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Does anyone have experience with using Alder?

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Forum topic by Ccl2011 posted 09-05-2019 06:35 AM 978 views 0 times favorited 31 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Ccl2011

14 posts in 1740 days


09-05-2019 06:35 AM

Topic tags/keywords: wood

Hi,

I recently got stationed in Okinawa, Japan and am now using the base wood shops where the cheapest material is rustic alder at $1.75/BF.

I’ve never used alder before and was wondering if anyone had suggestions as to pros and cons of it for small projects (end tables, stools, etc.)

I’d appreciate any feedback.

Thanks, Chris


31 replies so far

View RDan's profile

RDan

108 posts in 2804 days


#1 posted 09-05-2019 07:12 AM

Chris, I live in WI near the Twin Cities, MN Adler is one of the woods used for interior trim, doors and cabinetry. I have not worked it, but it is a softer wood that takes stain well. Many around here have what is called Knotty Adler for a more rustic look. Your cost is very reasonable. Have fun, enjoy your time on the Rock. Dan (USAF Kadena AB 1980-81. Retired USAFR SMSgt)

View CaptainKlutz's profile

CaptainKlutz

1762 posts in 1975 days


#2 posted 09-05-2019 08:28 AM

Have used it some?
Alder is often call poor man’s cherry. It’s close to same hardness, just a little softer.
It takes stain just like cherry, which means you have to watch for blotching issues on grain changes. Rustic/knotty alder is worst for botch. It machines and sands easily. Can burn edges just like cherry or maple if tools are dull, or binding during a cut.

I use it regularly for jig/fixtures, and painted furniture instead of other cheap wood choices.
Personally dislike using alder for keepsake furniture. If I will spend weeks/months building something that I want to last, spending more for higher quality wood is always worth it.
Why dislike alder furniture?
The grain is muted, and rarely has any figure unless rustic style. When it does show figure, you get tear out very easy. Has a boring cream/off white color; and only change is slight grey tint as it ages. So any clear finish that turns more amber over time, just pushes the color towards yellow-grey yuk. Another challenge is cost of Alder veneer plywood is ridiculous. Can get maple/oak veneer for 60-65%% of what alder ply costs. For any large box project, any savings using cheap alder wood is lost on matching plywood.

Can get #3 common 4/4 rustic alder for ~ $1 bdft here in AZ, due high volume of culled material from several local cabinet/custom shops using it. Even FAS Alder is only $2.50 bdft. Local shops like it as can be stained to look like most any wood to the uneducated. It comes from CA/OR/WA forest which makes it cheaper than east coast domestic lumber choices. Plus it looks better than popular, or various softwoods.

One local place has a plethora of color options as examples of what can done with Alder:
https://stonecreekfurniture.com/styles/
My finishing supplier tells me they spray and rub out Mohawk Ultra Penetrating (dye) Stains for their colors, after applying a vinyl sealer for botch control. I use same stains and spray/rub method on alder, but use blonde shellac for botch control.

Only alder I think looks nice is spalted alder. It’s not common, but it looks great on small boxes and such.
http://hobbithouseinc.com/personal/woodpics/alder.htm

BTW – During the building boom in SW US ~10 years ago, common grades of alder were milled and sold in construction lumber sizes (2×4, 2×6, 2×8, etc). For almost 2 years, alder was same price as Douglas fir construction lumber due shortages and price increases on softwoods. Several custom home builders have continued to use alder even as softwood prices lowered back to normal, as high end hardwood lumber selling point. Only mention alder use as building material to point out the utilitarian nature of the wood.

Thanks for your service.

PS – My cousin in Navy is based out of Okinawa right now. Small world?

Best Luck working wood in Japan!

-- I'm an engineer not a woodworker, but I can randomly find useful tools and furniture inside a pile of lumber!

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

3877 posts in 1868 days


#3 posted 09-05-2019 12:07 PM

You may be seeing Japanese alder or another species from Asia over there rather than red Alder which is the most common species in the US so it could have different qualities than what we see over here. You may just have to experiment with it to see how well it works.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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avsmusic1

508 posts in 1166 days


#4 posted 09-05-2019 01:08 PM

Where is thefridge?

