Uses for Basswood

Basswood is a little soft for use as trim, but excellent for carving. March 18, 2006

I will be taking down a large linden/basswood tree, and would like to use some of the wood for either non-structural beams or a fireplace mantle. Does anyone have any opinion on this? Does this wood look nice stained? I know it is very soft.

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor A:
It is fine for interior woodwork. I made myself some raised panel wainscoting and window/door trim and stained it with Minwax cherry and coated with polyurethane. It's been around my house for 13 years now and still looks fine. You are correct that it is soft - think of it as pine and treat it as such. You may have problems with fuzziness when cutting against the grain, but that is only with certain boards I have used and not everything. I think you can make a fine product using the basswood.

From contributor B:
Basswood is mostly used around here for carving. If it is large and clear, and you can store it for a long time until it dries, you can get good money from a university art dept or sculptor. Otherwise, it's soft and weak and I wouldn't use it anywhere that is subject to abuse or wear. It will take paint and stain just fine but the finish will quickly get dented.

From Gene Wengert, Sawing and Drying forum technical advisor:
Basswood is so valuable as a carving wood that you might find you could make quite a bit of money selling it in that market and then buy a more durable wood for your own use and still have money left over.

From the original questioner:
I have done some research and agree that the best use of the basswood would be to sell it for carving. Now another question - this tree is 3 feet in diameter with two major branches approximately 1 ft. in diameter. How should I have the tree guys or sawyer cut it - and then how long will I need to dry it? What would you consider the optimal size pieces?

From contributor B:
I dried one once and got major splitting because I left it as a whole log but peeled the bark. I can tell you that is not the right way. My guess would be 6" and 12" slabs that can be cut into blocks later. The other use for basswood is for wood block printing. It must be very tight grain for that but if you have a really old tree then it might be perfect. For that they want 1/2" thick planks about 4" - 6" wide. Go with the thick slabs and resaw it when you are ready to sell it.