Does anybody use Ironwood / Am. hornbeam (Carpinus carolinianus)?

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Forum topic by Pendragon1998 posted 02-25-2014 05:15 AM 4900 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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74 posts in 1993 days

02-25-2014 05:15 AM

I have worked in my share of wet riverbottoms, and one of my favorite trees is ironwood / musclewood / American Hornbeam (Carpinus carolinianus). I was just feeling curious whether anyone here uses it as lumber in their projects? If so, I would love to see some photos of how it turns out.

12 replies so far

View hydro's profile


208 posts in 2168 days

#1 posted 02-25-2014 01:16 PM

Not sure about that exact species but I have worked with quite a bit of Eastern Hop Hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) here in Minnesota and they look to be closely related. In this area the wood is referred to as “Ironwood” and it is hard and heavy. The trees are rather small with a 10” trunk being good sized, so lumber is smaller pieces. Because of the small size, boards are difficult to dry without pith cracking, and workable pieces tend to be small.

The wood looks very much like birch, with a somewhat finer grain structure. Crotch figure can be quite interesting, with nice flame figure, and I have used it for turning and for making tools due to it’s hardness. It cuts well with power tools but has a tendency to burn if the tools are not kept moving or they are dull. Sands and polished nicely.

If you can get some workable size pieces give it a try!

-- Minnesota Woodworkers Guild, Past President, Lifetime member.

View ScrubPlane's profile


190 posts in 2612 days

#2 posted 02-25-2014 01:59 PM

I’ve also wanted to try ‘turning’ Ironwood but with no luck in finding a source for it. Does anyone know of an on-line source for it? thanks…

View knotheadswoodshed's profile


225 posts in 2589 days

#3 posted 02-25-2014 02:10 PM

I have a 10 1/2×5 1/2×1 1/2 block of ironwood that I picked up a few years ago.
Still looking for the right project for it.
it is very heavy and looks alot like afzelia burl

-- Randy - "I dont make mistakes, I make design change opportunities"

View buck_cpa's profile


150 posts in 2304 days

#4 posted 02-25-2014 02:25 PM

do you have any? I’ve been looking for some to turn for some chisel handles.

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2778 days

#5 posted 02-25-2014 05:01 PM

I have both Hop and American Hornbeam trees on my property. I’ve never seen either one over about 8” in diameter. When the sap is running well, the shaggy Hop bark can be stripped off completely in a single piece, leaving a finely striated trunk, pictured. The American’s bark adheres tightly even when totally dry. It makes great walking sticks and canes.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Ocelot's profile


2263 posts in 3055 days

#6 posted 02-25-2014 05:12 PM

I’ve been wanting some of that for years. A friend of mine has abt. 100 ac in TN and thinks he has seen some there, but we haven’t gotten around to hunting some down. (Friend also has a 24” woodmiser.)

In “the old days”, they used it for critical strong parts, I’ve read. Wagon wheel hubs in particular. I have a toy wagon that my Dad had as a child. It’s probably 100 years old, made just like a farm wagon but the size for a child to ride in. Some day, I’d like to try my hand at making a copy of it – and the wheels look like the most difficult part. Having a bit of hop-hornbeam on hand would be inspiring.

I’ve seen some small pieces on ebay, but nothing of any size.


View Pendragon1998's profile


74 posts in 1993 days

#7 posted 02-25-2014 11:10 PM

BTW: my apologies, the species is C. caroliniana, not carolinianus.

Here is the awesome trunk structure that give the trees the name ‘musclewood’ (and makes it a cinch to ID).

Below is a relative to American Hornbeam, the Eastern Hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana). Both trees are in the birch family, Betulaceae, as you can see from the leaves.

I don’t have any wood from either, but they’re both supposed to be nice for mallets, clubs, handles, and woodenware, according to Native Trees of the Southeast.

Now, I’ve got several of these near my house, unfortunately, not on my land. I’m very tempted to do a little late night sawing to snag me a piece. Who can guess the species? The fruit makes it easy!

View Planeman40's profile


1420 posts in 3178 days

#8 posted 02-25-2014 11:31 PM

European Hornbeam is used for the best modern European wooden planes like Primus. Obviously for its hardness and resistance to wear.


-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2778 days

#9 posted 02-27-2014 01:26 AM

Osage orange

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30374 posts in 2755 days

#10 posted 02-27-2014 02:23 AM

I have all the Eastern Hop Hornbeam I can ever use. But the stuff here rarely gets more than 5-6 inches in diameter.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30374 posts in 2755 days

#11 posted 02-27-2014 02:42 AM

Hop hornbeam is some of the hardest wood i have ever handled. Great walking sticks. Almost physically impossible to break.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View AdirondackJeff's profile


11 posts in 1309 days

#12 posted 11-29-2016 05:52 PM

I have put some hornbeam on eBay along with a bunch of other wood. There are some pictures there
To look at. It’s tough to Mill and the trees are not very big and I don’t have a lot of it. As far as I could tell it’s the only piece of hop hornbeam on the entire site that has any size to it. I could probably do better on price for smaller pieces packed in a flat rate box.

-- Usually my shop looks like who-dunnit-and-run, but sometimes it looks nice.

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