White Ash Lumber: Colors, Grains, & Characteristics

Posted by Josh Kou on

White Ash Lumber: Colors, Grains, & Characteristics

Have you tried woodworking with white ash lumber yet? Popular for wood turning and tool making, white ash pairs practical strength with understated good looks. When used in furniture making or architectural design, white ash’s brightness uplifts any interior environment.

North Castle Hardwoods sells premium white ash boards in 4/4 through 6/4 nominal thicknesses. Our white ash thin stock is great for crafts and scrollsaw work. And, since ash is a top choice for wood turning, we sell white ash turning blanks in 4/4 through 6/4 squares.

What is White Ash Wood Good for?

White Ash wood is lightweight but very strong. The board's internal structure takes impact without shattering, thanks to its structure produced by the quick growth of an ash tree. So it's frequently used for tool handles and sports equipment -- like canoe paddles, pool cues, hockey sticks, and the famous Louisville slugger baseball bat. Historically, it's been used for gym flooring, railroad ties, cutting boards, and other products that require strength and superior shock resistance.

It's popular in furniture making because it can bear plenty of weight but it's not too heavy to lift. Ash has a straight grain, so it's great for the woodturning and steam bending involved in making Windsor chairs. Ash is best suited to interior applications since it doesn't have great weather resistance.

The wood’s light color and beautiful grain pattern add brightness to projects that combine a variety of wood species. Some consider the color of ash wood plain, but when you buy top-grade ash sapwood and finish it skillfully with oil, it can be stunning on its own. Ash also takes stain well, so it can be finished to any color you desire.

ash wood thin stock

Learn about:

  • This wood’s woodworking characteristics
  • Tips for finishing white ash hardwood
  • A list of favorite projects to kindle your creative fire
  • Available dimensioned white ash lumber products from North Castle Hardwoods
  • Our commitment to sustainable forestry – better lumber from better woods

Terminology - White Ash vs Green Ash, Blue Ash, and Black Ash

White ash (Fraxinus americana), is also called American white ash.

Green ash (Fraxinum pennsylvanica), blue ash (Fraxinum quadrangulata), black ash (Fraxinus nigra) are often lumped together under the broad label of "Ash wood" and are sometimes difficult to distinguish from each other. 

However, since we harvest only from select regions, North Castle Hardwoods’ white ash lumber collection is entirely genuine fraxinus americana, and displays uniform color and grain pattern. 

White Ash Color and Grain

Typical ash color is a light, pale brown. The sapwood is brighter than the heartwood, approaching brilliant white in top-quality logs. The sapwood comprises about 50% of the log.

If you get ash from a big box lumber store, you might notice shades in the heartwood from grayish brown to creamy yellow, sometimes with a hint of light red or dark brown.

But at North Castle Hardwoods, we strive to limit the heartwood to light beige and light brown, selecting boards specifically so that the heartwood and sapwood blend together well. 

White ash grain is straight and open. Ash boards may boast pronounced cathedral arch grain patterns. Because of this pattern -- as well as its hardness -- ash is most often compared to white oak and red oak. Ash is lighter than oak, though, and its grain pattern lacks the characteristic medullary rays and flecks found in oaks.

Favorite White Ash Woodworking Projects

Woodworkers reach for white ash when they need hard material with good resistance to shock. There is a reason it has historically been used for internal furniture frames and baseball bats!

Ash works well with both hand tools and power tools -- as long as they're sharp. It's suitable for carving and wood turning. It bores well and can be steamed and bent with decent success.

Sometimes it’s simply chosen for its beautifully delicate lighter colors that belie its strength.

Furniture – Toughness and good looks make ash an ideal combination for benches and chairs, futon frames, bed frames and tables.

Shelves and cases – Ash is firm enough to support a row of books or stack of dishes, and its gentle hues provide a lovely backdrop for displayed items like picture frames, keepsakes or antique teacups.

Tables and tabletops – White ash is a durable choice for complete tables, and this wood’s unobtrusive tones and grain pattern beautifully complement more richly colored woods like walnut and black cherry.

Musical instruments – This wood is easily machined and bored, and it holds glue with the best. It also has a good acoustical property that resonates well.  Woodworkers use white ash in stringed instruments, woodwinds and drums. Its hardness delivers bright sound quality.

Hand tools – You can restore vintage tools with new, durable handles made from ash.

Boxes and game boards – Since this lumber glues and joins well, boxes and game boards of white ash thin stock and other favorite hardwood lumber make stunning additions to your home and are perfect for gift-giving.

