Aspen and Eastern Cottonwood Lumber?

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walhondingnashua

Feeling the Heat
Jul 23, 2016
405
ohio
I am thinking about milling some lumber from my trees for some projects. Not 1" boards buy more like 2" or thicker for structural projects like shed roof trusses, rough 2x4s, etc. I have a tulip poplar or 2 I may use but I also have a stand of some aspens and a cottonwood. I'd like to use those trees more if I can. Has anyone used them as lumber? How is it compared to pine?
 

sloeffle

Minister of Fire
Mar 1, 2012
870
Central Ohio
I had a cottonwood tree struck by lightning and we cut it down for firewood. If I had to do it over again, I would of just shoved the log into the woods and let it rot. It's great wood for starting a fire but that's about it. Takes along time to dry and doesn't have a lot of BTU's. Pretty worthless wood in our part of the U.S.

When I built custom furniture we would use tulip poplar as our secondary wood. It's good stuff. I'd mill the poplar trees and let the cottonwood stand. I don't know enough about aspen to have a decent opinion about it. After milling though, you will need to sticker the wood and let it air dry down to at least 20% or have it kiln dried. There are some Amish in Fredricktown that offer kiln drying.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,288
Downeast Maine
Check out the Forestry Forum. They have many threads on cotton wood and aspen lumber. They both take finishes/paint very well and are favored in furniture and cabinetry.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,616
Northern NH
I cant comment about cottonwood but Aspen is typically an interior wood and not used structurally. Its got reasonable strength but does not weather well. I have seen references to using it as roof sheathing and flooring underlayment as long as its quickly covered from the weather. It also seems to be popular for the ceilings under covered porches.

I have stack and half of mostly 4 quarter and a lesser amount of 5 quarter air drying Aspen awaiting a project that will suit it. It nice stuff, mostly clear and nice wide boards.
 
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sloeffle

Minister of Fire
Mar 1, 2012
870
Central Ohio
Check out the Forestry Forum. They have many threads on cotton wood and aspen lumber. They both take finishes/paint very well and are favored in furniture and cabinetry.
I built custom furniture and have a college degree in building custom furniture and I've never heard of anybody building furniture out of cottonwood.
 

ABMax24

Minister of Fire
Sep 18, 2019
1,216
Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
The only commercial use of cottonwood (known as black poplar, bam or balsam poplar here) that I'm aware of is in OSB. Our local mill mixes aspen and balsam poplar to make OSB, there is a max percentage of black poplar though that they can use but I don't recall what that number is.

Aspen can make nice pieces, as it is a nice white wood, although it's not much cheaper here than oak, so furniture is typically built from hardwood or much cheaper pine.

Aspen is not for outdoor use, and rots quickly once exposed to the elements.
 
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walhondingnashua

Feeling the Heat
Jul 23, 2016
405
ohio
I may stay away from the aspen and cottonwood then. Should the poplar make nice structural lumber for me (Like 2x4s and 2x6s)?
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,628
South Puget Sound, WA
I may stay away from the aspen and cottonwood then. Should the poplar make nice structural lumber for me (Like 2x4s and 2x6s)?
There are pros and cons for using poplar as a structural wood. It depends on the type of poplar. Check whether your state allows use of this wood for structure work first.