Author Topic: birch or cottonwood for furniture??  (Read 12655 times)

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Offline Tom Wales

  • Posts: 44
  • Soldotna, Alaska
birch or cottonwood for furniture??
« on: January 12, 2008, 07:05 PM »
Hi,
I'm about ready to start on some furniture and have some birch and cottonwood to use. I'll be making chairs, tables and some other items. I was wondering if anyone has used these woods and any thoughts about them.
Thanks,
Tom in Soldotna, AK

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Offline jonny round boy

  • Posts: 3227
Re: birch or cottonwood for furniture??
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2008, 07:48 PM »
Hi,
I'm about ready to start on some furniture and have some birch and cottonwood to use. I'll be making chairs, tables and some other items. I was wondering if anyone has used these woods and any thoughts about them.
Thanks,
Tom in Soldotna, AK

I've no idea what cottonwood is, but I made a few pieces from birch when I was at college. It's a really nice timber to work with (though that was a long,long time before I discovered Festool....). Very nice to hand plane, cut's like butter, nice tight grain, etc.

This seems like a good opportunity to show off some of the pieces I made, so here goes. First, I made this corner wall-mounted cabinet:
3631-0

Then I got a bit more adventurous, and decided to try some traditional coopering:
3633-1
3635-2

3637-3
3639-4

These were all done as part of my college course, about 6 or 7 years ago.
Festoolian since February 2006

TS55R EBQ saw - CTL26 - CTL Mini - OF1400EBQ router - KS120 Kapex SCMS - ETS150/3 sander - RO90 sander - DF500 Domino - PDC18/4 drill - PSC420 jigsaw - OFK500 trimmer

Wish list (in no particular order!): Anything not listed above....

Offline Tinker

  • Posts: 3734
Re: birch or cottonwood for furniture??
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2008, 08:01 AM »
Hi,
I'm about ready to start on some furniture and have some birch and cottonwood to use. I'll be making chairs, tables and some other items. I was wondering if anyone has used these woods and any thoughts about them.
Thanks,
Tom in Soldotna, AK

I've no idea what cottonwood is, but I made a few pieces from birch when I was at college. It's a really nice timber to work with (though that was a long,long time before I discovered Festool....). Very nice to hand plane, cut's like butter, nice tight grain, etc.

This seems like a good opportunity to show off some of the pieces I made, so here goes. First, I made this corner wall-mounted cabinet:
(Attachment Link)

Then I got a bit more adventurous, and decided to try some traditional coopering:
(Attachment Link)
(Attachment Link)

(Attachment Link)
(Attachment Link)

These were all done as part of my college course, about 6 or 7 years ago.

Cottonwood is one of the poplars.  I don't know if it has any use as show piece work, but pbably good or usable for filler or otherwise hidden work.  I'm only guessing at use here.  I do know it is a Real PITA when the seeds are blowing around.  Snowstorm in July.

JRB, that ain't showing off.  Were those pieces for classes in woodWorking or Designing? O r just stuff you did to take up time. Much better than Bar Hopping as so many kids have done/do/will do. 

I have been trying to come up with an idea for a blanket chest for my GS.  I really like that double sided curved design.

My first order from him is to build a trophy cabinet (He's into wrestling and doing very good  ... If I were a prejudiced "papa, I would naturally say "Exceptionally good".  But nah, I'm not ever prejudiced).  I had not thought of birch for such a project. Your corner cabinet is about what i had in mind for design, but had thought to use ash.  i think birch might be even a little more stable and less susceptable to damage from moving.  He has a lot of bridges and roads to travel before he sets down.

Over all, you have done some fine work.  One of these days, I'll forgive you for your NAINA items of discussion. :P
Tinker
Wayne H. Tinker

Offline jonny round boy

  • Posts: 3227
Re: birch or cottonwood for furniture??
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2008, 11:11 AM »
Quote
Were those pieces for classes in woodWorking or Designing?

Both - they were design & make projects. The corner cab was in my first year (as were the turnings inside), and the other two were 2nd year projects.
Festoolian since February 2006

TS55R EBQ saw - CTL26 - CTL Mini - OF1400EBQ router - KS120 Kapex SCMS - ETS150/3 sander - RO90 sander - DF500 Domino - PDC18/4 drill - PSC420 jigsaw - OFK500 trimmer

Wish list (in no particular order!): Anything not listed above....

Offline Tom Bainbridge

  • Posts: 1009
  • Limey Carpenter
Re: birch or cottonwood for furniture??
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2008, 11:54 AM »
curved work

now thats the way to see off the opposition
Bromley, Kent. UK

aka dirtydeeds

Offline Jesse Cloud

  • Posts: 1741
  • Festooling at the end of a dirt road in New Mexico
Re: birch or cottonwood for furniture??
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2008, 01:10 PM »
Not sure cottonwood would work for furniture.  Not particularly strong, hard to make a clean (not fuzzy) cut.  Cottonwood and juniper is about all we have out here.  I see a rare piece of rustic juniper work, but never saw anything from cottonwood....

