Usefulness of Gum Wood

Which variety is this, and what's it good for? February 26, 2005

Can anyone tell me about gum wood? I have several gum logs, one three feet in diameter and ten feet long with no branches. Is the wood good for anything, or worth sawing into boards?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor F:
I got my hands on some gum wood scrap a few years ago and made an "out" basket with it. It does look good with a clear coat. It's worth making boards out of what you have.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Are you in the US? Gum can be various species if outside the US.

Assuming you are in the US: Do you have red gum or black gum? The sapwood of red gum, called sapgum, is very nice indeed and was widely used in the past. It is prone to warping when drying, lots of warp. Check Drying Hardwood Lumber for best drying practices.

From the original questioner:
I'm in Virginia. I'm not sure if it's red or black gum. Is there an obvious difference in appearance?

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Does it have the small balls with pokey things on them? Then it is sweetgum (or red gum).

From contributor A:
Black gum has very wide sapwood that is white to light gray with dark gray to brown heartwood. It makes small grape-looking berries and bark is smooth for the most part. I have found that the rounds are not prone to splitting much if allowed to dry slowly.

Sweet gum or red gum has yellow sapwood and a dark reddish brown heartwood that is marbled for the most part. It is very pretty, but prone to warp. I saw it 5/4 to get a 3/4 board. A lot of times I seal the ends and saw 3 3/8 thick, then resaw after it has dried. Thicker cuts seem to dry flatter. Sapwood will stain and it will rot if left out in the weather.

It's red gum. I've stepped on a lot of those balls with bare feet.