Is Aspen A Hardwood? (How hard is Aspen?)

is aspen a hardwood

Aspen is an abundant, blond, and splinter-free wood. Aspen wood is a popular wood that is mostly used for stuffing, packing, furniture making, paneling and is also used as a source for the pulping industry as well. When it comes to woodworking with Aspen wood, we should always concern about the hardness and the strength of the wood. So, Is Aspen a hardwood?

Here’s what I learned:

Yes, Aspen wood is a hardwood. But it is not hard as Oak, Maple, and Cherry woods. Aspen wood has a hardness rating of 420 lbf (1,868 N) which is relatively lower than most hardwoods. Therefore, Aspen is considered a soft hardwood.

But there’s a lot more to know about the hardness of Aspen wood and why does it consider as soft hardwood. So, let’s keep going!

However, before you start woodworking with Aspen wood, there are a few things in terms of hardness you will want to know about.

In this article, we’ll review is Aspen a hardwood, how hard is it, characteristics and uses of Aspen wood. More importantly, we’ll answer the hardness of Aspen wood in terms of its strength, Aspen hardwood flooring with other frequently asked questions.

Let’s dive in!

How Hard Is Aspen Wood?

Aspen wood is harder than any softwood but relatively softer than most hardwoods. According to the Janka hardness scale, the hardness value given for the Aspen wood is 420 lbf (1,868 N) which is a lower hardness rating than most of the hardwoods.

For example,

  • Maple wood has a 1,450 lbf (6,450 N) hardness rating
  • Cherry wood has a 9,50 lbf (4,225 N) hardness rating
  • Oakwood has a 1,290 lbf (5,738 N) hardness rating

As you can see Aspen wood has a very low amount of hardness and this is why it is considered as a soft hardwood, even though it belongs to the hardwood category.

Aspen wood has diffused porous structure. Therefore, it is hard to recognize the ring structure. The diameter of porous is so small and evenly distributed. Because of having a small porous structure, the density and the hardness of Aspen wood are high.

Aspen has a straight grain with a uniform texture and the spaces between the fiber are less. Therefore, the number of Aspen fibers per unit volume is high in Aspen wood, therefore hardness and density are high.

Aspen is less prone to contraction and expansions with temperature and moisture changes. Therefore, it has great stability same as high-grade hardwoods. But when compared in terms of hardness and density, they are pretty much lower than those hardwoods because of their soft and uniform texture.

Janka hardness test is the test that we do to measure the resistant of a particular wood to wear and dent. It means, if some wood has great wear and dent resistance, that means it has a high hardness rating.

So, according to the universal Janka hardness rating, Aspen wood has a hardness rating of 420 lbf (1,868 N). Here is the Janka hardness rating of other popular woods that we use in our day-to-day woodworking activities.

Wood speciesHardness value
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)
Rosewood1,780 lbf (7,900 N)
Hard Maple, Sugar Maple1,450 lbf (6,400 N)
Australian Cypress1,375 lbf (6,120 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)
Heart Pine1,225 lbf (5,450 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)
Silver Maple700 lbf (3,100 N)
Southern Yellow Pine (Loblolly and Shortleaf)690 lbf (3,100 N)
Douglas Fir660 lbf (2,900 N)
Aspen (Big tooth)420 lbf (1,870 N)
Basswood367 lbf (1,632 N)
European Aspen (Common Aspen)380 lbf (1,650 N)
Aspen (Quaking)350 lbf (1,560 N)
Cedar (White)320 lbf (1,423 N)

As you can see there are three types of Aspen woods. Which are,

  • Bigtooth Aspen – Soft Hardwood
  • European Aspen (Common type) – Soft Hardwood
  • Quaking Aspen -Soft Hardwood

All three species of Aspen wood have the nearly same amount of hardness rating and they only differ because of the shape of the leaves and heights of trees.

From the table above you can get an idea about why we consider Aspen wood as a soft hardwood. It is unbelievably soft when compared to all other hardwood types.

So, let’s head into the characteristic features of Aspen wood and how they can help us to get an idea about its hardness and density.

Aspen Wood Characteristics

Aspen wood is light brown straight grain wood with medium texture and natural luster. Sapwood is pale yellow nearly white. It has a diffuse porous structure, and which is evenly placed throughout the wood. Spacings between Aspen fibers are close and the density is high compared to softwoods.

Even though Aspen wood is considered a hardwood, its durability is very less. Aspen wood furniture does not last long. If you haven’t done a proper finishing, it will rot so fast. It is non-durable and so favorable to get damaged from insect attacks.

Aspen wood does not resistant to scratches and dents. Therefore, once it gets scratched, the water will eventually penetrate inside of the wood and rot so fast. Therefore, Aspen wood is not advisable to use for wet areas such as bathrooms, basements, and kitchens.

Apart from the downside of Aspen wood, it has great qualities which can easily be applied to any woodworking project.

The qualities of Aspen wood are,

  • Soft hardwood
  • Lightweight
  • Soft
  • Good dimensional stability
  • Easy to finish (stain and paint well)
  • Easy to cut
  • Great machinability

Aspen wood is not hard to cut because of its softness and is easy to work with even for a beginner in woodworking. It does not split easily.

