Lexicon DIY-Knowledge


The alder is common from Europe to the Near East. In central Europe the commercial timber alder wood usually comes from the black or European alder. This tree belongs to the family of birch trees and grows in large numbers along creeks and rivers on moist valley soils rich in humus and nutrients. Black alder can become up to 100 years old. As a typical light tree it can reach its full growth at the early age of 30 years. After felling, the cross-cut ends turn a distinct orange-red. The wood of the black alder distinguishes itself by its uniform structure and the bright red-white to red-yellow colour. Under the influence of light it turns an intensive orange to brown colour with age.

Black alder wood can be processed smoothly and easily with machines or manually. All joints are durable. It shows excellent results after polishing, slicing and sawing, and after planing it has a smooth and interestingly structured surface pattern. Due to its low fat content, it can be stained to any colour with excellent results.
The technical properties of alder wood are similar to oak. Alder wood shrinks little and after drying it is very durable and bendable.
Its endurance when exposed to the weather is rather low, and so alder is rarely used for outdoor purposes. Under water, however, alder wood grows harder and harder and turns black with age.
Alder is used as solid wood or veneer for furniture making. It is excellently suitable for carving and wood turning. It high stability makes it a favourite for model makers. It is used to make paper, kitchen utensils, pencils and cigar boxes as frequently as it is used to smoke meats. Its durability under water made it a favourite for ship builders and for the construction of water-carrying channels and pipes. Since it could be stained easily, it was used in the old days to imitate noble timbers, especially mahogany.
Possibly because of the sites where it was found, on dark ponds and threatening moors, the alder tree was popularly regarded as a malignant tree during the middle ages. Witches were said to influence the weather with the help of alder trees. On the other hand, it was supposed to have a beneficial influence on warts and toothaches, and was used for centuries as a medicinal plant.