The common beech (Fagus sylvatica) is a tree widespread throughout Europe and known since ancient times. Its wood is considered quite valuable: it can be used in carpentry or for heating, always guaranteeing good performance. It is considered an ideal essence for the construction of furniture and structures such as stairs and floors, but only indoors: it is in fact particularly sensitive to humidity and in those conditions it cannot guarantee the right durability. Let us see more specifically the specific features and what to pay attention to at the time of purchase.
Characteristics of beech wood
Beech wood is essentially characterized by its hardness, almost total absence of knots and the ease of impregnation. On the other hand it is not very durable (especially outside) because it is easily attacked by molds (it never lasts more than 5 years, unless properly treated). It also has a tendency to shrink considerably, even after being well seasoned: this factor, together with its low elasticity, makes cracking very frequent.
Also frequent are the "greyish", that is to say alterations caused by fungi. They are established quickly at the time of cutting (or due to cracks in the bark) and lead to a notable degradation (deep splits) if specific treatments are not carried out immediately.
The color is generally light yellow, but it is not rare to find beautiful pink shades. It has a homogeneous appearance until deep, given the almost total absence of heartwood, with very fine and homogeneous grain. If cut tangentially it has slight veins, while its typical darker lenticels are clearly visible in transversal. It is a fairly heavy wood since it weighs about 700 kg a mі.
Beech growth and cultivation
Beech is a slow-growing tree, but can easily reach and exceed 30 meters and a diameter of almost one and a half meters at the bottom. In intensive cultivation, therefore with many trees joined together, there are homogeneous, vertical and very slender stems. The specimens that grow spontaneously as isolated or in the midst of other essences, on the other hand, have a more expanded form, a larger trunk and branches that start already in the lower part.
Commercial beech uses
Beech cultivation is widespread throughout Europe; in Italy production is not sufficient to satisfy domestic demand. The uses are innumerable: the largest and most valuable are used for the manufacture of furniture, flooring, interior furnishings and for turning. It is also appreciated for the quality of the fibers it provides, useful for the paper industry.
Naturally it has ample space as heating wood, given its calorific value.
It is also of interest to the food and pharmaceutical industries: the bark is used for herbal preparations (useful as an astringent, antiseptic and disinfectant)
Its fruits (the faggiole) are edible: at home level they find similar uses to those of chestnuts. They are also used by the industry to obtain an edible or glaring oil. In the past they were roasted and ground and gave a substitute for coffee.
Beech wood in carpentry
Beech wood is commonly used for the manufacture of numerous objects and tools. Thanks to its fine, short and homogeneous grain it is considered the ideal subject for turning. It is commonly used for making chair and table legs or for bowling pins, toys, brush bases, kitchen utensils. Once it was the essence of choice for the construction of the typical wooden sabots of Northern Europe and the Alpine valleys. It is also used in the production of musical instruments, aircraft propellers and clothes pegs.
It is also in great demand for the production of flooring and stairs (after being deeply impregnated).
It is very common for trunks with defects to be treated and then used as railway sleepers.
Beech is appreciated as firewood due to its hardness, weight, compactness and easy ignition. Thanks to these characteristics it burns slowly, keeping the heat constant for a long time. It can be used in stoves for heating, but it is also suitable for cooking food (it is highly sought after by pizzerias).
In Scandinavia, beech is much appreciated because it is excellent for smoking fish cold and hot, especially salmon. We can use it for the same purpose, but, given its delicate flavor, it also fits perfectly with prosciutto, sheep meat and poultry. We use untreated, dried and reduced to small flake wood. We totally avoid the bark because it contains compounds with an excessively intense taste.
Appreciable mixes can also be created, in particular with other delicate essences such as apple and cherry.