Turned objects – With good scores for turning ease, this hardwood is popular for candlesticks, ornaments, bowls, display stands, chess pieces, pens, salt & pepper shakers, toys and trinkets.

Tip: White ash is not resistant to moisture, and it is a favorite of the emerald ash borer and other insects. Keep these “cons” in mind when selecting wood for your next creation. Store white ash lumber and items made of this wood in a dry environment to keep it from potential powderpost beetle attack. 

White or red oak have a similar appearance to ash, but are much more resistant to the elements. This makes oak is a better material for patio furniture and outdoor benches.

wood pieces to make a cutting board featuring white ash


White ash, or Fraxinus americana, is a fairly dense wood with a Janka hardness rating of 1,320. As noted, it resists shock without shattering.

While not as hard as hard maple, it is also less brittle, which makes it a good choice for items that will get their share of daily use. White ash grain appears very much like oak. However, it does not contain large wood rays as in the case of white oak. 


White ash harvested in certain areas shows a pattern commonly called “glassworms”, a zigzag track across the growth rings and along the grain of the board. This pattern is regarded as an inherent characteristic of the wood and usually not considered a defect. 

Where can you get Ash wood without glassworms?

At North Castle Hardwoods, by carefully avoiding harvesting in problem areas, we minimize or eliminate these marks from our lumber. Our premium white ash lumber developed for the demanding Japanese market has very stable grain figure without heavy glassworm tracks.

Tips for Finishing White Ash

Left to itself or clear-coated, white ash exhibits light bright color. Some love it, and others consider it a little bland.

Using stains, dyes and your favorite sanding techniques, the grain of white ash can be made to pop, giving it a very different appearance. Another finishing technique is to apply wood grain filler to darken the pores to add rich depth.

However you choose to finish it, ash hardwood lumber is something of a “clean slate” that you can customize to your preferred appearance.

Where to Buy Hardwood White Ash Lumber

North Castle Hardwoods offers dimensioned white ash stock in 4/4, 5/4, and 6/4 thicknesses. Our dimensioned stock is finished and sanded at 3/16” off the nominal thicknesses.  We also offer thin stock and turning blanks.

Sourcing Premium White Ash Boards

The emerald ash borer has devastated ash in broad areas of timberland. White ash is not as susceptible as other ash species, but it remains on the IUCN Red List of endangered species. 

As a result, North Castle Hardwoods treats this threatened resource with the utmost respect. We work only with loggers and mills certified in sustainable forest management.

Stands of white ash are never clear cut. Instead, the finest ash timber is select-harvested resulting in just a few trees per acre being harvested in many cases. The trees that are not cut will enjoy ample fresh air, sunlight and rain for optimal growth environment.

Because of these management practices, the forests where we gather our hardwood generally show an increase in the volume of quality timber year after year, meeting our goal of better lumber from better forests.

Preparing White Ash for our Woodworking Customers

Standing timber is selected, felled and bucked. Imperfections like grub holes and wormholes are removed along with mineral streaks. Our sawmills are highly trained to saw hardwood lumber. 

We work closely with our partner mills in producing proprietary quality lumber to maximize the yield of the highest quality lumber. Boards are sticker stacked for a period of air drying.

They are then placed in the kiln for a precise dry schedule to remove moisture before reconditioning to relieve internal stress.  This assures that the lumber will stay flat and straight, and the wood dimensions will be stable.  

After the lumber comes out of the dry kiln, it is S2S (surfaced to sides) to the Hit or Miss thickness (1/16 less nominal thickness) and given a final grade at the mill. It is then transported to our warehouse for a final inspection. This attention to detail ensures that the lumber we ship to you meets your exacting standards – because it met ours first.

About North Castle Hardwoods

We are not your average lumber provider.

For over 35 years, we have sourced and shipped the finest hardwood in North America to customers overseas that accept nothing but superior material. For example, top manufacturers in Japan use our lumber exclusively in fine furniture and architectural design.

Whether you are a woodworking hobbyist or professional contractor completing custom work, we want to provide you with the best lumber you’ve ever laid hands on.

Browse North Castle Hardwoods White Ash Lumber

Take a few minutes to shop our lumber selection including our superior North American white ash. 


About the Author

picture of josh kou with a walnut boardJosh Kou is the operations manager at North Castle Hardwoods. As a second-generation lumberman, he's the go-to guy for your woodworking questions. Read more about Josh.

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