Catalpa Lumber

Botanical Name: Platanus

Family: Platanaceae

Other Common Names: American sycamore, American plane tree, buttonball, buttonwood, and water beech.

Uses: Butcher blocks, interior furniture (quarter-sawn lumber mainly), boxes (primarily food containers), crates, slack cooperage, flooring, pallets, handles, and veneer.

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Distribution: Catalpa is native to the central eastern United States, but is naturalized throughout the United States and Canada.

General Characteristics: Catalpa can be confused with Sassafras due to its similarity in weight and color of the kiln dried lumber.  Catalpa, much like Sassafras, is used as a substitute for American Chestnut due to color and grain pattern similarities. Catalpa trees can reach 100 ft (30 m) in height and 3 ft (1 m) in diameter. The bark is thick, with reddish-brown scales. Catalpa trees are often planted as street trees and for shade in yards, but most often for their showy flowers. The tree has opposite, simple, entire leaves. The flowers are bisexual and formed in branched clusters. The fruits are large bean-like structures, resembling cigars. The heartwood is a grayish brown, tinged with lavender. The sapwood is narrow and gray. The wood has a faint aromatic odor and no characteristic taste. It is ring porous, straight grained, light and soft. It can be confused with ash.

Weight: Basic specific gravity (ovendry weight/green volume) 0.42; air-dry density N/A

Working Properties: Catalpa works very well with hand and machine tools, although it requires care to sand well.

Durability: Very resistant to heartwood decay when the wood is in contact with the soil.

Preservation: N/A

Mechanical Properties

Bending Strength:


Modules of Elasticity:


Maximum Crushing Strength:


Drying and Shrinkage:

Kiln Schedule T8 - C4 is suggested for 4/4 stock and T6 - C3 for 8/4.

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