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

is basswood a hardwood

Basswood is a lightweight wood that is mainly used to make boxes, veneers, musical instruments, and other special products. It works really well with woodworking tools like most softwoods, but it has good strength as well. So, I was curious to know if basswood is a hardwood or softwood. So, let’s find out, Is Basswood a hardwood?

Here’s what I learned:

Yes, Basswood is a hardwood, but it’s known as a soft hardwood because of having low hardness and low density. Basswood has a Janka hardness rating of 410 lbf (1,824 N). It is fairly soft hardwood that comes from a deciduous tree hardwood family. Basswood is soft, lightweight, and easy to work with.

But there’s a lot more you need to know about the hardness of basswood.

In this article, I’ll widely discuss is basswood a hardwood, how hard is basswood, basswood characteristics, the pros, and cons of basswood, the uses of basswood, and I’ll answer some frequently asked questions about the hardness of basswood compared to other wood types as well.

So, let’s jump in!

How Hard Is Basswood?

Basswood is considered soft hardwood. It is significantly softer and less dense than most hardwoods. According to the Janka hardness test, Basswood has a hardness rating of 410 lbf (1,824 N) which is significantly less than most hardwoods and softwoods.

For example, Doulas fir is softwood with a Janka hardness rating of 710 lbf (3,158 N) but Basswood is a hardwood with a Janka hardness rating of 410 lbf (1,824 N). Therefore, basswood is botanically hardwood but commercially a softwood.

I know you’re thinking about why we consider basswood as a hardwood even though it has poor hardness value. But not every hardwood has high hardness values like Birch, Maple, and Walnut. Species like Basswood, Aspen, and Chestnut are also considered hardwoods not because of their hardness, but for their fiber structures and deciduous tree family.

Basswood belongs to the hardwood family because it comes from a deciduous tree like all the hardwoods and not because of its hardness. Basswood trees are flowering, nut, fruit-producing trees with board leaves. They have vessels for the transportation of water. Plus they have visible pores structure. This is why basswood is known as hardwood.

Basswood has a straight grain with a fine even texture. Even though it’s soft and less dense, it has good dimensional stability. Working with basswood is so much easier than with most hardwoods. You can make woodcuts easily and be able to focus on detail with a steady hand. Therefore, basswood is widely used for woodcarving projects.

So, let’s have a look at the hardness of basswood according to the Janka hardness scale.

Janka hardness test is a standard method of testing the hardness of a particular wood according to its resistance against dents and scratches. If the wood has high resistance against dents and scratches, it has a high Janka hardness value.

Likewise, Basswood has a Janka hardness value of 410 lbf (1,824 N). Here’re the Janka hardness values of popular wood types to get an idea about how hard Basswood is compared to them.

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)
Basswood410 lbf (1,824 N)
Redwood420 lbf (1,868 N)
Engelmann Spruce390 lbf (1,735 N)
Sugar Pine380 lbf (1,690 N)

As you can see even though basswood considers a hardwood, it has placed way below in the Janka hardness scale.

So, let’s have a look at the characteristic qualities of Basswood to figure out what makes basswood so special over its lower hardness.

Basswood Characteristics

Basswood is a light brown to pale white wood with uniform straight grain throughout the wood. wood grain has even texture and natural luster.

Because of having a low hardness value and low density, the workability of basswood is high. it can easily cut and curl finely using woodworking tools. It nails screws and glues very well. Sanding, staining, and painting are also easier than most hardwoods. Therefore, even a beginner in woodworking can easily work with basswood to learn new techniques and sharpen their woodworking knowledge.

Because of its lightweight, soft, and low density, Basswood has poor strength properties. But it has good dimensional stability which is useful in wood carving to add fine details.

Basswood has no harmful chemicals and there is no clear difference between heartwood and sapwood.

In summary, here’re the main significant qualities of Basswood. They are,

  • Hardwood
  • Lightweight
  • Poor strength
  • High workability
  • Low density
  • High stability
  • Light in color

Here’re the main characteristic features of Basswood,

ColorPale white to light brown
Density0.3 kg/m3 – 0.6 kg/m3
Hardness410 lbf (1,824 N)
Stiffness1.46 Mpsi
Wood TypeNorth American Hardwood
ApplicationsCarving, Molding

As you can see the density of basswood is significantly less. If you’re looking for low dense lightweight wood for your next woodworking project, basswood is the best option for you.

