The Properties of Sycamore Wood
Sycamore wood, 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 diameter, or one to two metres. Its sapwood is often more utilised than the heartwood, providing light golden to reddish brown wood.
This tree is thought to have been introduced in the UK in the Middle Ages, having since then 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.
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 such as oak trees. It is also susceptible to termites, and it must be treated accordingly to prevent decay.
Sycamore has no characteristic odour and it 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.
Whether with machine tools or by hand tools, sycamore wood is relatively easy to work with in woodworking. 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, providing 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, irritate the skin, and cause a runny nose.
Although not as popular as other maple species of trees, European sycamore can still be utilised 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.
When using sycamore wood for woodworking, it is often used for:
- Musical instruments
- Small speciality wood items
- Turned objects
With regards to tools, it is recommended to utilise stellite-tipped saw teeth and tungsten carbide cutting tools. With sawing and planing, the occasional waviness of the sycamore grain may make these processes more difficult. The cutting angle and the feed rate should be reduced.
--G&S Specialist Timber 08:38, 14 Aug 2017 (BST)
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