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Red alder maintains its regional appeal

Red alder is the most abundant hardwood in the Pacific Northwest, available in clear and knotty grades nationwide. It’s easy to work with, sands well and gives a pretty good cherry and mahogany imitation. And it’s moving well in its neck of the woods, according hardwood dealers interviewed by Woodshop News.

“Our alder sales [in 2014] are way better than [2013] and it’s our best year in six years,” says Ron Wilson of Cascade Hardwood, which offers 23 grades of alder at its facility in Chehalis, Wash. “I would attribute this to the economy, primarily because the cabinet business has been better and there’s a lot of alder sold there.

“It’s real easy to work with. It has a closed-grain, smooth finish and a reddish color like cherry. It doesn’t have the color variations in sap and heartwood, so people tend to like it as opposed to cherry because they don’t have to get it selected for all heart or all sap. It takes stain better and is very stable.”

Red alder (Alnus rubra), grows along the Pacific Coast, from the redwood belt of California to central British Columbia. It thrives near water and is most abundant around Washington’s Puget Sound and in northwest Oregon, where trees can reach heights of 120’ and diameters of 36”.

“It’s a pretty small area that it grows in and there are very few producers. However, it’s a very large-volume species,” Wilson says.

At Arroyo Hardwoods in Pasadena, Calif., Mike Hugens says alder sales have been mostly up in the last year.

“It’s not as popular as it used to be, but it’s selling. I’ve got a big alder project right now that we’re working on. People seem to be using it for countertops and cabinets,” he says.

For those who haven’t worked with alder, it is softer than other cabinet woods and dents easily. Availability is much easier in the Pacific Northwest, but chances are your local hardwood dealer can have some delivered on request.

Dealers say prices haven’t changed much recently, with 4/4 clear alder averaging about $4/bf.

This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issue.

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