Sycamore FAQs

Lumber

The annual rings of sycamore are distinct and delineated by a narrow band of light-colored tissue at their outer margins. The ray flake exposed by quarter sawing are relatively wide and conspicuous, resembling those in quartersawn oak, but smaller. Sycamore ray flake, unlike oak ray flake, are darker than the rest of the wood and often orange to dark red in color. Although the sapwood is not always distinguishable from heartwood, sapwood generally is white to light yellow, whereas the heartwood is light brown to dark brown or reddish brown with no distinct heart-wood sap-wood delineation. To echo the words of one of our customer "The bottom line - quartersawn Sycamore lumber is drop dead gorgeous".

Sycamore wood has intermediate characteristics when compared with other hardwoods. It is classified moderate in weight, hardness, stiffness, shock resistance, strength in bending, endwise compression, and in nail-holding ability. American Sycamore has a closed gain texture like that of cherry and maple and it can be finished to an ultra high gloss sheen. It glues satisfactorily, and because of its interlocked grain it resists splitting. It maintains its shape well when bent after steaming and machines well, with modern of high-speed cutters to prevent chipping. It's also non-toxic, odorless, tasteless, and stain resistant which makes it ideal for general woodworking and food safe products.

The Tree

American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis L) is known by many common names, such as The Ghost Tree, Buttonwood, Buttonball, American Plane Tree and American Lacewood. It is considered one of the largest hardwood trees in North America, especially in diameter. Under ideal growing conditions the tree will grow extremely fast, reaching heights of 100 feet or more (occasionally 150 feet) and trunk diameters of 10 feet or more. The average height for a mature Sycamore ranges from 80 to 110 feet with an average diameter from 3 to 8 feet.

It's most abundant and grows to its largest size along streams and on rich bottom lands. Having a native range that extends from Iowa to Ontario and Maine in the north, Nebraska in the west, and south to Texas to Florida in the south.

American sycamore is easily recognized because of its multicolored, mottled bark. The bark on young branches are brownish. As the branch grows, this outer bark peels away in irregular patches to expose smooth inner bark, which may be green or olive in color but most often is white. The resulting patchy pattern of bark in the branches and upper crown is conspicuous and is characteristic of American Sycamore. In mature trees, bark on the lower trunk is entirely brown and consists of small scales.

The fruit is shaped like a round ball, about 1 inch in diameter, that breaks up when ripe to disperse small, elongated seeds surrounded by many fine hairs which permit them to be carried afar on the wind. The wood is moderately hard and strong, it's used to build furniture and interior finished products.

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