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waho6o9

8749 posts in 3057 days


#5 posted 09-05-2019 01:36 PM

Thank you for your service.

View pottz's profile

pottz

5978 posts in 1465 days


#6 posted 09-05-2019 02:45 PM

i made a set of desks and book cases out of alder a few years ago,real nice to work with and machines easily.i just like to put an oil finish on it because i love the natural color and rustic look.as mentioned what your getting is probably not the red alder we have here in the states.also thank you for your service.

-- sawdust the bigger the pile the bigger my smile-larry,so cal.

View d_sinsley's profile

d_sinsley

86 posts in 36 days


#7 posted 09-05-2019 03:03 PM

I actually really like alder. I second it being similar to cherry. It can be a very pretty wood with some nice grain. Depending on what you are doing there is rustic alder which kinda has a hickory feel to it. But most alder is very straight grained, at least the stuff I have used.

-- Devon

View jmartel's profile

jmartel

8553 posts in 2631 days


#8 posted 09-05-2019 03:55 PM



Have used it some?
Alder is often call poor man s cherry. It s close to same hardness, just a little softer.

- CaptainKlutz

Not even close to the same hardness. Alder is extremely soft. Alder has a Janka Hardness of 590 and Cherry is at 950. It’s only mildly harder than Poplar, for instance.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View LesB's profile

LesB

2169 posts in 3924 days


#9 posted 09-06-2019 11:23 PM

Someone mentioned the Fridge. In Alaska Alder is a bush variety and grows in almost impenetrable thickets. Further south there is the fast growing tree variety and it is a great “soft” wood used for a variety of things. Just be aware it “dents” easily so for table and counter tops it will not hold up well.

-- Les B, Oregon

View AlaskaGuy's profile (online now)

AlaskaGuy

5338 posts in 2790 days


#10 posted 09-07-2019 12:04 AM



Chris, I live in WI near the Twin Cities, MN Adler is one of the woods used for interior trim, doors and cabinetry. I have not worked it, but it is a softer wood that takes stain well. Many around here have what is called Knotty Adler for a more rustic look. Your cost is very reasonable. Have fun, enjoy your time on the Rock. Dan (USAF Kadena AB 1980-81. Retired USAFR SMSgt)

- RDan


Stains well??? here’s some stained alder. I have to disagree.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View LeeRoyMan's profile

LeeRoyMan

249 posts in 207 days


#11 posted 09-07-2019 12:59 AM

I’ve done many many projects with Alder. Somethings look more blotchy than others, but I’m ok with it, just looks natural to me.

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LeeRoyMan

249 posts in 207 days


#12 posted 09-07-2019 01:04 AM

View Snipes's profile

Snipes

427 posts in 2725 days


#13 posted 09-07-2019 04:12 AM

Nice projects Leroy! Look good from here

-- if it is to be it is up to me

View WoodenDreams's profile

WoodenDreams

707 posts in 391 days


#14 posted 09-07-2019 06:00 AM

The only time I made something with Alder, was two years ago. It was a 24”x60” wall table with a 20”x56” lower shelf for a CPA. She wanted a wall table to spread out the tax returns that she prepares for clients. The Alder was very easy to work with. When it came to staining, blotching was a issue to me. I delivered it to her to get a her thoughts and she actually loved the appearance of the blotching. and said I should have charged her more for the table. I was satisfied to have a happy customer.

View rustfever's profile

rustfever

773 posts in 3791 days


#15 posted 09-07-2019 01:22 PM

Western Red Alder is native to the Pacific Northwest of the US, Canada, and Alaska. It is a easy to use wood for various projects. It is a bit on the soft side, so it is not advised for project subject to heavy wear/abuse. It is easy to shape/cut/mill. It sometime is a bit challenging to get it to stain, but when mastered,produces very nice finish.

The wood is frequently used commercially in upholstered furniture [sofas, chairs, etc] and some lighter duty desks.

-- Rustfever, Central California

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