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Go figure: Yellow birch is suddenly ‘in flavor’


There’s been good demand for yellow birch [Betula alleghaniensis], according to hardwood dealers surveyed by Woodshop News.

“We’ve done three staircase orders recently,” says Doug White of Doug Hardwoods in Marissa, Ill. “We also had a guy come in who’s building children’s bedroom furniture out of it, a hobbyist. Several cabinet shops are buying it for making cabinets. They’re getting 200 up to 500 board feet.

“It’s something different. It’s a closed grain wood. I’ve heard several people ask what they can build with other than grainy oak. They’re wanting more of that look, I guess. It’s just a trend. Of course, a lot of cabinets were built with birch years ago. In our town, houses built in the late 50’s, 60’s, maybe early 70’s, birch was the only thing they built cabinets out of and now it’s coming back for some reason. It’s in flavor.”

“It can be spectacular in figure and a lot of cabinetmakers like it for the figure,” reports Bob Putnam of Rare Woods U.S.A. in Mexico, Maine. “We sold a couple of different lots of it recently to contractors making kitchen cabinets.

“In this area, a lot of people that are less familiar with exotics and are more comfortable with domestic woods. Birch is from this region and people are amazed by it. I have a sample that looks almost 3D with the beautiful waves of the figure, the curl or the flame.”

Figured yellow birch isn’t always available, but there are other options.

For example, Scott Roberts of Roberts Plywood in Deer Park, N.Y. suggests ice veneer from Finland and “Karelian birch burl veneer, which is absolutely beautiful. The curl is very elegant. I’ve seen it in yacht interiors and very exclusive car interiors.”

At the retail level, 4/4 FAS yellow birch was selling for about 4.95/bf. Figured or flamed was quoted at $6.50/bf. 

This article was originally published in the April 2021 issue.

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