Last edited 09 Mar 2018

Sycamore wood

13sycamore.jpg

Contents

Introduction

Sycamore, also known as European sycamore or Acer pseudoplatanus, are deciduous trees with broad leaves. They can grow up to 115 feet, or 35 metres, with a trunk that is three to four feet in diameter. Its sapwood is often more utilised than the heartwood, providing light golden to reddish brown wood.

This tree is thought to have been introduced into the UK in the Middle Ages, and since then has become a naturalised species. It is more likely to be found in southern, eastern, and central Europe. The botanical name, Acer pseudoplatanus, refers to ‘like a plane tree’, as its leaves are superficially similar to those in the Platanus genus.

Properties

With a typically straight grain with occasional waves, sycamore wood has a fine yet even texture. This wood has a rating of perishable or non-durable when it comes to rot resistance, so it is vital to ensure that it does not take in any water. However, its strength properties are high, like oak trees. It is also susceptible to termites, and it must be treated accordingly to prevent decay.

Sycamore has no characteristic odour and does not stain or taint food, which makes it ideal for kitchenware use. The wood has an average weight of 38 lbs/ft3, or approximately 615 kg/m3 when dried.

Woodworking

Whether with machine tools or by hand tools, sycamore wood is relatively easy to work with. Although some blotches may occur when staining, sycamore wood glues, turns, and finishes well. The use of a gel stain, for example, can be a good solution to provide an even colour throughout. This wood takes well to screws and nails and provides an excellent base for paint and polish.

Its use, however, may require caution, as sycamore wood and other Acer genus trees have been known to cause respiratory effects similar to asthma, and to irritate the skin, and cause a runny nose.

Common uses

Although not as popular as other maple species of trees, European sycamore can still be used for a wide variety of projects. Should screws or nails need to be used, pre-drilling is often advised. This type of wood can burn easily, and allowing for it to acclimatise to the surrounding environment is recommended.

Sycamore wood is often used for:

  • Cabinets.
  • Veneer.
  • Kitchenware.
  • Musical instruments.
  • Small speciality wood items.
  • Turned objects.

With regards to tools, it is recommended to use stellite-tipped saw teeth and tungsten carbide cutting tools. The occasional waviness of the sycamore grain may make sawing and planing more difficult. The cutting angle and the feed rate should be reduced.

--G&S Specialist Timber

Find out more

Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki