Why American Elm Wood Frames? | About American Elm Wood

About American Elm Wood and Why I Make American Elm Wood Frames

About American elm wood
The beautiful grain of an American elm wood frame

The wood of the American elm has several notable characteristics, and these are why I craft American elm wood frames from it.

American elm wood comes from a “soft hardwood” tree (Ulmus americana) native to eastern North America. But it can also be found in Alberta, Canada, where I live. American elm was once one of the most abundant and important trees in the United States, known for its towering height, graceful shape, and sturdy wood. American elm trees could grow up to 100 feet tall with a trunk diameter of 3 to 5 feet.

Build your own unique American elm wood frame

About American Elm Wood

Here are a few characteristics that make American elm wood suitable from which to craft amazing picture frames:

1. **Durability**: American elm wood is durable and flexible, making it suitable for various applications. It has been historically used for a wide range of purposes, including furniture, flooring, shipbuilding, and even wheel hubs for carriages.

2. **Interlocking Grain**: The grain of American elm wood is typically interlocking, which enhances its strength and resistance to splitting. This feature makes it particularly suitable for applications where strength and stability are required.

3. **Attractive Appearance**: A very cool thing about American elm wood is its distinctly prominent grain patterns, giving it an attractive appearance. It takes stains and finishes well, allowing for customization according to the desired aesthetic. Primarily the beautiful grain and color is why I make picture frames from American elm wood.

American elm wood frames - unusual picture frame 5x7
American elm wood picture frame 5×7

4. **Resistance to Decay**: While not as decay-resistant as some other hardwoods like teak or cedar, American elm wood still exhibits moderate resistance to decay, making it suitable for outdoor applications such as fencing and outdoor furniture. Not to mention fashioning very attractive wood picture frames out of…

Elm wood furniture

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The Bad About American Elm Wood: Dutch Elm Disease

Despite its desirable properties, the American elm population has been significantly affected by Dutch elm disease, a fungal infection caused by the pathogen Ophiostoma novo-ulmi, which was introduced to North America in the 20th century. This devastating disease has led to the widespread decline of American elm trees across the continent. But unaffected American elm trees can still be found – even in my home province of Alberta, Canada.

Due to the decline in the availability of American elm wood, it is less commonly used today compared to historical times. However, efforts are being made to breed disease-resistant varieties of American elm to help restore its population and preserve its valuable wood for future generations.

A Gallery of Craig’s Unique Frames from the Past

Wood Types Similar to American Elm Wood

Several tree species share characteristics similar to the American elm, making them potential alternatives for various landscaping and woodworking purposes. I would love to try building some unique picture frames from some of these types of wood in addition to the American elm wood frames.

8x10 frame made from American elm wood
American elm wood picture frame 8×10 with glass

Here are some trees that have comparable features to American elm wood:

1. **Dutch Elm Hybrid Varieties**: Since Dutch elm disease nearly devastated the American elm population, efforts have been made to breed disease-resistant hybrid varieties. Examples include:
– Princeton Elm (Ulmus americana × U. rubra)
– Valley Forge Elm (Ulmus americana × U. wilsoniana)
– New Harmony Elm (Ulmus americana × U. japonica)
These hybrids are bred to retain the desirable qualities about American elm wood while being more resistant to Dutch elm disease.

2. **Other Elm Species**: While not native to North America, several elm species from other regions exhibit similar characteristics to the American elm and may serve as substitutes:
– English Elm (Ulmus minor): Native to Europe, it has a similar appearance and growth habit to American elm wood.
– Chinese Elm (Ulmus parvifolia): Known for its resilience and attractive bark texture, it can be a suitable ornamental tree.

3. **Other Hardwood Species**:
– Red Oak (Quercus rubra): Like American elm, red oak is a durable hardwood with a coarse grain and reddish-brown color. It’s commonly used in furniture making and flooring. I bet you could make some unusual wood picture frames with it too, and I’m sure I will one day…
– White Ash (Fraxinus americana): White ash has a similar light color and straight grain to American elm. It’s often used for furniture, flooring, and tool handles.

4. **Maple Species**:
– Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum): Known for its strength, durability, and attractive grain patterns, sugar maple is commonly used for furniture and flooring, and I will make unique picture frames from it as soon as I find some!
– Red Maple (Acer rubrum): Although not as hard as sugar maple, red maple shares some similarities in appearance and is often used in furniture making and cabinetry.

American elm tree - elm wood frames
American elm wood tree

Shop Craig’s Unusual Picture Frames on Etsy

American Elm Tree: Leaves, Bark – Identification and Care

Considerations Regarding American Elm Wood Alternatives

When selecting alternatives to American elm wood, it’s essential to consider factors such as local climate, soil conditions, and intended use to ensure suitability and long-term success. Additionally, consulting with local arborists or forestry experts can provide valuable insights into the best choices for specific regions and applications.

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