American elm grows in the Central and Eastern Regions of the United States, from the Great Plains to the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the largest growth areas are in the lake states. Elm is found growing in a wide variety of elevations and soil conditions. It seems to flourish best in rich, moist, bottom lands up to 2500 foot elevations, where the soil is deep and well drained.
American elm is a moderately heavy hardwood, similar to cherry. It has an average weight of 35 lbs/cu. ft. Its heartwood color varies from light-brown to reddish-brown. It has a straight to interlocked grain pattern, with a fairly coarse texture. It is moderately dense, hard, strong, and stiff, but ranks above average for shock resistance. Elm has a fairly low resistance to disease and decay, and as a result of the Dutch elm disease, it was almost killed off in the early Twentieth Century. Luckily, it is fast growing, and the trees that did survive have made some strides in repopulating the species.
Due to its somewhat interlocking pattern, elm has average woodworking properties with power machines and hand tools. Also, it can be somewhat abrasive, so sharp tools are necessary. It is not recommended for turnings or carvings. It ranks very high for steam bending strength and gluing qualities, but only average for ability to hold metal fasteners. Elm can be sanded without problems and accepts most stains and finishes exceptionally well. Due to its coarse grain, and open pores, wood filler and a sanding sealer is recommended prior to applying any finish, in order to achieve a smooth, glossy appearance.
Wood Species Index
Elm should be used for indoor projects, because of its poor durability. Its high bending qualities make elm a good choice for making kegs and barrels, as well as bent parts for chairs and tables. It is also used for veneer, paneling, millwork, flooring, cabinets, moldings, and interior trim. Elm is also suitable for cutting boards, butcher blocks, and bench tops.