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All About Alder

May 23, 2011

Those in the know about alder wood are enthusiastic about this material — but for the rest of us, alder remains more unfamiliar compared to names like pine and oak. So what is alder?


Alder grows from southern British Columbia to Northern California. Trees average approximately 90 feet in height. They mature in 30-40 years and begin to deteriorate after 60 years.  Alder makes up approximately 3% of the commercially available hardwoods in the United States. When freshly cut, alder is almost white but quickly changes to light brown with a yellow or reddish tinge. There is little difference between the heartwood and sapwood.


Alder is a medium density hardwood with close grain and fine texture. It is moderately light in weight, machines and turns well. It has good fastening properties and stains easily, but is appealing in its natural state.

Alder is used to make cabinets, furniture, furniture frames, picture frames and toys.

Other Uses

Native Americans used alder to make a variety of medicines including a quinine substitute. Alder is used in cooking and barbecuing in the same way as hickory and mesquite.


Sustainability Matters – the environmental effects of furniture hardwoods

May 6, 2011

North American Hardwoods are among the most plentiful, and well-managed natural resources in the world.  Hardwoods have a finite life cycle and when properly managed, they regenerate.  In fact, there’s more hardwoods now that there were 50 years ago, and the current tree selection and harvesting methods will ensure this is the case for generations to come.

Hardwood trees have another positive impact on our environment. Trees remove CO2 from the air.  As a by-product of photosynthesis a tree releases oxygen for us to breathe, and then the excess carbon is stored within its fibers.  If the tree is harvested and used,  this stored carbon remains in the wood whether it becomes a board, a chair, an heirloom armoire or your grandfather’s clock.  This carbon is sequestered for the useful lifetime of the wood product.  By using hardwoods we actually help to reduce one of the primary elements associated with global warming.

Healthy hardwood forests are net producers of oxygen, thanks to photosynthesis. Growing trees take carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and separate the carbon and oxygen atoms. Trees use the carbon to grow roots, trunk, branches and leaves (a tree uses 1.47 pounds of carbon dioxide to grow a pound of wood) then return the oxygen to the air (giving off 1.07 pounds of oxygen.) This process reduces greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. How much? An acre of trees can remove about four metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere each year.

So why harvest them? Once a tree stops growing and begins to decay, the process reverses and the tree begins using oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide. However, if the tree is harvested and used, its stored carbon is held within the wood for the usable life of that wood product. It is estimated that each year, more than 175 million tons of carbon are stored in products that we use everyday — tables, chairs, floor to name just a few.

Wood products have a low carbon impact and what is called a low level of embodied energy relative to other building materials. As a raw material, trees use the sun’s energy to grow and develop. And the amount of energy necessary for producing wood products is low compared to other building products made from other materials like steel, aluminum, glass and brick.

What is ALDER?

May 4, 2011

There are entire furniture lines based around this type of wood. A look at alder:

Natural consistency and beautiful color can give alder the visual appeal of cherry, maple or birch. Alder dries to an even honey tone and can be finished to resemble more expensive fine-grained species. There is little color variation between the heartwood and sapwood, making alder also ideal for light or natural finishes. Alder’s popularity continues to grow among fine furniture and cabinetry makers worldwide.

Furniture without nails?? How it sticks together.

May 2, 2011

The patented UCube is a build-your-own system of furniture that allows you to configure the cubes for tables, desks, stands, and beds to suit your own needs and space. Pretty neat, huh? Good for those of us who like both CONTROL and CHANGE in our environment 🙂

UCube describes their pieces as: “Crafted out of solid sustainably harvested hardwood using the strongest wood working techniques known, each cube is constructed using dowel, and mortise and tenon joinery. No nails are used in the construction. The drawers are constructed using english dovetails, one of the strongest joints known.”

Dovetails? Mortise? And a piece of furniture that holds up without nails? Got us wondering what it all meant,  so we asked our Maco furniture expert, Paul, and he supplied us with the following information:

Mortise and Tenon – A skillfully executed joint in which typically no nails or screws are used. The protruding sawn edge of the tenon board is inserted into the matching routed opening of the mortise board. This functional joint is most often used to connect table and chair legs to crosspieces. Some designs intentionally expose the beauty of this precise joinery

Mortise and Tenon

Dovetail – A strong, decorative joint formed by interlocking wedges securing two planes of wood that meet at a right angle. This joinery may be beautifully exposed on drawer front corners, where it withstands constant pushing and pulling motions.  You  occasionally may use dovetailing at the top edges of a dresser or cabinet for its intriguing visual appeal

Dovetail joint - it's sturdy!

So THAT’s how a box holds up without nails. Pretty amazing!


April 29, 2011

We are a group of furniture enthusiasts at Maco Furniture who are excited to use this blog as a medium to share interesting and relevant information about the design, production, and sustainability of furniture. We’ll be inviting experts to share some of their knowledge. Keep checking back for the latest updates!