10-2015 02:10 PM

I ve used a lot of Alder. It s a little soft but machines well. I don t use a conditioner, I like the natural look of the wood. (could just be me) !- Iwud4u

It’s not just you. I’ve used thousands of bdft, and still use it today. Prices have doubled since the ‘80’s, but still readily available in Tucson. About half of what I made while in business was furniture in Alder, and the other half was general kitchen cabinets, all stained and lacquered. No complaints from any customers, but have been out of business since ‘03.
I’ve found it’s really gentle with splinters as apposed to birch. I just touch birch, and get them…......... Jerry (in Tucson)

-- Jerry (in Tucson)

View handsawgeek's profile


591 posts in 815 days

#10 posted 02-10-2015 04:13 PM

Wow! Thanks for the responses. These are some very nice projects shown here that have been made from this wood. I’m leaning more and more to using it based on what I’ve seen here.

-- Ed

View Nubsnstubs's profile


810 posts in 1150 days

#11 posted 02-10-2015 07:11 PM

Superior or Supreme is the wood grade to use unless you’re after a bunch of knots, then go for face frame grade. The price should be about half for FF Grade. Superior grade s2s in Tucson sells for about $3 bdft ramdom widths and lengths. . ......... Jerry (in Tucson)

-- Jerry (in Tucson)

View DMC1903's profile


237 posts in 1747 days

#12 posted 02-10-2015 09:09 PM

I have built many PCs of furniture out of alder, using a Gel Stain helps control blotches.

View AlaskaGuy's profile


2392 posts in 1729 days

#13 posted 02-10-2015 09:13 PM

I would think dye would work better than pigmented stains on Alder.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View Deaner's profile


42 posts in 1506 days

#14 posted 11-10-2015 05:03 PM

Alder is this woodworkers wood of choice. I love everything about it. I’m actually grooming for harvest some alder off my property. It has tedious virtues from the moment the tree is felled, and more tedious yet until it is seasoned. I will sticker, dry naturally and cover it til use. I’ll be doing my own kitchen with alder this coming year.

-- Once harm is done, even a fool understands it.

View Dark_Lightning's profile


2619 posts in 2529 days

#15 posted 11-11-2015 02:48 AM

It is nice to work with. Machines and works well. Keep chisels sharp or it can crush. It can be blochy when stained.

- Rob Drown

That’s a nice looking little table.

I was hoping to use alder for a relief carved room divider, simply because I like the color. Does simply keeping the chisels sharp work well enough? Or should it be power carved? I found that tupelo is better for power carving because of the crushing (or, as I call it, tear-out)?

I made a knickknack shelf out of alder (all clear, no knots). It came out nicely. Hopefully I will get my camera skills up to snuff and post a pic.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

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