Did you know that the first airplanes were made of wood? Sure, it doesn’t sound safe what with the engine, fuel and potential for crashing, but it’s a perfect example of how in some instances using a lightweight wood is the preferable option. This Aviation Day we’re taking a look at different types of lightweight wood and the projects that warrant their use.
The Lightest Wood Options
Density of wood is the weight for a certain volume, and it can be affected by the amount of moisture the wood contains. One thing that should be pointed out is that lightness doesn’t always directly correlate with hardness.
Redwood – It’s one of the lightest and most durable woods used for building. It’s one of the many reasons why Redwood is such a popular building material. Heartwood redwood grades are the most durable.
Cedar – At just 19.7 to 23 pounds per square foot (dry) Cedar is one of the lightest woods. It’s a softwood building material that’s used for a wide range of purposes.
Cypress – Like Cedar and Redwood Cypress is a lightweight softwood that is durable and resistant to water damage.
Douglas Fir – This conifer offers a good blend of durability, density and lightness. Like other conifers Douglas Fir has a good strength-to-weight ratio.
Black Walnut – Black Walnut is super lightweight and very attractive, though it’s not quite as hard as other hardwood building materials.
Ash – Ash actually has a good hardness for how lightweight it is.
Corkwood – This hardwood is surprisingly only 12 pounds per cubic foot.
Hard Maple – Hard Maple has a slightly higher Janka hardness rating than Ash.
Balsa – Balsa wood is so lightweight it’s buoyant. It should come as no surprise that Balsa is often selected for building boats.
Sitka Spruce – The strength to weight ratio of Sitka Spruce is extremely good. However, it can be difficult to find, expensive and must be treated if used outside.
Projects That Are Perfect for a Lightweight Wood
Now that you’ve got a good selection of lightweight woods to choose from here are a few projects to consider trying at home.
Shelves – A shelf that can hold a fair amount of weight but doesn’t add to the overall load is ideal. For shelves in a closet, Cedar is a great choice because of its ability to thwart bugs.
Picture Frames – Being that a picture frame hangs on the wall the lighter it is the better. Any of the woods above will work so it’s up to you based on the aesthetics.
Planter Boxes – When you plan to put a planter box up on a deck a lighter weight wood will put less load on the deck. Redwood is a good option since it has natural oils that make the wood resistant to insects and decay.
Outdoor Furniture – Using a wood like Cypress you can make a variety of outdoor furniture that’s strong enough to support a person’s weight yet can easily be moved around and transported.
Many of these lightweight hard and soft woods can be found at the TimberTown Austin lumberyard. For smaller projects you can even look through the “scrap pile” to find high-end materials for a fraction of the price.
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