Light weight wood? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 41 Old 08-11-2019, 04:53 PM Thread Starter
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Light weight wood?

What would be a light weight wood other than balsa wood for a project similar to a small end table? Similar to a Shaker table- three legs, spindle and round top. Thanks. A source would be good, too. Thanks.

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post #2 of 41 Old 08-11-2019, 07:19 PM
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pounds per cubic foot, partial listing

Code:
         Balsa    7 - 9       Bamboo   19 - 25       Basswood   20 - 37       Pine,   white   22 - 31       Poplar   22 - 31       Pine,   yellow   23 - 37       Sycamore   24 - 37       Willow   24 - 37       Spruce   25 - 44       Alder   26 - 42       Larch   31 - 35       Mahogany,   African   31 - 53       Beech   32 - 56       Elm,   English   34 - 37       Oak   37 - 56       Hickory   37 - 58       Pear   38 - 45       Maple   39 - 47       Walnut   40 - 43       Ash,   white   40 - 53       Plum   41 - 49       Apple   41 - 52       Teak,   Indian   41 - 55       Locust   42 - 44       Cherry,   European   43- 56       Pine,   pitch   52 - 53
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post #3 of 41 Old 08-11-2019, 07:32 PM
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Basswood and Philippine Mahogany come to mind.
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post #4 of 41 Old 08-11-2019, 08:14 PM
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Eliminating balsa you might as well use spruce. It's about as light as anything and easily found.
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post #5 of 41 Old 08-12-2019, 04:19 AM
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Worth mentioning that the lighter wood is, generally, the weaker it is. For an end table, the lightest wood that personally id be comfortable using would be one of the SPF family, though honestly for a table like what youre describing id rather use a hardwood, cherry probably being my first choice. A lightweight wood will save weight, sure, but for an end table i really doubt youd save more than a pound or two going from cherry to spruce. Course, only you can decide if that pound or two is really worth it, for all i know youre packing this in a space vehicle where each pound is an extra $10,000 to launch.

As far as sources go, were all gonna be pretty useless without a location. Your best bet is always gonna be buying local

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post #6 of 41 Old 08-12-2019, 08:53 AM
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Why a lightweight wood?

The lighter the wood, the weaker, and the less mass to keep it stable.

A 3 "footed" table with a center column relies on the distance between the foot pads for stability..... however it will tend to tip on a line connecting two of the feet. I would NOT give up mass for a substitute wood that is only a few pounds lighter. You are not going to carry this on your back across the country.... I hope.


Cherry would be a great wood. Walnut as well. Oak either Red or White would be the heaviest. Pines and Spruce will work, but why put all the effort into a wood that won't stain up as well as the hardwoods....?




The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #7 of 41 Old 08-12-2019, 11:08 AM Thread Starter
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Should have mentioned that this will be for a "floating table" magic trick he is working on. I explained balsa wood is very fragile. We were looking at basswood or something else. We found several charts/comparisons with a Bing search. Thanks for the recommendations. Will run all this by him and see what he wants to do. BTW, I hadn't posted this and within an hour, he was asking what I heard.

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post #8 of 41 Old 08-12-2019, 11:10 AM
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If I were trying for light weight, I would start with the design. I would start thinking about all the design tricks I know that provide strength with minimal material. Use "L" shape legs, or drill or hollow them out. Thin everything that doesn't need to be thick. Consider a thin top, but use battens (thin strips on the back), or a thicker rim to provide strength and support. You might even think about making a torsion box, with thin layers on top and bottom and a simple structure between them to hold it together. Wrap it in veneer strips to give it a nice look. I wonder whether 1/8 inch plywood is too thin for the top, if properly supported?

With the right design, you may be able to achieve the light weight you desire, but be able to use stronger, better, nicer wood species, maybe a hardwood.

By the way, for beginners, "SPF" stands for "Spruce, Pine, Fir". It is the white softwood construction lumber that you find at the big hardware stores, where you don't know the exact species of wood, but you don't need to know, either.
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post #9 of 41 Old 08-12-2019, 11:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pineknot_86 View Post
Should have mentioned that this will be for a "floating table" magic trick he is working on. I explained balsa wood is very fragile. We were looking at basswood or something else. We found several charts/comparisons with a Bing search. Thanks for the recommendations. Will run all this by him and see what he wants to do. BTW, I hadn't posted this and within an hour, he was asking what I heard.
Our posts crossed. I didn't see this extra info. Still, it doesn't hurt to examine the design for places where weight can be shaved off.
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post #10 of 41 Old 08-12-2019, 12:56 PM
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I have seen this trick. Unless the table is to have heavy weights on it, I would use poly foam covered in paper veneer.
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post #11 of 41 Old 08-12-2019, 02:04 PM
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Chart is here:

https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/w...sity-d_40.html
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post #12 of 41 Old 08-12-2019, 04:11 PM
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Thanks for sharing. I find it interesting that they didn't bother to convert to lb/cubic-foot for woods that are uncommon in the US.
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post #13 of 41 Old 08-13-2019, 07:09 AM
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i cut a cottonwood tree once for firewood. when it was green - HEAVY! when it dried, i could literally throw the log into the air. super light i thought, but only after drying. and it was pretty strong.
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post #14 of 41 Old 08-13-2019, 12:24 PM
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Do you have plans for the table, not familiar with this trick but I did make items for a magic shop at one time and like the performance the props are not always what they seem to be.
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post #15 of 41 Old 08-14-2019, 12:51 PM
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Obeche might be a suitable choice.Not sure where you might find it but it fits the lightness criterion and it isn't particularly dear.The downside is that like any other light wood species it will mark or dent easily.
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post #16 of 41 Old 08-14-2019, 02:39 PM
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just read a book that says Wright Brothers chose Spruce for their plane because of light weight and sturdiness.
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post #17 of 41 Old 08-14-2019, 03:55 PM
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Actually the largest wooden plane ever flown was the Spruce Goose.
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post #18 of 41 Old 08-14-2019, 04:28 PM
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Cedar is probably the lightest readily available and is fairly hard. It splits easily, but with a clear coat it fairly glows and it is weather resistant.

Interestingly balsa is listed as a "hardwood".
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post #19 of 41 Old 08-15-2019, 12:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Packard View Post
Cedar is probably the lightest readily available and is fairly hard. It splits easily, but with a clear coat it fairly glows and it is weather resistant.

Interestingly balsa is listed as a "hardwood".
for sure i would also recommend the same for end tables

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post #20 of 41 Old 08-15-2019, 04:01 PM
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A fairly light weight wood is Cypress and it machines easily.
Fairly attractive and readily available on southern coast area and reasonably priced. Besides, hunting for a good lumber yard with cypress would keep you out of the BORG.
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Retired woodworker, amongst other things, Sold full time cruising boat and now full time cruising in RV. Currently in Denison, Tx
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