Western Birch

 

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Western Birch

 

Western Birch (Betula papyrifera) is commonly known as Paper Birch and marketed in the Pacific Northwest as Western Birch.

The Birch family consists of over 40 species growing throughout the world. Most commercial size Paper Birch grows in the boreal forest areas of the Northern Hemisphere. Birch grows south to the British Columbia, Washington border in the Pacific Northwest, and north into Alaska. It grows in all Canadian provinces. Its range extends south into the lake states of Minnesota and Wisconsin and into the New England States.

Birch trees mature at 40-50 years with a height of 70’ to 80’ with an average 12” dbh. They can grow over 100 years and over 24” on ideal growing sites. It grows best on deep, moderately well-drained sandy or silty soils common to glacial deposits, but will tolerate muskeg and damp soils. Birch trees are shade intolerant in early growth, preferring burned sites, clear cut land, or opening in mature coniferous stands. It will co-exist to maturity in boreal spruce forests so long as it establishes itself as the pioneer species. Heart stain (light pink to dark brown) is common, especially when growing in wet sites. The heart color can be attractive and is stable once kiln-dried.

Some expertise is required in processing birch from logs into dry lumber as the sap has a high sugar content. The sugar attracts fungi and mould that can cause sticker stain if not processed in a controlled manner.

Western Birch is a close grain wood with uniform texture and medium density. It machines and glues well but requires drilling and screw fastening rather than nailing. Birch is stable after kiln drying, producing a hard surfaced wood ideal for furniture, flooring, and cabinet construction. It is widely used for wood turnings and toys. As veneer, it makes high grade panels and the veneer works well for toothpicks, ice cream sticks and tongue depressors.

Lumber is generally 4/4 and 8/4, but other thicknesses can be sawn to order. It is sawn random width to 8” or 9”, 8’ and 10’ lengths, S2S and graded by Western Hardwood Rules published by the NHLA. Heart color is a contractual obligation between seller and buyer.