Thoughts on sweetgum

A quick primer on sweetgum. July 4, 2000

I have some logs given to me and they called them sweetgum. They look like cottonwood. My question: How good is it as lumber, and how hard is it to dry? We are building a solar kiln; can we use it to side the kiln?

Lester, my opinion and experiences with sweetgum will probably be different from the usual commercial view.

I have found sweetgum to be a beautiful wood which I have no trouble selling. My first experience with it was sawing and air drying very wide boards. The wood did move quite a bit, making "normal" use sort of impossible. We were able to get wainscoting from it by resawing on the bandmill and cutoff saw before planing. The wood takes a finish beautifully.

I am told that during WWII, most of the black walnut was going into gunstocks, so sweetgum was used in its place. The wood has held up very well; it is in a room that gets direct sun and is also heated by a masonry heat sink. In spite of the normal shrink/swell cycles, the gum has remained without warp.

Sweetgum is everywhere here in Central Mississippi. Yes, it does have a reputation for much movement! Gum species are used a lot in the furniture industry for interior parts, especially for upholstered goods where it is cut into smaller blank sizes.

To dry, sticker it every 12 inches and use weights on top for the flattest lumber. IF it's at the right MC, it will not move much at all.
Gene Wengert, forum moderator

Check out the excellent, positive article on the gums in a recent issue of Fine Woodworking, the one with Michael Dunbar making a table on the cover.