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Ash still holding its own


White ash (Fraxinus americana) sales remain strong despite devastating effects from the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), which is rapidly killing the trees throughout the country. Consumers are intrigued by its grainy appearance as it lends more character to their projects, not to mention its relatively low price, according to hardwood suppliers interviewed by Woodshop News. Availability is not an immediate concern.

“Ash is still strong because all the ash trees are dying from the EAB and we have everyone and their brother calling us, asking if we’ll buy ash logs or cut down ash trees. I’ve been putting ash away and air-drying it for a couple of years now and finally just decided to tell people I can’t take many more ash logs. I’m just not big enough for that,” says Michael Johnson of Johnson Creek Hardwoods in Mount Carroll, Ill.

Johnson operates his own sawmill and has 70 acres of timber. He’s planted roughly 40,000 trees on the property over the last 46 years and around 7,000 ash. The EAB, which started in Michigan, worked its way south and over to his trees, is sparing none of them.

“There are still a lot that have just died so we still get some really white wood out of them, but some have been dead for a year already and there’s a lot of staining in those, but some people still go for that sort of thing. And we haven’t seen any increase in price in the ash. I suppose in another year or so it’s going to be rare and maybe the price will go up. I don’t know.”

Jim Ferris of Edensaw Woods in Port Townsend, Wash. reports that ash is a reasonably strong seller due to its the favorable appearance and properties.

“We sell quite a bit of white ash. It’s nice to work with. It’s usually pretty white in color and it’s got a nice grain pattern to it. It’s not like maple that really doesn’t have much of a grain to it at all. And, it’s reasonably priced,” says Ferris.

He also sells Thermory, thermally-treated white ash decking, that sells well.

On the veneer side, Greg Engle of Certainly Wood in East Aurora, N.Y. says special thicknesses are trending, and ash is no exception.

“In the veneer industry, at least on the furniture side in ash, we’ve been focusing on thicker cuts of veneer, primarily 1/16”. This allows customers who are working on bent lamination projects or those who are doing heavier decorative finishes such as cerusing to employ that technique without going through a thinner veneer,” says Engle.

Certainly Wood stocks European ash, which has been less affected by EAB, including olive ash.

“European olive ash offers a stronger contrast of heart colors than you see in regular ash, more like an olive brown color. It can have a uniform heart structure or when rotary cut, have a more swirl into a burl type pattern,” says Engle.

White ash (FAS 4/4) retails for about $3.95/bf. 

This article originally appeared in the July 2020 issue.

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