Elm trees have been used for many things throughout history, including floorboards for wagons, medicine, and furniture. Not to mention, these majestic trees can live for hundreds of years, providing shade and beauty to landscapes. In this article, we’ll go through the many uses of elm wood, and what kinds of things can be made with it.
What You'll Learn Today
What is Elm Wood Good For?
Depending on what needs to be made, woodworkers will have different opinions on whether elm wood is a good option. If you’re considering using elm wood, it’s best to look at the pros and cons, first:
Advantages of Using Elm Wood
- It’s fairly resistant to stress and won’t split easily when used for furniture such as chairs and truck bed floors
- It sands and polishes readily
- Rich, warm coloring
- It bends easily when exposed to steam, making it more flexible when necessary for certain projects.
Disadvantages of Using Elm Wood
- Since most species have interlocking grain, it can be hard to work with if you don’t have very sharp tools.
- It should not be used outdoors since the wood is susceptible to rot and insect attacks.
- The species continues to be threatened by deadly diseases such as Dutch elm disease. Researchers are working on creating hybrid species of elm that are resistant to the fungus.
- Although good for manipulating while constructing items, bending or warping from steam could be a problem when used in certain areas of the home.
What Can You Make With Elm Wood?
There are over 30 species of elm trees throughout the world. Since their size, appearance, and bark type varies, the use of wood depends on the variety.
In general, elm wood is known for being durable, tough, and resistant to impact. Many people find the wood easy to work with since it’s lightweight and has a low density.
Here are some common types of elm trees, and what they are used for:
American Elm (Ulmus americana)
Although this species is more difficult to work with due to its interlocking grain, it’s lightweight and good for boxes, baskets, wood pulp, firewood, and furniture.
American elm wood should only be used indoors since it’s susceptible to rot and insect infestation.
English Elm (Ulmus procera)
This tree’s wood is also unsuitable for outdoor storage. Although tough to work with since the grain pattern is unstructured, it still makes beautiful furniture, boxes, veneer sheets, and wood pulp.
Cedar Elm (Ulmus crassifolia)
Cedar elm is used to make boxes, baskets, wood pulp, sports equipment, and veneer. It also has interlocking grain that makes it challenging to cut, but it holds nails and screws reliably.
Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra)
Slippery elms are unique in that their bark contains a thick, liquid substance that is used for many herbal remedies. Depending on the intended use, the inner bark can be chewed or used as a powder, tablet, or poultice.
There hasn’t been enough research to determine the efficacy or safety of slippery elm for medicinal purposes, but some studies show promising results. Many people claim that the supplement has helped with digestive problems, cough and sore throat, urinary tract irritation, and heartburn/GERD.
To learn more about identifying elm wood and its uses, watch this YouTube video:
Is Elm Wood Hard or Soft?
If you’re not familiar with the concept of hard vs softwood, you might assume that these terms refer to the texture of the wood. On the contrary, the hardness of wood depends on the type of tree.
Trees are classified as softwood when they are evergreen and coniferous, meaning that they retain their foliage year-round and produce cones. Hardwood trees, in contrast, are deciduous, which means that their leaves mature and fall off in autumn, and grow back in the spring.
Since elm trees are considered deciduous, they are technically hardwood trees. However, their wood is softer than that of other hardwoods, making elm trees a “soft hardwood” tree.
Within the elm family, there are some species that are harder than others. Hard elm trees include the Winged elm, Cedar elm, and Rock elm. American elm, Wych elm, English elm, Red elm, and Dutch elm are all considered soft elms.
Learning about the many uses of elm wood makes it clear that it’s important to conserve this valuable resource.
While Dutch elm disease has killed many millions of elm trees in the past century, there are steps we can take to help, like planting disease-resistant varieties and removing infected trees immediately. As long as we remain vigilant about preserving trees, elm wood will remain plentiful for generations to come.