The flame birch we carry comes mainly from from the yellow birch (betula alleghaniensis) trees of Eastern Canada and Northern New England. The figure that occurs in the yellow birch tree is some of the strongest and boldest figure of any tree species found in north America, and possibly the world. It has many colloquial names liked figured, wavy and flame as well as better known curly, and they all refer to the same product. Like all the figured woods, that figure is an aberration that occurs in a very small percentage of the trees and is not always easy to spot, so finding it is always a quest. The sapwood is quite light and the heartwood ranges from a lighter tan to red and occasionally a darker brown, all of which contrast with the sapwood. The ratio of heartwood is variable, and we have sawn logs with a heart the size of a baseball to as much as 80% of the log.
When working with flame birch you have to decide if you want all heartwood, all sap, or the combination of heartwood and sapwood on each board. The sap boards are off the outside of the log so the all white lumber will have a more limited width and is harder to produce in thicker stock. The trees aren't known to grow really tall before limbing out, so the available logs are shorter than in some species like cherry or maple, 8' and 10' being the most common lengths. The tree can grow to a decent diameter and we are able to produce a lot of lumber in 10” to 18” widths, and we have had boards on occasion that exceeded 24” in width.
Curly birch can be a difficult wood to work with-what makes it so beautiful also stresses the wood, and that figure is very prone to tear out. Bigger curl means bigger tearouts, and you really have to pay attention to the grain orientation.
When I was making furniture we always put a driveway belt (very heavy grit) on the wide belt sander and ground the wood off, but when we had to make moldings etc, the birch really made us pay. Once dry and acclimated, curly birch is more stable, but it is very difficult to dry as flat as other woods, no matter how you dry it. We try to compensate on the wood we saw by cutting the boards and planks extra thick, but if you are trying to use it in longer lengths we recommend having a good half inch of extra thickness, and sometimes that's not enough. Working with flame birch usually results in a love /hate relationship, but the beauty of the figure justifies the aggravation. It is truly one of the most dramatic woods available, and unlike some exotics, of which it is considered, the price is reasonable for the beauty of the wood.
We have always tried to carry a selection of curly birch over the years but sources have been elusive, so our stocks would ebb and flow. After a lot of frustration we decided to source the logs and saw the material ourselves so we can control the supply and also keep all the good boards from the log together for matching lumber. The figure is so variable that if you put random boards together, they can work against each other visually, like wearing two different strong plaids. There have been 2 tractor trailer loads as of 2019 and are building a pretty good stock of air dried then kiln dried lumber in thicknesses from 4/4 to 9/4, with an emphasis on 5/4 thru 8/4. I also cut a little 10/4 thru 16/4, primarily for bed posts, leg stock and the like. We only buy wintercut logs, and saw them in the spring to minimize stain, and expect to saw at least of load a year. There are a number of matched sets of various thicknesses on the website and we also inventory random 4/4 and 8/4 that isn't shown.
Flame or Curly Birch Prices
The lumber as priced is all premium FAS/Select lumber with major defects graded out and selected to order.
Narrow stock, seconds, #1 common and shorts available at a lower price.
Shipping minimum 150 bd. ft. - No minimum at our yard.
Large selection of matched sets available in all species. .50 - $1.00 premium for matched sets.
Flitched figured logs priced according to width and figure.
Large retail area where you can choose your own stock, or personal selection, of the material for your project. Hours by appointment or by chance.
To learn more about our Lumber, contact us.
*ALL LUMBER IS GUARANTEED AS REPRESENTED WITHIN 30 DAYS OF PURCHASE, UNLESS CUT OR MILLED. PLEASE CHECK CAREFULLY UPON ARRIVAL*.