Uses for Black Gum Lumber

Sawyers discuss how to handle Black Gum wood, and what you can make with it. June 30, 2009

What are some potential uses of black gum (Nyssa sylvatica)? Since you can't split the stuff, I was wondering if it might be a good species to use for cribbing. Itís much lighter than oak and wouldn't have to hold up to the elements, as cribbing is usually destroyed before it can rot anyway. I sawed some yesterday, and was surprised how nice looking the lumber was inside. Is this species used commonly for something other than firewood? I run across quite a bit of it here in PA.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor S:
From what I've read, here and elsewhere, itís been used in furniture, similar to sweet gum, but it needs to be dried well, and stickered more than other woods, every 12", and weighted or clamped, to keep warping down. I have used sweet or red gum to make small parts that tend to split out if you use other woods.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Although black gum and sweet gum both have the word gum, they are not related and are different from each other. Black gum is not the easiest wood to dry.

From contributor A:
Black gum makes the best boards for dump trucks. You can beat them and they just do not bust. They will rot out if not all heart wood but last longer than most other woods. It also makes good hubs for wagons. Tie buyer takes them here for rr ties. Most of the side wood goes for pallet stock. What I have dried I have found better to saw 2 1/2 thick then split after drying. I do red gum the same way sometimes and they have that in common.

From contributor B:
I have been told that Black Gum is great for turning. Since we only have one Black Gum on our whole farm I have never tried turning any.

From contributor C:
A friend of mine uses it sometimes when making bowls.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
Black gum is excellent for turning. It has a sweet odor when cut, a tight and tortuous grain pattern with burl characteristics, especially in the crooked limbs. I have done several turnings from a down black gum on my property, and they are beautiful. The bark does not hold well to the sapwood, however, making it difficult to turn natural edge bowls. The color of the wood is tan or pale yellow with medium brown to dark brown and black highlights. Many limb sections have large bark inclusions which add character to the turnings, but also increase the risk of the piece breaking apart during turning. Use your face shield (voice of personal experience).