Let’s find out what are the pros and cons of basswood in terms of its hardness.

Pros And Cons Of Basswood

ProsCons
Easy to work withPoor durability
LightweightPoor strength
Soft hardwoodProne to insect attacks
High dimensional stabilityNo rot resistance
No characteristic odorNo water resistance
Smooth surface 
High availability 

As you can see even though basswood is considered a wood with low hardness, poor density, and weak, it has so many advantages over disadvantages. Most of those disadvantages can be skipped by using basswood for the right applications.

So let’s find out what applications that can use basswood as a material.

What Is Basswood Used For?

Basswood can be used for the following applications,

  • Wood carving projects
  • Musical instruments
  • Boxes
  • Crates
  • Molding
  • Lumber
  • Veneer
  • Plywood
  • Fiber products
  • Small woodworking projects

Because of having good stability and being lightweight, the carving is the best application of basswood. Resistance from the environment, scratches, and dents can be solved by applying a good coating over the basswood surface.

Read: 9 Super Simple Beginner Wood Carving Projects

I never recommend basswood for construction projects and outdoor furniture because of its poor durability.

Is Basswood a Strong Wood?

Basswood is not particularly strong. The compressive strength and bending strength of basswood are significantly lower than most other types of wood.

Here’re the compressive strengths and bending strengths of basswood,

  • The compressive strength of basswood is 4,730 psi
  • The bending strength of basswood is 8,700 psi

Because of having poor strengths compared to other hardwoods, basswood cannot be used for applications that work against force and handle heavyweight. It can only use for small woodworking applications.

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

Is Basswood Harder Than Pine?

Basswood is harder than White Pine and Sugar Pine but softer than Yellow Pine. Even though Pine is known as a hardwood that comes from a coniferous tree, it has nearly similar or higher hardness than basswood.

According to the Janka hardness scale, here’re the hardness of basswood and Pine,

Wood TypeHardness
Basswood410 lbf
Sugar Pine380 lbf
White Pine380 lbf
Yellow Pine870 lbf

As you can see yellow pine is significantly harder than basswood. This is one of the best examples of not all the softwoods being soft and not all the hardwoods being hard as well.

Is Basswood Harder Than Balsa?

Basswood is harder than Balsa. Balsa is lighter and stronger than basswood. Balsa has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio which is extremely useful in making aircraft models. Even though both basswood and balsa consider hardwoods, both are soft and less dense.

According to the Janka hardness scale, the hardness of basswood and balsa is as follows,

Wood TypeHardness
Basswood410 lbf
Balsa70 lbf

As you can see balsa wood is significantly softer than basswood. This is what balsa wood makes so special. Having less hardness while having great strength is a unique feature balsa wood has.

Is Basswood Harder Than Maple?

Maple is harder than basswood. Both hard maple and soft maple are so much harder and denser than basswood. The strengths of maple wood are also higher than basswood.

According to the Janka hardness scale, the hardness of basswood and maple is as follows,

Wood TypeHardness
Basswood410 lbf
Hard Maple1,450 lbf
Soft Maple950 lbf

Is Basswood Harder Than Poplar?

Poplar is harder than basswood. Both basswood and poplar are considered soft hardwoods because of their poor hardness values.

According to the Janka hardness scale, the hardness of basswood and poplar is as follows,

Wood TypeHardness
Basswood410 lbf
Poplar540 lbf

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

In this article we have widely talked about is basswood a hardwood and how hard basswood is by taking its characteristic qualities with pros and cons.

Basswood is a soft hardwood with excellent stability and workability. Therefore, working with basswood is so much easier than with most other hardwoods. If you’re a beginner I highly recommend basswood to practice woodworking techniques.

Furthermore, we have talked about the strengths of basswood and answered some frequently asked questions regarding is basswood a hardwood compared to other popular wood types as well.

Hope you have gained a good piece of knowledge about the hardness of basswood with its various applications. So, let’s begin your next woodworking or woodcarving project with beautiful basswood. Have fun in woodworking!

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