What Is Spruce Wood?

What is spruce wood? Why would you choose to use spruce wood when there are several options available? Well, we all agree that wood has been an integral part of human civilization for centuries, serving as a fundamental building material in various applications.

However, the choice of wood to use depends on a number of factors such as availability, cost, durability as well as individual preferences. One wood that has gone under the radar is spruce and in this post, I will walk you through different characteristics of spruce wood and why you should consider it for your various projects. So, let’s start by understanding what this wood is.

What Is Spruce Wood?

Spruce wood is a lumber obtained from spruce trees, which are coniferous evergreen trees belonging to the genus Picea. Spruce wood is widely used in construction, woodworking, and various other applications.

Spruce trees are known for their straight trunks, which yield long, knot-free sections of wood. The wood itself is light in color, ranging from creamy white to pale yellow, with a subtle grain pattern. Also, it has a relatively fine texture and a moderate natural luster.

What Are The Different Types Of Spruce Wood?

  • Sitka Spruce (Picea Sitchensis)

What Is Spruce Wood?
Sitka Spruce Furniture

First, it is the state tree of Alaska. Besides, it is among the tallest spruce species and can reach up to 300 feet. When Sitka is cultivated, it would be better to give it sufficient room since it can grow to 100 feet tall.

Habitat: Sitka spruce is commonly found in the coastal regions of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and northern California.

In addition, it thrives in cool, humid climates with abundant rainfall. It often grows in mixed forests and is the dominant species in the coastal temperate rainforest biome.

Appearance: Sitka spruce trees have a straight trunk with branches that extend outward in a conical shape. Moreover, they can grow to impressive heights, often reaching 60 to 75 meters (197 to 246 feet) tall. Additionally, the crown is narrow and pointed.

Color: Sitka spruce has a cream/white to yellow heartwood, which has a fine pinkish–red hue sometimes. Also, the sapwood has a distinguishable creamy white color. Additionally, this lumber sometimes has a distinct pattern known as the bear claw.

Grain: it has a fine uniform texture with a straight grain.

Needles: the needles of Sitka spruce are short, sharp, and four-sided. They are arranged in a spiral pattern along the branches and are dark green in color. Moreover, the needles can persist on the tree for up to 15 years before falling.

Cones: the cones of Sitka spruce are small, cylindrical, and pendulous. Further, they are usually around 5 to 10 centimeters (2 to 4) long and have thin, flexible scales. The cones contain winged seeds that are dispersed by wind. 

Durability: it has low durability and a small resistance to decay.

Strength and hardness: it has a Janka rating of 510lbf and an average dried weight of 425 kg/m3. As a result, the wood is neither heavy nor hard.

  • White Spruce (Picea Glauca)

This is a species of coniferous tree belonging to the Pinaceae family. White spruce is native to the northern regions of North America, including Alaska as well as Canada, and is widely distributed across these areas.

Even better, white spruce can be used as a privacy screen or shade tree and can be utilized as a Christmas tree.

Height: white spruce is a medium to large-sized evergreen tree that can reach heights of 60 to 80 feet (18 to 24 meters) and sometimes even taller. Moreover, it has a slender, conical shape with dense foliage and a straight trunk. The tree’s bark is thin, smooth, and grayish-brown in color.

Needles: the needles of the white spruce are needle-like, about 0.5 to 1 inch (1.2 to 2.5 centimeters) long, and bluish-green in color. Also, the needles are arranged in a spiral pattern around the branches and have a sharp tip. They are retained on the tree for about 4 to 8 years before shedding.

Color: It is yellowish or white colored with creamy white sapwood. However, black knots can be present sometimes.

Grain: it has a uniform texture and a straight grain.

Durability: it has low moderate durability, with stable and basic resistance to rot.

Strength and hardness: according to the Janka rating scale, it has an average dried weight of 425 kg/m3 and 480 lbf. This means it is neither heavy nor hard.

  • Black Spruce (Picea Mariana) 

Black spruce originates from North America and in the northern regions. Further, it belongs to the Pinaceae family and is closely related to other spruce species such as white spruce and red spruce.

Appearance: black spruce is a medium-sized tree that reaches heights of 15 to 25 meters (49 to 82 feet) with a trunk diameter of about 30 to 60 centimeters (12 to 24 inches). It has a narrow, conical crown and dense, short branches that droop downward.

Color: it has a yellowish color or creamy to white, with sapwood that is almost white.

Grain: it has a fine uniform texture and a straight grain.

Needles: the needles of black spruce are short, stiff, and sharp. Moreover, they are dark green to bluish-green in color and are arranged spirally around the branches. Also, the needles are about 0.5 to 1 centimeter (0.2 to 0.4 inches) long and have four sides, giving them a square appearance when viewed from a cross-section.

Cones: black spruce produces small, cylindrical cones that are about 2 to 4 centimeters (0.8 to 1.6 inches) long. Additionally, the cones start out green and eventually turn brown as they mature. They grow near the upper branches of the tree.

Strength and Hardness: according to the Janka hardness rating, it has an average dried weight of 450 kg/m3 and 520 lbf. This means the wood has a moderate weight.

Durability: in terms of durability, black spruce has a slight resistance to decay but it is not durable. However, it is easy to handle and work with since it is lightweight.

Habitat: black spruce is well-adapted to cold and boreal climates. Also, it is commonly found in wetland areas such as bogs, swamps, and muskegs. It can tolerate poor soil conditions and is often one of the dominant tree species in the northern large biome.

  • Norway Spruce ( Picea Abies)

The Norway spruce is a large evergreen tree belonging to the family Pinaceae. It is native to Europe and is widely distributed across the continent, including Norway, as well as parts of Africa.

Size and Appearance: Norway spruces are large trees that can reach heights of 40 to 60 meters (130 to 200 feet). They have a conical shape with dense branching, and their branches extend horizontally from the trunk.

Needles: the tree’s needles are needle-like and measure about 12 to 24 millimeters (0.5 to 1 inch) in length. In addition, they are dark green in color and are arranged spirally around the branches.

Cones: Norway spruce trees produce cylindrical cones that hang downward from the branches. These cones are initially green, but they turn brown as they mature. Further, each cone contains numerous seeds, which are released when the cones dry out and disintegrate. 

Bark: the bark of young Norway spruce trees is thin, smooth, and grayish brown. As the trees age, the bark becomes thicker and develops scaly plates that are reddish-brown in color.

Habitat and adaptability: they are well adapted to a wide range of environments. Moreover, they prefer moist, well-drained soils but can tolerate a variety of soil types. Also, they are often found in mountainous regions, mixed forests, and as a dominant species in boreal forests.

  • Engelmann Spruce (Picea  Engelmannii)

This is a spruce tree native to the western United States and western Canada. It is named after George Engelmann, a 19th-century German American botanist.

Appearance: Engelmann spruce is a medium to large-sized evergreen tree that can reach heights of 40 to 60 meters (130 to 200 feet) in favorable conditions. It has a slender, conical shape with a straight trunk and narrow crown.

Needles: the needles of Engelmann spruce are blush-green or grayish-green. They are about 1 to 2.5 centimeters (0.4 to 1 inch) long and are arranged spirally around the branches. Also, the needles are sharp as well as stiff, and they tend to curve upward.

Cones: they have cones that are cylindrical in shape and about 5 to 10 centimeters (2 to 4 inches) long. They start off green and mature to reddish-brown or purplish-brown. Additionally, the cones hang downward from the branches, and their scales are thin as well as flexible.

Habitat: Engelmann spruce is commonly found in high-elevation mountainous regions. It thrives in cool, moist climates and is often associated with subalpine as well as montane forests. Additionally, it is a dominant tree species in many areas of the Rocky Mountains.

  • Colorado Blue Spruce ( Picea Pungens)

This is a popular iconic evergreen tree native to the rocky mountains of the western United States, including Colorado.

Appearance: Colorado blue spruce is a medium to large-sized tree that can reach heights of 15 to 30 meters (50 to 100 feet) and has a conical shape.

It has densely packed, stiff needles that are blue-gray to silvery blue in color, giving the tree its name. The needles are sharp and prickly to the touch.

Cones: the cones of Colorado blue spruce are relatively small, measuring about 5 to 10 centimeters (2 to 4 inches) in length. In addition, they are cylindrical in shape and have thin, flexible scales. The cones start off green and mature to a light brown color.

Habitat: Colorado blue spruce is well adapted to high-altitude environments and is commonly found in the Rocky Mountains. Further, it thrives in cool, moist climates but can tolerate a range of soil conditions. Moreover, it is often used as an ornament tree in landscaping due to its attractive appearance.

  • Red Spruce (Picea Rubens)

This is a species of spruce tree native to eastern North America, primarily found in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada.

Appearance: red spruce is a medium-sized evergreen tree that reaches heights of 20 to 30 meters (65 to 100 feet) and has a narrow, conical shape. Its branches are slightly upturned, and the crown is often dense as well as compact. The bark is thin, scaly, and grayish-brown in color.

Needles: the needles are short, stiff, and four-sided. They are dark green with a bluish tint, and they are arranged spirally around the branches. Further, the needles are around 1 to 2 centimeters (0.4 to 0.8 inches) long and have a sharp tip.

Cones: red spruce produces small, cylindrical cones that are about 3 to 6 centimeters (1.2 to 2.4 inches) long. The cones are initially green and mature to reddish-brown or purple-brown. Each cone contains thin, flexible scales that bear seeds.

Habitat: it is commonly found in cool, moist environments, particularly in higher elevations. Additionally, it is often associated with mountainous regions and grows in a variety of soil types, including acidic and poorly drained soils. It is a dominant tree species in some northeastern forests.

  • Serbian Spruce (Picea Omorika)

This is a coniferous tree native to the mountains of Serbia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina. It is also commonly known as the pancic spruce or omorika spruce. It belongs to the Pinaceae family, which includes other spruce, fir, and pine trees.

Appearance: it is a medium-sized evergreen tree that grows to a height of 40 to 60 feet (12 to 18 meters), although it can occasionally reach heights of up to 100 feet (30 meters). It has a slender, pyramidal shape with dense foliage.

The needles are short, stiff, and sharp, measuring about 0.5 to 1 inch (1.5cm to 2.5cm) long. Also, the needles are dark green on the upper surface and have two white stomatal bands on the underside, which give the tree a distinctive appearance.

Cones: they have small, cylindrical, and pendulous. They measure about 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) long and mature from green to brown. Each cone contains numerous winged seeds that are dispersed by the wind.

Habitat: due to its ornamental qualities, it is often planted in parks, gardens, and arboretums. Serbian spruce prefers well-drained soils and grows best in cool humid climates.

Similarly, it is tolerant of shade and can adapt to a range of soil types. Unfortunately, it is susceptible to certain pests and diseases, including aphids, bark beetles, and needle-cast diseases. 

Additionally, in its natural habitat, spruce is considered a vulnerable species due to habitat loss and fragmentation. However, efforts are being made to protect and conserve the remaining populations in their native range.

  • Oriental Spruce (Picea Orientalis ) 

This is a coniferous tree native to the eastern regions of Turkey, Georgia, and Russia. It belongs to the Pinaceae family, which includes other spruce, fir, and pine trees.

Appearance: it is a medium to a large oversized evergreen tree that can reach heights of up to 100 feet(30 meters) and has a spread of about  25 to 40 feet ( 7.5 to 12 meters. It has a pyramidal shape with horizontal branches that are densely covered in short, stiff, dark green needles. 

The needles are about 0.6 to 1 inch (1.5 to 2.5 cm) long and have a sharp point. They give off a pleasant fragrance when crushed.

Cones: the cones of oriental spruce are cylindrical and pendulous. They start off green and gradually mature to a brown color. Further, the cones are about 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm) long and contain winged seeds that are dispersed by the wind.

Habitat:  they prefer well-drained soil and thrive in regions with cool, humid climates. Also, they provide an attractive focal point with their symmetrical shape, dense foliage, and dark green color. For this reason, oriental spruce is highly valued for its ornamental qualities and are often planted in parks, large gardens, as well as arboretums.

On the downside, like other spruce trees, the oriental spruce is susceptible to certain pests and diseases, including aphids, bark beetles, and needle cast diseases. But, proper care and maintenance, including regular watering, pruning, and monitoring for pests, can help keep the trees healthy.

Properties Of Spruce Wood?

  • Workability

Spruce wood has a straight grain, low density, low weight, and stability that makes it easy to work with. Moreover, it can be easily cut, shaped, and milled using common woodworking tools. Even better, spruce wood holds nails, screws nicely, and is known for its excellent gluing properties, as well as easy to finish.

However, spruce wood has knots that can be sometimes complicated to work with. Also, spruce wood has close pore structures that can cause blotching if a gel stain or sanding sealer is not applied.

  • Sound Characteristics

What Is Spruce Wood
Spruce Ukulele Is a Musical Instrument

Spruce wood is highly regarded in the musical instrument industry, particularly for soundboards in acoustic guitars, spruce ukuleles, violins, and pianos. In addition, it possesses excellent acoustic properties, such as a high strength-to-weight ratio and good resonance, which contribute to producing rich, vibrant tones.

  • Appearance

Spruce wood has a creamy white to pale yellow color with a straight grain pattern. It often features subtle color variations, including light brown or reddish streaks. Also, the wood has a uniform texture which lends itself well to finishing and staining.

  • Density And Weight 

Spruce wood is lightweight with low hardness and density compared to many other hardwoods. For instance, according to the Janka hardness rating scale, it ranges between 380 lbf – 52 lbf, which means it is a low density wood. Additionally, per industry standards, spruce has an average dried weight of 405 kg/m3 which is low.

However, its density can vary depending on specific species of spruce, but overall, it tends to be less dense than woods like oak or maple.

  • Strength 

While spruce is not as hard or strong as some hardwoods, it still possesses adequate strength for many applications. Furthermore, it has good stiffness and moderate bending strength, making it suitable for structural purposes in construction, including framing and rod trusses.

  • Stability

Spruce wood has good dimensional stability, meaning it experiences minimal shrinking or warping when exposed to changes in temperature and humidity. This quality makes it desirable for various interior and exterior applications, including doors, windows, and furniture.

  • Decay Resistance

Spruce wood is not naturally resistant to decay or rot caused by fungi or insects. Therefore, it requires proper treatment or protective coatings when used in exterior applications to enhance its durability and longevity.

  • Allergic Reactions

Norway spruce has been reported as a sensitizer. Even worse, it causes skin irritation and respiratory problems like asthma sometimes.

  • Durability

In terms of rot and decay resistance, spruce is known to be moderately durable. Therefore, since it is a low-density softwood, it is easily susceptible to scratches, and dents. As a result, it is best to avoid using it in high traffic areas.

Uses of Spruce Wood

  • Outdoor Structures

Treated spruce wood is commonly employed in the construction of outdoor structures such as gazebos, pergolas, and garden sheds as they have treatment to protect against decay and weathering.

  • construction

Spruce wood is widely used in construction for framing, roofing, flooring, and wall paneling. Its strength, durability, and light weight make it an excellent choice for this application.

  • Siding And Cladding

Spruce wood is utilized as siding or cladding material for residential and commercial buildings. Further, it provides an attractive and durable protective layer while enhancing architectural aesthetics.

  • Boat Building

Spruce wood is used in the construction of small boats, canoes, and kayaks due to its lightweight nature, strength, and resistance to rot when properly treated.

  • furniture

Spruce wood is used in the manufacturing of furniture, particularly for items like tables, chairs, cabinets, and bookshelves. Moreover, it provides a clean and natural aesthetic.

  • Doors And Windows

It is commonly used for manufacturing doors and windows due to its stability, resistance to warping, and attractive grain patterns.

  • Musical Instruments

Spruce wood is highly valued in the production of musical instruments, especially acoustic guitars, violins, and pianos. Even better, its excellent resonance properties contribute to the quality of sound produced.

  • plywood

Spruce wood is often used as a core material in the production of plywood, where thin layers of spruce veneer are bonded together with adhesive to create a strong and versatile building material.

  • packaging

 It is employed in the production of pallets, crates, and packaging materials due to its strength as well as ease of machining.

  • paper production

Spruce wood fibers are used in the paper and pulp industry to manufacture various types of paper, including newsprint, writing paper, and tissue paper.

  • Prefabricated Houses

Spruce wood is a popular material for constructing prefabricated or modular houses due to its lightweight nature, ease of handling, as well as cost-effectiveness.

  • Interior Finishes

It is also used for interior finishes such as moldings, trim, and decorative elements. Its light color and fine texture make it suitable for enhancing the aesthetic of interior spaces.

  • Woodworking Crafts

Spruce wood is a favored material for woodworking projects, including carving, turning, and crafting small wooden objects such as bowls, toys, and utensils.

  • Sound Insulation

Its natural acoustic properties make it an ideal material for sound insulation in recording studios, concert halls, and home theaters.

  • Sculpture And Art Insulation

Artists and sculptors often use spruce wood for creating sculptures, installations, and large-scale artworks due to its workability and natural beauty.

How to Care For Spruce Wood?

Just like any other type of wood, spruce wood can be treated or finished with varnishes, stains, or oils, especially when used indoors. Some of the ways spruce wood can be taken care of include:

  • Regular Cleaning

Generally, dust and dirt can accumulate on the surface of the spruce wood. Therefore, use a soft cloth or a feather duster to remove dust regularly. Make sure you keep the wood away from contact with water.  This is because spruce is susceptible to moisture, so it’s important to keep it dry.  

Nevertheless, clean up spills immediately, and use coasters or placement under hot or cold beverages to prevent water rings. Also, avoid placing spruce wood furniture in areas with high humidity or near direct sources of moisture. In addition, avoid using abrasive materials or harsh chemicals that can damage the wood.

  • Protection From Sunlight

 Spruce is prone to weathering, especially under prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. This can cause spruce wood to fade or discolor. Therefore, use curtains, blinds, or UV-protective films on windows to minimize the wood’s exposure to sunlight. Also, rearrange furniture periodically to ensure even exposure to light.

  • Regular Polishing 

Apply a high-quality wood polish or wax to protect the wood’s surface and enhance its natural beauty. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and buff the wood with a soft cloth for a gentle shine.

How Much Does Spruce Cost?

In general, spruce wood is considered a relatively affordable softwood option compared to hardwoods. Further, the price of spruce wood is quoted per board foot or cubic meter, depending on the region. For instance, the price of spruce wood is $400 to $700 per thousand board feet (MBF) in the United States. However, this will depend on the type and quality of the spruce wood.

Nevertheless, the cost of spruce wood can vary depending on market conditions, demand and supply can also influence the price. Additionally, factors such as quality, grade, dimensions, and location.

Therefore, to get accurate pricing information, it is best to check with local lumber suppliers, home improvement stores, or online retailers that specialize in wood products.

How Suitable Is Spruce For Firewood?

Spruce is generally considered suitable for firewood but has a low relative heat as compared to other types of firewood. However, there are some characteristics that should be considered.

  • Resin Content 

Spruce contains resin, which can contribute to the buildup of creosote in chimneys and flues. Creosote is a black tar that gets released slowly into the chimneys as the fire burns. Unfortunately, it is highly flammable and can lead to chimney fires if not regularly cleaned.

Therefore, to minimize the risk of creosote buildup, it’s important to ensure good airflow and have your chimney inspected as well as cleaned regularly.

  • Sparks

Spruce is relatively easy to ignite due to its resin content. This can be an advantage if you are looking for firewood that ignites quickly. On the downside, one of the biggest setbacks of spruce is that it causes sparks and popping, especially if it has not dried properly.

On a stove or screen, the sparks may be fun to watch. However, in fire pits, wood burning stoves, you will need to be cautious since the sparks can create a fire hazard. Even worse, these sparks can enter the chimney and catch creosote that can further ignite the fire.

  • Moisture Content

Like most softwood species, freshly cut spruce has a higher moisture content than hardwoods. Higher moisture content means the wood will be less efficient at burning and may produce more smoke. This smoke can smoke out the house causing sore eyes especially if it is an open fire.

Therefore, it is important to properly season the spruce firewood by allowing it to dry for at least 6 to 12 months before using it.

  • Heat Output

Spruce has a lower heat value compared to hardwoods like oak or maple. Spruce has an output of 15.5 million BTUs per cord which is low. It burns quickly and produces less heat per unit volume. This means you may need to burn more spruce firewood to achieve the same level of warmth. 

  • Ease Of Splitting 

Since spruce has a straight grain that makes it easy to split, though it may be hard to split if there are any presence of knots.

Conclusion

Up to this point, I believe I have extensively covered the article’s topic. To conclude, spruce wood is versatile, which means it can be used for different purposes. But still, the question remains…

What Is Spruce Wood?

Spruce is a widely-used timber known for its strength, durability, and attractive appearance. Furthermore, with its color and fine grain, spruce wood is highly valued in construction, carpentry, and various woodworking projects.

In addition, its abundance, affordability, and favorable properties make spruce wood a popular choice among artisans, builders, as well as manufacturers worldwide.

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