White Ash (Fraxinus americana)
Kiln-dried, turned and clear-coated, white ash becomes the driving force of line-drives and grand slams in America's pastime, baseball. This shock-resisting wood is also known for its ability to deliver slap-shots in chilly ice arenas, sink snooker balls in smoky parlors and navigate a thrilling whitewater run. If you're more handy than athletic, check out your hand tools. Many of them probably sport handles made from ash.
In its less active life, the strength and rich, creamy color of white ash make it a popular choice for furniture. It's a coarse-textured wood with strength comparable to oak, but because it's less dense, ash is easier to work with. Because it bends very well with steaming, ash is ideal for curved furniture, trim and crafts. Although stiff, it's easy to work with both hand and power tools; it doesn't wear down saw blades much more than softer woods. It glues well and holds screws tightly. Because the wood is hard, you'll need to drill pilot holes for your screws and nails. Ash stains beautifully, but if you're looking for a smooth, glassy surface, you'll need to fill the characteristic open pores with pore filler before finishing the piece.
White ash grows throughout the eastern and central United States with a limited range in southeastern Canada. It's harvested sustainably from Pennsylvania's 2.2 million acres of FSC-certified state forests. White ash is also a popular landscaping tree. You can grow your own ash wood right in your front yard.
Does your taste in wood run to something with more personality? Bore into black cherry on the next page.