The emerald ash borer is killing ash trees, putting long-term supplies of the domestic hardwood in doubt. But there is plenty now and sales are strong, according to lumber dealers interviewed by Woodshop News.
Matt Gilland of Superior Veneer in New Albany, N.Y., says he’s seen a significant increase in ash sales, particularly from last November through April.
“Our production of ash up until now has been really strong. In fact, we saw an uptick in flat-cut ash through the winter. We sold a lot of white ash in predominately 12’ lengths,” says Gilland, who states that consumer concerns about ash disappearing are far and few between.
“Some people will hear reports on what’s going on with the ash borer and ask if we can get ash, which we have not had any problem getting.”
Quarantines have been put into effect in multiple states and counties throughout the U.S. in effort to protect remaining ash trees from the Asian beetle, but the problem continues to spread because of the invasive nature of the species. Timely information on the status of the outbreak in different regions can be found on www.emeraldashborer.info, a website developed between the U.S. Forest Service and Michigan State University.
Ash sales have been pretty steady in the last year, according to Chad Muterspaw, owner of C.R. Muterspaw Lumber in Xenia, Ohio. He says there is tremendous concern over the future of the species.
“That’s kind of a hot topic with each sawmill that deals with ash trees. With ash, I hear different things on whether it’s going to run out or if and when it’s going to run out. There’s definitely talk out there on whether it will end up being like chestnut or if it will be tough to get or will you have to get it as reclaimed material and stuff like that,” Muterspaw says.
Right now, he says ash is a popular choice for residential cabinetry, case goods and flooring.
“What we’re seeing is [buyers] wanting that cathedral-type grain in oak, but they don’t want the red colors, so they’ll go for the ash. Some of it we sell with the white sap left on, then we get some folks who kind of like the color variations, too.”
Skip Kise of Good Hope Hardwoods in Landenberg, Pa., has plenty of ash slabs to go around. Starbucks has been a good customer, buying the slabs to make tables for its restaurants.
“Another thing we’re doing is supplying ash for work on for the Dakota building in New York City. They’re looking to use ash as a substitute for chestnut,” Kise says.
“We have not come across (EAB) causing a shortage right now, but it will soon happen. It may take 20 years to wipe it all out.
This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue.