Uses for Sassafras

Sassafras has been called "poor man's oak" for its durability, strength and beauty. The markets for it are small ans specialized. April 20, 2011

I have acquired a group of fairly large sassafras logs and have heard that there is a good market for boat paddle material. Can anyone clue me in where that market is?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor M:
Sassafras also makes nice flooring. You could cut 4/4 and rip several widths.

From contributor G:
Wander over to Borders or wherever and go to the magazine section. Check Woodenboat, Kayaking, Whitewater and any other magazines that cater to such and see who is selling paddles.

If you are referring to one of those wood charts that give "this wood is often used for" information, be aware that a lot of those suggestions are 50 years out of date... i.e.: willow is used for artificial limbs. On the other hand, wooden boatcraft is making a comeback.

Sassafras is a really great wood and would have a more general market if there was more of it. Great cabinet wood... And your shop smells like root beer!

From contributor T:

Makes wonderful 5/8" x 8" lap siding. Most of the older farmers in the south used it for gates, barn doors, wagon beds and some fence posts. Holds up to weather very well. The market as timbers is poor here due to the fact that 60% of our trees grow on rocky soil hillsides and the undergrowth was burned away, causing defects to the timber. Cuts and looks similar to oak, but smells wonderful.

From contributor D:
Contributor G's comment reminded me of one reading tour through the old FPL reports. They were getting worried that ash was going to become hard to find for automobile frames and were researching alternatives. Just like the big leagues, they were looking at maple.

I've got a small sassafras on the trailer from today. Actually felled 5 or 6, but the bell bottom bases had been attacked by something and the ants had hollowed out most of them. I threw a board of it under the downspout and it lasted for about a decade in ground contact with frequent wetting. Reminds me a lot of chestnut. I think I have enough for a small piece of furniture. It's one of those woods I'd like to try a milled log cabin out of.

From contributor T:
I know a man who had some cut at 4" thick to match his other old logs from a building in his new/old log house. I'm younger (47), but from what I've gathered from some of the older generations, they called it poor man's oak. I've seen several rustic furniture makers use it. I've heard it's the closest replica lumber to use for replacing American chestnut. The 5/8" x 8" has been very stable so far in this heat we're having. I attempt to keep the top covered, but the wind sometimes has a different idea.

The timbers I've laid down in sassafras are unpredictable as to whether it's going to be slightly hollow or not. Haven't wasted any, but might not get the heart cut.