While it’s not used as often as some of its mainstream domestic counterparts, alder (Alnus rubra), also known as red alder, still strikes interest from those looking to incorporate a striking appearance in their projects. Native to the Pacific Northwest, the light rust-hued hardwood is moving steady at lumberyards, according to hardwood distributors interviewed by Woodshop News.
“We show it to customers every once and a while, depending on what they’re looking to do, and they wind up buying it. Sometimes they’re not aware of it here on the East Coast,” says Rob Lamoureaux of Parkerville Wood Products in Manchester, Conn.
“The wood’s tone is similar to cherry, but not as pink/red. It has a similar grain pattern, but not the same texture. Cherry’s texture is more like a maple and this has more of a softer texture when machining it. We offer a clear grade, but it does have a knot or two in it. It’s knottier than our regular premium cherry. People looking for something more rustic like smaller tabletops find it’s perfect for them. It gives them a cherry look, gives them something a little more unique, but it’s still domestic. When they find out about it they like it because nobody else has it.”
Alder sales have increased in the last year for Scott Roberts at Roberts Plywood of Deer Park, N.Y., who says customers give him positive feedback on using it for cabinetry applications and also for culinary purposes.
“Whenever I sell alder to someone, they call me back and say they love it, that it’s easy to work with, it’s light in weight, easy to finish, takes stains well … and a lot of them put the scraps in a smoker for their fish or chicken for flavoring,” Roberts says.
“It is a little bit soft, so if you’ re running it through a molder, the blade better be sharp because it will leave a nick in it. I see a lot of it used for residential cabinetry. It’s too soft to use for flooring or stairs. And that rustic look is pretty desirable right now. Even though I offer clear and rustic, more people want the character grade.”
Matt Gilland of Superior Veneer & Plywood in New Albany, Ind., has seen a slight increase in alder veneer sales, especially with rustic variations.
“We’ve sold quite a bit of alder since February. It seems like the rustic’s been a little bit more popular for us than the clear has. The clear that we’ve been producing has been going predominantly out West. The knotty turns out beautiful because we random-plank it. We will cut it up and disperse the knots so that way the knots are appearing top to bottom, left to right, and it looks really nice,” Gilland says.
This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue.