Basswood, scientifically known as Tilia Americana or American Linden, is a deciduous tree species that are native to North America.

Despite being classified as Hardwood, it is softer than most hardwoods.

In comparison to other hardwoods, basswood has a Janka hardness rating of 410 lbf (1,824 N), making it one of the softer types of hardwood available.

Basswood is a versatile and popular wood due to its ease of carving and flexibility in use.

Due to its softness, basswood is often used in applications that require intricate carvings, such as decorative carvings, sculptural work, and even musical instruments.

It is also commonly used in furniture making, millwork, and interior trim due to its straight grain and light color. In this article, we will discuss in detail what is basswood, its uses, and its characteristics.

What are the Characteristics of Basswood?


One of the main characteristics of basswood is its light color and straight grain. The wood is typically a pale, creamy white color which makes it an excellent choice for staining, painting, or finishing.


The straight grain of basswood makes it easy to work with and provides a consistent texture that is ideal for many applications. Additionally, basswood has a uniform texture that allows for smooth sanding and finishing.


Basswood is also a relatively lightweight wood, which makes it an excellent choice for projects that require a strong but lightweight material. Its low density and weight make it easy to transport and work with, and it is often used in applications such as model making, picture frames, and decorative carvings.


While it may not be as hard as some other hardwoods, it is still a durable and long-lasting wood. It resists warping and splitting, and it is resistant to decay and insect damage. This makes it an excellent choice for outdoor applications such as siding, trim, and millwork.

In addition to its physical characteristics, basswood has some other notable properties. For example, the flowers of the basswood tree are used to make a tea that is believed to have calming properties and can be used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders.

The bark and leaves of the tree have also been used for medicinal purposes in traditional Native American and European herbal medicine.

Color/AppearancePale white to light brown color, with sapwood and heartwood sections not clearly defined
Grain/TextureGrain is straight, with a fine, even texture and moderate natural luster
Rot ResistanceLess durable in regard to heartwood decay
AvailabilityWidely Available
Common UsesCarvings, lumber, musical instruments, veneer, plywood, and wood pulp/fiber products
Characteristics of Basswood

Types of Basswood

There are different types of basswood that can be classified based on their geographic location, physical characteristics, and specific uses. Here are some of the most common types of basswood:

1. American Basswood (Tilia Americana):

This is the most widespread and commonly known type of basswood in North America. It is a large tree with a straight trunk, and it is commonly used for making furniture, carvings, and musical instruments.

2. Carolina Basswood (Tilia Caroliniana):

This species of basswood is native to the southeastern United States. It is a smaller tree than the American basswood, and it is often used for making paper and crates.

3. White Basswood (Tilia Heterophylla):

This type of basswood is found primarily in the eastern United States. It has a greyish-white bark and is often used for making paper, boxes, and crates.

4. Littleleaf Linden (Tilia Cordata):

This is a small to medium-sized tree that is native to Europe and Asia. It is commonly planted as an ornamental tree in parks and gardens, and its wood is often used for carving and making musical instruments.

5. Silver Linden (Tilia Tomentosa):

This type of basswood is native to Europe and Asia, and it is often planted as an ornamental tree. Its wood is used for making furniture, carvings, and musical instruments.

Advantages of Basswood

The main advantages of basswood are:

  • Soft & Lightweight

One of the most significant advantages of basswood is its softness and lightweight nature.

Basswood is one of the softest hardwoods available, which makes it easy to work with and carve. Its lightweight nature also makes it an excellent choice for projects that require a lightweight material.

  • Uniform Texture

Basswood has a fine, uniform texture that makes it easy to sand and finish. This property makes it ideal for creating smooth, even surfaces that are perfect for painting or staining.

The uniform texture of basswood also means that it is easy to cut and shape, making it an ideal choice for intricate carving and woodworking projects.

  • Low Shrinkage

Another significant advantage of basswood is its low shrinkage rate.

Basswood has a low tendency to warp, crack or twist over time, making it an excellent choice for projects where stability and durability are essential.

This property makes basswood a popular choice for building furniture, musical instruments, and other high-quality wooden products.

Disadvantages of Basswood

Though basswood has numerous advantages, it also comes with its own set of disadvantages. This includes,

  • Softness

While the softness of basswood is one of its advantages, it can also be a disadvantage. Basswood is not as strong as other hardwoods, which means that it may not be the best choice for applications that require a strong and durable material.

This can be particularly problematic for furniture or other projects that will be subjected to a lot of wear and tear.

  • Limited Durability

Basswood is not as durable as other hardwoods, so it may not be the best choice for outdoor projects or applications where it will be exposed to moisture.

Over time, basswood may start to rot or decay, which can weaken its structure and make it less stable.

  • Limited Color Options

While basswood is easy to paint or stain, it has limited color options compared to other types of wood. This can be a disadvantage if you want a specific color or finish for your project.

  • Vulnerable to Pests

Basswood is vulnerable to pests such as carpenter ants, termites, and other insects. This can be problematic if your project will be located in an area where these pests are common.

  • Cost

While basswood is generally less expensive than other types of hardwood, it may not be the most cost-effective choice for some projects.

Depending on the project’s size and complexity, the basswood’s cost may add up quickly, making it more expensive than other materials.

Uses of Basswood

Thanks to the characteristics of basswood, it can be used for multiple purposes. Basswood is mainly used for,

  • Carving: Basswood is a popular choice for carving and woodworking projects because of its softness and uniform texture. It is easy to carve and shape, making it an ideal choice for creating intricate designs and sculptures. Additionally, basswood is a low-cost material, making it a practical choice for both novice and professional carvers.
  • Furniture: Basswood is also an excellent choice for building furniture. Its lightweight nature, uniform texture, and low shrinkage rate make it ideal for creating chair frames, table legs, and other furniture components. Additionally, basswood takes paint and stain well, allowing for a wide range of design possibilities.
  • Musical Instruments: Basswood is a popular choice for building musical instruments, particularly for electric guitars, drums, and other similar components. Its lightweight nature and low shrinkage rate make it ideal for creating resonant and durable instruments.


Basswood is a popular and versatile hardwood that has many advantages over other types of wood. Its softness, lightweight nature, uniform texture, and low shrinkage rate make it ideal for carving, furniture making, and musical instrument building.

Basswood is also easy to work with and takes paint and stain well, allowing for a wide range of design possibilities.

Basswood is an excellent choice for those looking for a versatile and easy-to-work-with hardwood for their woodworking projects.

Its unique properties make it a valuable material for a wide range of applications, and its popularity in the woodworking community is a testament to its quality and versatility.

We hope that the above article helped you in understanding what is basswood, its characteristics, and its uses. In case you have any queries related to basswood feel free to ask in the comment section.

Frequently Asked Questions

Basswood trees are native to North America and can be found in many parts of the United States and Canada. They are often found in forests and wooded areas, but can also be planted as ornamental trees in parks and gardens.

Yes, basswood can be stained to achieve different colors and finishes. However, due to its softness, it is important to use care when sanding and staining basswood to avoid damaging the wood.

While basswood is not typically used for furniture due to its softness and low durability, it can be used for decorative trim and molding. It is also used in the construction of lightweight wooden aircraft models.

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