Is Basswood a Hardwood Or Softwood? (Ultimate Guide!)

Ever run your fingers over a piece of basswood furniture and wondered, “Is basswood a hardwood or a softwood?” Dive in with us as we uncover the intriguing world of basswood.

is basswood a hardwood or softwood

Basswood is a lightweight wood that is mainly used to make boxes, veneers, musical instruments, and other special products.

Since it works really well with woodworking tools like most softwoods, I was curious whether basswood is a hardwood or softwood.

So, I did some research with the help of the experts and now after years of working with basswood, I know a lot to share with you about this awesome wood.

So, let’s discuss, Is Basswood a hardwood?

Yes, Basswood is a hardwood, but it’s known as a soft hardwood because of having low hardness and low density compared to other hardwoods. Basswood has a Janka hardness rating of 410 lbf (1,824 N) and 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.

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    In this article, I’ll widely discuss is basswood a hardwood, and how hard is basswood with its characteristics. Plus, pros, cons, and uses.

    I’ll answer some frequently asked questions as well.

    So, let’s jump in!

    Basswood furniture and woodwork
    Basswood furniture and woodwork

    First of all, let’s get a brief knowledge about basswood.

    what is basswood?

    Basswood, scientifically known as Tilia Americana, is a type of tree native to North America, treasured for its versatile timber.

    This enigmatic species often escapes the limelight in timber production discussions, representing just about 5-8% of the total volume.

    Yet, its unique characteristics call for a closer look.

    A Hidden Gem in the Timber World

    Consider basswood the unsung hero of the timber industry.

    Its wood is light, soft, and easily workable, making it a favorite among artisans, particularly carvers and woodworkers.

    The stability of basswood is another of its star attributes; it holds up well over time, resisting warping and shrinkage.

    Unique Characteristics of Basswood

    The color of basswood is something to behold. It has a uniformity that’s not commonly found in many wood species.

    The distinction between its heartwood and sapwood is subtle, resulting in a harmonious color palette that transitions smoothly from creamy white to a very pale brown.

    This uniformity makes it an aesthetically pleasing choice for various applications.

    Overcoming Challenges with Modern Machinery

    Basswood has had its share of challenges too. In the past, it was considered difficult to finish due to its tendency to develop “fuzzy” edges during sanding.

    However, thanks to advancements in manufacturing technology, this issue has been largely overcome.

    Now let’s talk about its hardness factor in detail.

    Advantages of basswood
    Advantages of basswood

    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 hardwoods and not because of its hardness.

    Basswood trees are flowering, nut, and 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 outdoor bench
    Basswood outdoor bench

    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.

    Basswood kitchen cabinet
    Basswood kitchen cabinet

    Basswood Hardness Comparision

    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.

    Basswood dining table
    Basswood dining table

    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.

    Basswood floor
    Basswood floor

    Overall, here’re the main significant qualities of Basswood,

    • 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.

    Uses of basswood
    Uses of basswood

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

    Pros And Cons Of Basswood

    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.

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

    Basswood guitar
    Basswood guitar

    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.

    That’s it, folks! hope you learned everything you wanted to know about, is basswood a hardwood with all the properties of the wood.

    Let’s see the hardness of basswood compared to several other popular 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.

    Basswood carved spoon
    Basswood carved spoon

    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 you Know Fact about basswood
    Did you Know Fact about basswood

    So, let’s answer some frequently asked questions as well.


    Is basswood a hardwood or a softwood?

    Despite its softer texture, basswood is classified as a hardwood. This may sound counterintuitive, but remember, the distinction between hardwood and softwood isn’t about the physical hardness or softness of the wood.

    What makes basswood unique among other hardwoods?

    Basswood stands out for its light weight, easy workability, and uniform color. It’s a versatile hardwood, ideal for carving and other intricate woodworking tasks due to its soft, stable nature.

    How does basswood respond to finishing?

    Historically, basswood developed a “fuzzy” surface when sanded, making finishing a challenge. However, with modern machinery and techniques, this issue has been largely addressed, allowing for smoother finishes.

    What color is basswood?

    Basswood exhibits a uniform color palette that ranges from creamy white to a very pale brown. Its subtle, elegant tones are a charming feature, often appreciated in decorative and functional applications.

    Is basswood suitable for outdoor use?

    While basswood is highly workable and attractive, it’s not the most durable for outdoor use. Its relatively lower resistance to decay and pests makes it more suited for indoor projects.

    Where is basswood commonly found?

    Basswood, or Tilia Americana, is native to North America. Despite not being a front-runner in timber production, it makes up a significant portion, estimated around 5-8%.

    Is Basswood sustainable?

    Basswood is considered a sustainable wood source. However, like with any timber, it’s crucial to source it responsibly to ensure the health and longevity of these valuable forest ecosystems.

    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 considered hardwood. Despite its light, soft texture, it falls under the hardwood category because it’s from a deciduous, or leaf-bearing tree, scientifically known as Tilia Americana. Its unique properties make it a preferred choice for many woodworking tasks.

    Furthermore, I’ve answered some frequently asked questions as well.

    Hope you have gained a good piece of knowledge about, is basswood a hardwood with its various applications.

    So, let’s begin your next woodworking or woodcarving project with beautiful basswood. Have fun in woodworking!

    Walter Parker is a woodworking enthusiast. He is passionate about woodworking projects & plays with woodworking tools having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Woodworking Planet. He wants to make people love woodworking! Read More About Him! Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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