Offline bruegf

  • Posts: 797
  • Michigan
Re: birch or cottonwood for furniture??
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2008, 02:00 PM »
Don't know how cotton wood compares to poplar, but I have a dining room table made out of solid poplar.   Its actually a very nice looking wood after the green tint ages to a warm brown.  My dad made the table for me close to 15 years ago and it still looks great.

Fred
Fred

Offline Tinker

  • Posts: 3734
Re: birch or cottonwood for furniture??
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2008, 02:35 PM »
Don't know how cotton wood compares to poplar, but I have a dining room table made out of solid poplar.   Its actually a very nice looking wood after the green tint ages to a warm brown.  My dad made the table for me close to 15 years ago and it still looks great.

Fred

That is probably Tulip poplar, or Whitewood poplar. I have a small table/stool/bench I made legs with those very dark streaks in it. Legs are flat about 6" wide at top and maybe 8" or 9" at bottom.  The heartwood was a rich green at first and did not look real great.  In time, the green has turned a very rich dark brown providing great contrast with the very light yellow along the edges. The yellow was originally nearly white, but time, linseed oil and wipe on urethane has turned the white to a rich yellow, almost like maple with golden oak stain on it. The top had a very wavy, almost silky looking grain.  Old timers used to call it "Silkwood." 

When i made the stool (actually a low table with a set of fold-away steps making it more of a step-stool, but my wife uses it as a low table), i knew nothing about the problems of clear finishes and stains on Tulip.  After the fact, i read where others had very unhappy experiences with staining Tulip.  Maybe because i was ignorant of such problems, i have had none of that sort of problem.

Tulip works easy.  Is very stable to work with and doesn't splinter with the slightest nudge.  That was a surprise to me, as Tulip is a very dangerous tree to work in.  If one puts too much weight on a weak limb, it will snap with absolutely no warning cracking.  I have taken down large tulips and had them actually jump when the final cut is made at the "hinge".  My arborist taught me a safer way to cut them at the hinge to help prevent that sudden break at the end of the cut.  I don't mess with thenm any more.  i consider them too dangerous and besides, my insurace company won't cover me for trees larger than 6' in diameter.  Oh, they don't mind me working on trees larger>>> so long as they collect more money up front from me.  Since the insurance companies seem to run this world, i stick to the small trees>>> or let my arborist handle them.  his insurance works better. :o

I agree that cotton wood is probably difficult to cut a clean edge on.  It also takes forever to dry out.  about the only wood that takes longer to season that I know of is Willow.  that stuff takes a lifetime.  i undrstand it does have a nice grain.  I don't know about the grain of cottonwood.  I mentioned the seeds blowing around and looking like snow in July.  For those who do not know about cottonwood, the seed is like a very large dandelion seed and will blow for miles.  when they are going to seed around here, the seeds will pile up in corners in drifts several inches thick.  they get into every corner immaginable.

Tinker
Wayne H. Tinker

Offline Tinker

  • Posts: 3734
Re: birch or cottonwood for furniture??
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2008, 02:40 PM »
Not sure cottonwood would work for furniture.  Not particularly strong, hard to make a clean (not fuzzy) cut.  Cottonwood and juniper is about all we have out here.  I see a rare piece of rustic juniper work, but never saw anything from cottonwood....

Jesse, don't you have Mesquite.  I have a friend who says that makes nice looking turnings.  It is also very hard.  i have never used it, but isn't it common in your area?

We also get Mesquite honey, so it must have blossoms during time of bee activity.
Tinker
Wayne H. Tinker

Offline tvgordon

  • Posts: 501
  • Springfield, Ohio
Re: birch or cottonwood for furniture??
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2008, 07:17 PM »
I've used birch and like using it for furniture.  I usually don't have much trouble finding flame birch that has a lot of figure to the wood.  Looks very nice with an oil finish.

Tom.

Offline clintholeman

  • Posts: 301
  • Sonoma County, CA
    • Clint Holeman, Fine Furniture and Cabinets
Re: birch or cottonwood for furniture??
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2008, 07:56 PM »
I'll have to second Tom's post about Birch.  I finished some kitchen cabinets a short while ago using Birch and they came out pretty nicely.

I use a clear urethane finish on them - worked pretty easily for me.
Clint Holeman

clint@clintholeman.com
http://www.clintholeman.com

Offline Eli

  • Posts: 2501
  • A Yankee in Kangaroo Court
    • Metafizix
Re: birch or cottonwood for furniture??
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2008, 08:03 PM »
My last kitchen was birch ply and maple. Came out nice, but has yellowed a bit. I used a poly finish as well. Haven't used solid birch.

re:mesquite. I've never seen a piece of it very big, certainly not big enough to use for furniture. Do they sell it NM/Arizona area?
Do nothing, stay ahead.

Offline Dave Ronyak

  • Posts: 2234
  • Flyin' from NE Ohio
Re: birch or cottonwood for furniture??
« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2008, 10:45 PM »
i'd go with the birch - much stronger and stable than the cottonwood.  And you can stain the birch to appear very similar to black cherry if you want to.

Dave R.
Friends, family and Festools make for a good retirement.  PCs...I'm not so sure.