Is Alder A Hardwood? All You Need To Know!

is alder a hardwood

Alder is a popular wood in making furniture, doors, window frames, cabinetry, and much more. It is considered one of the most popular wood types in the Pacific Northwest and can use for various woodworking projects. When I was working with Alder, I noticed it is significantly soft than most other woods. Therefore, I was curious, Is Alder a hardwood?

Here’s what I learned:

Yes, Alder wood is a hardwood. But it is not hard as other hardwoods like Pine and Poplar. Alder is one of the softest hardwoods with a Janka hardness rating of 590 lbf (2,624 N) which is relatively lower than most woods. Alder is a soft hardwood.

But that’s just a quick snapshot.

So, in this article, we’ll explore is Alder a hardwood and how hard is Alder by taking its characteristic qualities. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of Alder wood and its uses of it.

Furthermore, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions about the hardness of Alder wood compared to other wood types as well.

So, let’s jump in!

How Hard Is Alder Wood?  

Alder wood is softer than most hardwoods and some softwoods as well. But Alder wood is considered hardwood. Because of having less hardness than many other hardwoods, Alder wood is known as soft hardwood.

Janka hardness test is the standard method of finding the hardness of a particular wood by considering its resistance against wear and dent. If a particular wood has high resistance against wear and tear, its Janka hardness test value is high.

So, according to the Janka hardness test values, Alder wood has a hardness rating of 590 lbf (2,624 N) which is significantly lower than most hardwoods.

Now you’re thinking, why do we consider Alder wood as hardwood if it is that soft with a poor hardness rating than other hardwoods in the family.

The reason is, that hardwoods come from deciduous, flowering, nut-producing trees, whereas softwoods come from conifer trees. So, Alder wood comes from a deciduous tree with all the unique properties of the hardwood family. It is only having less hardness value than other hardwoods, but structure-wise it 100% belongs to the hardwood family.

According to the Janka hardness test, Alder has a hardness rating of 590 lbf (2,624 N). Here’re the hardness ratings of other popular wood types to get an idea about how hard Alder wood is.

Wood speciesHardness value
Brazilian Walnut3,684 lbf (16,390 N)
Red Mahogany, Turpentine2,697 lbf (12,000 N)
Brazilian Cherry, Jatoba2,350 lbf (10,500 N)
Golden Teak2,330 lbf (10,400 N)
Hickory, Pecan, Satinwood1,820 lbf (8,100 N)
Hard Maple, Sugar Maple1,450 lbf (6,400 N)
White Oak1,360 lbf (6,000 N)
Ash (White)1,320 lbf (5,900 N)
American Beech1,300 lbf (5,800 N)
Red Oak (Northern)1,290 lbf (5,700 N)
Yellow Birch / Baltic Birch1,260 lbf (5,600 N)
Teak1,155 lbf (5,140 N)
Black Walnut, North American Walnut1,010 lbf (4,500 N)
Cherry995 lbf (4,430 N)
Black Cherry, Imbuia950 lbf (4,200 N)
Red Maple950 lbf (4,200 N)
Douglas Fir710 lbf (3,158 N)
Silver Maple700 lbf (3,100 N)
Alder590 lbf (2,624 N)
Hemlock540 lbf (2,402 N)
Black Spruce520 lbf (2,313 N)
Sitka Spruce510 lbf (2,268 N)
Cypress510 lbf (2,268 N)
White Spruce480 lbf (2,135 N)
Redwood420 lbf (1,868 N)
Engelmann Spruce390 lbf (1,735 N)
Sugar Pine380 lbf (1,690 N)

As you can see, the hardness rating of Alder wood is so poor than many other kinds of wood. Some softwoods have higher hardness values than Alder wood, such as Cedar, and Douglas fir.

But as a soft hardwood, it’s strong, hard, and dense which can be applied especially for small woodworking projects.

Alder Wood Characteristics

Alder wood is a hardwood with a light to medium brown color close-grained texture. It has diffused porous structure with brownish or whitish lines that separate growth rings. Small pores are evenly distributed and the same in size.

It has wide rays that are 1 inch long on a tangential surface. Vessels are small to medium in size with narrow rays. Rays are spaced closely, and aggregate rays are spaced wide.

Alder wood has a straight grain with a moderately fine uniform texture that adds a unique appearance to the wood. It has good decay resistance compared to most softwoods.

Most importantly even though Alder is considered a hardwood, it has good workability. Working with Alder wood is so much easy even for a beginner in woodworking. It curves so easily compared to other hardwoods. Therefore, Alder is popular in guitar and making other musical instruments. But because of being too soft, Alder has poor resistance to denting.

