Wood species

First and foremost, the most sustainable form of timber is reclaimed wood. Good sources of reclaimed wood are wooden pallets (commonly built of white oak if the wood is hard or pine if soft), timber from demolition of buildings and barns, old furniture. You can find more information on identifying pallet wood here: Identifying pallet wood .

Notes on sustainably harvested timber: buying European wood is usually a good choice because since 2010, the EU Timber Regulation enforced the replanting of trees, better forest management and limiting annual harvests.

Organizations and logos to look for:
The FSC (forest stewardship council)
The PEFC (programme for the endorsement of forestry certification)

The FSC is an independent, non-profit organisation promoting responsible management of the world’s forests. Their certification system provides internationally recognized standard-setting and trademark assurance to anyone, business or individual, who is interested in supporting responsible forestry.

Other resources on sustainable timber:
https://www.earthsight.org.uk/ Choosing wood species for timber framing

“Ask the questions that have no answers. Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias. Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest. Say that the leaves are harvested when they have rotted into the mold. Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.”
– The Mad Farmer Liberation Front by Wendell Berry


Hardwoods

Oak Maple Birch Walnut Ash Cherry Bamboo

Oak (chêne)

Grows in the Americas, Asia, Europe and North Africa with the most diversity in North America. Its wood is very resistant to fungi and insects making it a really good construction and boat-building wood. It’s also traditionally used to make barrels and smoking food. The bark of the white oak is dried and used in medical preparations. Oak bark is also rich in tannin, and is used by tanners for tanning leather. Acorns are used for making flour or roasted for acorn coffee.
Always best to make sure it’s FSC-certified.
Subpecies: White oak, English oak, red oak, southern live oak
Harvest cycle: 68-88 years

Maple (Érable)

Grows in Asia, Europe, North Africa and North America. It’s really hard wood is used for turning, furniture, butcher’s blocks, bows and furniture. Maple is also a tonewood (a wood which carries waves well) which makes it really suitable for making musical instruments. Its wood is also used to smoke food and to make charcoal and the sugar maples are used to make delicious maple syrup.
Subpecies: Sugar maple, silver maple, sycamore maple
Harvest cycle: 20-30 years

Birch (Bouleau)

Grows in most of the northern hemisphere. Birch is a strong hardwood that can be quite flexible used to make high quality baltic birch plywood. It is used in furniture making, musical instruments and construction. Harvest cycle: 20-30 years

Walnut (Noyer)

Grows in southeast Europe and Japan and in the western part of North and South America. Very hard and attractive looking wood, mostly used for furniture, turning, and lutherie. The nuts are edible and the nuts shells can be ground and used as an abrasive.
Harvest cycle: 50 years

Ash (Frêne)

Grows in Europe, Asian and North America, strong hard and heavy wood that is also quite elastic. It is used to make bows, tool handles, furniture and stairs (because of its durability). It’s elasticity also makes it a good wood for steam-bending.
Harvest cycle: 10-60 years

Cherry (Cerisier)

Good alternative to mahogany which is getting more rare.
Harvest cycle: 50 years

Bamboo

Non FSC certified because it’s defined as a grass and not a tree but grows really quickly and can be easily sustainable.
Harvest cycle: 3-5 years


Softwoods

Douglas fir Pine Cedar Cypress Fir

Douglas Fir (Sapin douglas)

Native to western North America but the most susceptible to be sustainable comes from the EU. The Douglas fir is a really important source of food for small animals which eats its seeds. It is one of the best construction timber woods, especially useful for large wooden structures. It’s strong and resistant is also used for flooring.
Harvest cycle: 30 years

Pine (Pin)

grows in North America
Harvest cycle: 50 years

Cedar (Cèdre)

Native to the western Himalayas and the mediterranean region Cedar wood and oil is a moth repellent which makes it good for chests and closets in which woollens are stored.
Harvest cycle: 30-40 years

Cypress (Cyprès)

Cypress grows all over the world, from Japan, to Mexico and North America Used for construction timber and furniture making, it’s heartwood is also moth repellant and is used for chests, drawers and closets. It is also used to make long lasting fence posts and bows.
Harvest cycle: 30-35 years

Fir (Sapin)

Harvest cycle:

Last modified on 2021-08-05, published on 2021-06-03