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What Makes Red Alder Lumber so Unique?

Red Alder is a unique species of wood.

The Red Alder in BC, Canada grows quickly to maturity, being ready for harvesting in 40-60 years. After site disturbance, from prior logging or development, Alder is the first tree species to generate. Overmature trees (generally over 60 years) fall to the ground and decay quickly supplying rich nutrients to the soil for other trees. Alder has rarely been planted in BC because of its ability to generate seedlings in floodplains and stream banks.
Appearing all along the BC Coast, it is a low-elevation tree mixed with softwood species like Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar.

First Nations people in BC used the bark for dyeing basket material, wood, wool, feathers, human hair, and skin. Depending on the technique used, the colours ranged from black to brown to orange-red. Some coastal groups used the tree’s inner cambium layer for food. The wood is low in pitch, which makes it a good wood for smoking meat. The wood was also used for carving items such as bowls and ceremonial masks.

Red Alder is harvested for sawing, generally as 8” and up diameter trees. Smaller diameter harvests are used for wood chips (pulp) and pellets for bio-fuel. Nothing is wasted as the bark (Hog Fuel) is ground and burned for heat and energy. At CarlWood’s sawmills and factory, all the residuals are utilised for chicken farms, horse bedding and bio-fuel.

Red Alder lumber is unique because it makes the best high-grade millwork and furniture. Particularly sought after by designers is “knotty alder”, also known as Premium Frame, which is used to make unique cabinets and doors for certain markets wanting a rustic “cottage” look. Alder knots don’t “chip out” when surfaced in high-speed moulders. Most softwoods have very “hard” dense knots, and they tend to “blow out” when being finely finished. Red Alder lumber is often used for “knotty” trim, crown moulding, millwork and case & base.

Another aspect of Alder that is important is its ability to be stained and coloured to many shades. Alder takes a stain very well and can be made to look like many exotic hardwoods. Because it is sustainably harvested in BC under the most stringent forestry management rules, using Alder to replace exotic species is environmentally sensible.

For further information on the unique Red Alder tree, please review our Red Alder Products page.

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