The main characteristics of Aspen wood can be displayed as follows.

ColorLight brown to white color
Density420 kg/m3
Hardness420 lbf (1,868 N)
Stiffness1.18 Mpsi
Wood TypeNorth American Soft Hardwood
ApplicationsPackaging, paneling, furniture making, flooring

So, let’s have a look at the uses of Aspen wood which are great for you to get an idea about how its hardness is useful for those applications.

What Is Aspen Wood Good For?

Aspen wood is popular for the following applications because of its great qualities and dimensional stability.

They are,

  • Flooring
  • Furniture parts
  • Boxes and crates
  • Plywood
  • Molding
  • Frames
  • Toys
  • Kitchen utensils

As you can see because of is a hardwood with relatively less hardness, Aspen wood is used for most simple woodworking projects. But that doesn’t mean it is not good for large projects. With proper finishing and good maintenance, Aspen is good to use for any woodworking project.

The main reason for using Aspen wood than any other wood for the above applications is because of its great dimensional stability. Aspen has good finishing properties as well. It takes stain and paints well.

Because of having a porous structure and being a soft hardwood, the stains and pigments will easily penetrate to the wood inside and spread evenly throughout the wood. This will prevent Aspen wood from getting a blotchy surface and Aspen’s streaks and color combinations make each woodwork unique and aesthetic.

How Strong is Aspen Wood?

Aspen wood is considered a weak wood type. Even though most of the hardwoods have great strength, Aspen wood isn’t. Aspen wood has a compressive strength of 4,250 psi and bending strength of 8,400 psi which is relatively less than many hardwoods we know.

Knots of Aspen wood are numerous, generally tight, and comparatively small. Those knots reduce the strength of Aspen wood.

Because Aspen wood is not so strong and contains lots of defects, you need to focus more when using it for framings, such as joists, studding, and rafters.

The bending strength of Aspen wood is useful in joists, beams, and rafters. Poor strength of Aspen wood cause lots of trouble when it uses for outdoor furniture, because of not have weather-resistant and rot so easily when in contact with water.

Aspen Hardwood Flooring

Even though Aspen wood is not hard as other hardwoods (Oak, cherry, Maple) which are commonly used for flooring, it has good dimensional stability. Stability is pretty much important when it comes to flooring applications. This is the reason why Aspen wood is popular for flooring.

Aspen wood is less prone to contraction and expansion with temperature and humidity changes. Therefore, it is not favorable to warp, crown, or cup.

So, let’s have a look at the advantages and disadvantages you’ll probably get by using Aspen wood for flooring.

Aspen Hardwood Flooring Pros and Cons

Here’re some of the main pros and cons of Aspen wood flooring applications.

ProsCons
HardwoodLess durable
High stabilityNo rot resistance
Take stain and paint wellLess strong
Easy to work withExpensive
Beautiful wood grainLess availability
Doesn’t split easilyLess resistant to moisture
Low flammableEasily get attacked by insects
Easy to finishNo scratch or dent resistance
No shrinkage 
Lightweight 

As you can see there are lots of advantages of using Aspen wood for flooring purposes. The disadvantages can minimize by applying a good coating and also by giving proper maintenance regularly.

So, let’s answer some of the frequently asked questions under is Aspen a hardwood.

Is Aspen Harder Than Pine?

Aspen is harder than Pine. In terms of hardness and density, Aspen wood is a hardwood and Pinewood is a softwood. So, most of the times hardwoods have higher hardness and strength than softwoods.

 According to the Janka hardness ratings,

Wood TypeHardness
Aspen Wood420 lbf
White Pine380 lbf
Sugar Pine380 lbf

Even though this shows a slight difference between Aspen wood and Pine in terms of hardness, in real-world Aspen wood is a clear winner in hardness against Pinewood.

Which Is Stronger Aspen or Poplar?

Both Aspen wood and Poplar wood shows relatively the same characteristics in terms of strength. Yellow Poplar is stronger than Aspen wood. but in terms of shock resistance, Aspen wood has better shock resistance than Pinewood.

StrengthAspen WoodPoplar Wood
Compressive strength4,250 psi5,540 psi
Bending Strength8,400 psi10,100 psi

As you can see Aspen wood has less compressive strength and bending strength than Poplar wood. Therefore, Poplar is stronger than Aspen wood. But these slight changes can surely be ignored easily.

Read: Is Poplar Wood Strong? With Pros & Cons

Did I cover all you wanted to know about: Is Aspen a Hardwood?

In this article, we took an in-depth look into check is Aspen a hardwood and how hard it is.

We have mainly discussed Aspen wood characteristics in terms of its hardness, uses of Aspen wood, and how Aspen wood is useful in flooring applications with pros and cons.

Aspen wood is a soft hardwood with less hardness and is dense. But it has great stability than most other woods. That’s what makes Aspen wood so special.

Furthermore, we have answered frequently asked questions regarding is Aspen a hardwood and related stuff.

Hope you have the knowledge about Aspen wood enough to go for your next woodworking project with this beautiful wood. Have fun in woodworking!

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