Help support the WCHA Forums by making a tax-deductible donation!

Alder--has anyone used it?

Discussion in 'Paddles and Paddle Making' started by Prairiepaddler, Jan 19, 2008.

  1. Prairiepaddler

    Prairiepaddler Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    My local supplier rarely has western red cedar, sassafras, clear redwood, clear spruce...So I asked him what he had that was less dense than Cherry and he sold me some alder. Has anyone used it? It looks pretty enough, and seems very light...

    How does it carve, how durable is it, does it finish well, etc?
  2. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist


    I haven't used it, but would be interested to hear how it works for you. Please keep us posted...
  3. Treewater

    Treewater Wooden Canoes are in the Blood


    If you speak of alder from the west coast I can tell you a little. It is white when first cut and will only hold that color if cured with steam immediately after milling. Otherwise, it air dries brown. It has no specific noticable grain pattern being a member of the beech family. The good news, alder takes stain very well and is known as the great imitator. It can be stained any color to look like oak, mahogany, walnut etc. It is medium hard but definitely not in the class of the oak. Wet it splits very very easy. Dry, it splits poorly. It does not splinter to speak of when dry. Milling is easy. A great deal of furniture is made of alder and stained to look like cherry, mahogany, etc and sold all over the country. It was once a "weed" in western forests and was sprayed to control it. Today, it often sells in log form at higher prices than doug fir. I cannot tell you how it bends with steam but I see it often in bent back chairs.
    I have grown, cut milled, burned, sold, and thrown away thousands of bd ft.
  4. Treewater

    Treewater Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    and more

    Forgot to add, it rots fairly easily.
  5. OP

    Prairiepaddler Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks--I'm setting up a friend to carve his first paddle and alder is what I have to work with for the blade (the shaft is ash). He wanted to make an ottertail, so I didn't want the extra weight of cherry...

    Anyway, I'll make sure that it has a good finish to prevent the rot.

    I googled around a little last night and see that a couple of commercial paddlemakers use it, so I guess it will work. I'm very curious to see how it all turns out.

    My wood supplier mentioned that it has been more or less considered a weed on the west coast, which makes me want to use it. I love making use of species that are considered "weeds.":)
  6. OP

    Prairiepaddler Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Well I cut the blanks for the alder ottertail yesterday. The wood is awfully light, which is good. I had to scrap the first blanks I cut, though, because the wood was a little punky in the middle.

    I found a couple of commercial paddle makers that use alder, so I guess it will work. We'll just have to see how it turns out. I put a thin strip of cherry next to the ash shaft, which I think will be very pretty in contrast with the ashy-brown look of the alder.

    This is a blank I made for a friend to try his hand at carving. I'll post pics when he's through.
  7. dboles

    dboles LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I had some really nice west coast alder air dried. Looked a nice cross from cherry or birchk
    Bandsawed out nice looking blanks for paddles, was all set to work on them when exposed to the outside air moisture -from laying on a covered porch. The results being -well lets say if the hockey was developed on the west coast they would have used alder for sticks.
    Nice light wood has potential I think just echoing my experience.
    Likely the use you ran across was for laminated not solid wood paddles
  8. OP

    Prairiepaddler Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks for th info. Sorry you lost the wood, though.

    The paddles I looked at were indeed laminated, and this one is partially laminated, but with a very narrow blade (an ottertail). We'll see how it works out. I plan lots, and lots of oil finish.

Share This Page