Same as poplar, Alder wood is a closed-grained wood. This makes it easy to finish in woodworking. It has moderate weight and hardness. Overall, Alder wood is considered a versatile wood type.

In a summary, here’re the most significant qualities of Alder wood.

  • Hardwood
  • High workability
  • No chemical odor
  • Poor hardness
  • Medium-density
  • Soft
  • Aesthetically pleasing

Here’re the main characteristic features of Alder wood,

ColorMedium to brown color
Density0.41 kg/m3
Hardness590 lbf (2,624 N)
Stiffness1.38 Mpsi
Wood TypeSoft Hardwood
ApplicationsFurniture, Decking, Guitars

So, let’s find out the advantages and disadvantages of Alder wood in terms of its hardness.

Pros and Cons of Alder Wood

ProsCons
High workabilitySoftness
High availabilityPoor durability
Affordable 
Versatility 
No chemical odor 

As you can see Alder wood is filled with lots of advantages. Most of the disadvantages can easily skip with proper maintenance. Overall, Alder is a versatile hardwood.

Let’s talk use of Alder wood as a soft hardwood species.

What Is Alder Used For?

Here’re the uses of Alder wood,

  • Furniture making
  • Small woodworking projects
  • Musical instruments
  • Doors
  • Window frames
  • Carvings
  • Decorative purposes
  • Millwork

As you can see Alder wood can use pretty much for any woodworking project. But because of being too soft, I do not recommend Alder wood for big woodworking projects, or constructions. Make sure not to use Alder wood for the areas that face force directly. It is too soft and not durable much. But it is a hardwood with versatile properties.

How Strong Is Alder?

Alder wood is a strong hardwood compared to most softwoods. But it has poor bending strength compared to other hardwoods due to the medium density.

Here’re the strengths of Alder wood in terms of compressive strength and bending strength.

  • The compressive strength of Alder wood is 5,820 psi
  • The bending strength of Alder wood is 9,800 psi

As you can see it has medium compressive strength and bending strength. Therefore, Alder wood is not good for construction projects and better used for small projects that don’t need huge strength to work against the load.

So, let’s answer some frequently asked questions is Alder a hardwood compared to other popular wood types.

Which Is Harder Oak or Alder?

Oak is harder than Alder. Both Alder and oak are hardwoods. But both red oak and white oak are harder, denser, and stronger than Alder wood.

According to the Janka hardness ratings, the hardness of oak wood and Alder wood is as follows,

Wood TypeHardness
Alder Wood590 lbf
Red Oak1,290 lbf
White Oak1,360 lbf

As you can see oak wood is significantly harder than Alder even though both wood species belong to the same hardwood family. Alder wood is one of the softest hardwoods on the planet.

Is Alder Harder Than Pine?

Alder is harder than Sugar Pine and White Pine. But Yellow Pine is harder than Alder. Even though all wood species of Pinewood belong to the softwood family, in terms of hardness they are almost the same.

Surprisingly softwood yellow Pine is so much harder than the hardwood Alder wood.

According to the Janka hardness test, here is the hardness comparison between Alder and Pinewood.

Wood TypeHardness
Alder Wood590 lbf
White Pine380 lbf
Sugar Pine380 lbf
Yellow Pine870 lbf

Is Alder Harder Than Maple?

Alder is softer than Maple. Both hard Maple and soft Maple wood species are so much harder than Alder wood. they are almost twice as much harder than Alder wood.

According to the Janka hardness test, the hardness of Alder wood and Maple is as follows,

Wood TypeHardness
Alder Wood590 lbf
Hard Maple1,450 lbf
Soft Maple950 lbf

Read: Is Maple A Hardwood? What You Need to Know!

Is Alder Harder Than Birch?

Birch is so much harder than Alder wood. Alder wood is twice as much softer as Birchwood.

According to the Janka hardness test, the hardness of Alder wood and Birch is as follows,

Wood TypeHardness
Alder Wood590 lbf
Birch1,260 lbf

Did I cover all you wanted to know about: Is Alder A Hardwood?

In this article we have deeply discussed is Alder a hardwood by taking its characteristic features and, we have talked in detail about how hard Alder wood is.

Alder wood is one of the softest hardwoods with lots of superior qualities. Because of having less hardness value while being a hardwood it has high workability which makes it one of the best options for beginners in woodworking to practice.

Furthermore, we have discussed the pros and cons of Alder wood and answered some frequently asked questions about is Alder a hardwood compared to other wood types as well.

Hope you have gained good knowledge about the hardness of Alder wood and how useful its qualities are in the woodworking world. Try to use Alder wood for your next woodworking project. Enjoy woodworking!

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