It's not even a contest. Ash is the UK's perennial favourite when it comes to all things wood. It’s so ubiquitous in British life that most of us don’t even notice it. Whether it's the sturdy table in your home office, the durable wood flooring in your living room, or even those delightful kiln-dried logs you burn to heat your home—chances are, some of your favourite things are made of ash.
But what is it that makes this hardwood tree species so remarkable in so many things? Why has it been a perennial choice of craftsmen, builders, and even sports enthusiasts for centuries?
In this comprehensive guide, we'll tell you everything you need to know about ash wood. We’ll delve deep into the unique characteristics that make ash stand out, explore its versatility, and give answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this hardwood.
You Might Also Like:
Why Should You Trust Lekto Experts?
And according to countless real customer reviews, our Kiln-Dried Ash Logs are the best ash logs on the market today. So it’s safe to say we know a thing or two about ash as well.
What is Ash Wood?
Ash is a popular hardwood tree species that has carved a niche for itself in various industries, from wood fuel to construction to sports equipment. This tree species is noted for its strength, durability, energy density, and aesthetic beauty.
Having been planted for its beneficial characteristics for centuries, ash is one of the most common trees in the UK.
Advantages of Using Ash Logs
Ash wood has long held a distinguished place among hardwood tree species. Its unique combination of beauty and functionality makes it a sought-after choice for various applications.
For those who live in parts of the country that experience chilly winters, the heating efficiency of your logs is of paramount importance. Ash boasts a heating value of around 23.5 million British Thermal Units per cord, placing it among the top contenders for the crown of best heating log.
Furthermore, its ease of lighting and even heat output make it a can’t-miss recommendation for all wood heat users.
Origins and Natural Habitat
Ash predominantly flourishes in the temperate forests of Europe and North America. These regions, endowed with a diverse range of climates and soil conditions, provide the ideal environment for ash trees to grow and thrive.
The tree's significance within European and British woodlands is unquestionable. For centuries, it has played a vital role in local ecosystems, providing shelter and food to a variety of wildlife, whilst enhancing the natural beauty of the landscape.
Fun fact: When asked to imagine a tree, 6 out of every 10 Britons will imagine an ash tree.
Distinct Varieties of Ash
While the term ash is typically used generically, there are several distinct varieties of ash, each with its own set of characteristics and uses. Understanding their unique properties ensures their best possible application.
The most common ash species in Europe are: European Ash (Fraxinus Excelsior), Narrow-Leaved Ash (Fraxinus Angustifolia), and Manna Ash (Fraxinus Ornus). Let’s explore all three species.
European Ash (Fraxinus Excelsior)
This is the species Britons typically refer to when they say the word ash. Characterised by its light to medium brown hue, Fraxinus Excelsior is by far the most popular variety on the European continent. It is well-regarded for its durability and density.
In addition to making brilliant kiln-dried ash logs, it is frequently used in crafting fine furniture and premium cricket bats.
Narrow-Leaved Ash (Fraxinus Angustifolia)
This variety is slightly softer than its counterparts, which makes it not so desirable for use as wood logs or heavy-duty furniture. This being said, Narrow-Leaved Ash has a beautifully textured grain, which makes it an excellent choice for creating decorative veneers.
Manna Ash (Fraxinus Ornus)
Manna Ash is valued for its resilience to environmental impact. This makes it an ideal wood for crafting outdoor furniture. Being softer than European Ash, it is not commonly used to create wood logs.
Key Characteristics of Ash Wood
Armed with its unique blend of aesthetic beauty and functional durability, ash wood offers a myriad of features that make it a desirable choice for a wide variety of applications.
Ash Wood Burning & Heating Properties
Ash is often touted as one of the best woods for use in wood-burning stoves. Here’s what makes ash great for use as a wood heating fuel.
High Heat Output
Long Burn Time
Ash firewood tends to have a longer burn time compared to other hardwood tree species, providing a consistent and steady heat output that lasts and lasts. This means you won’t have to get up as often to add extra logs to your burner.
Ease of Lighting
Despite being extremely energy-dense, ash logs are very easy to light. This makes ash more beginner-friendly than some other high-performance woods like oak, which are rather difficult for novices to light (see our fool-proof guide to lighting any fire).
Lovely Burning Aroma
The wood also emits a pleasant, light aroma when burned. Having been raised around this aroma, many of us in Britain think it to be one of the most pleasant scents in the world.
Ash Wood’s Wood Working Properties
In woodworking, ash wood is celebrated for its vibrant range of colours, which can span from a light, almost pale hue to a medium brown shade. The heartwood of ash typically adopts a deeper tone with time, undergoing a beautiful, natural darkening process when exposed to ultraviolet light and oxygen.
One of the defining features of ash wood is its spectacular grain pattern. In general, ash presents a straight and regular grain, though occasional wavy patterns can also be observed. This grain not only provides a stunning visual appeal but also ensures strength and stability.
But not all is sunshine and roses when it comes to ash. The open pores of ash wood give it a somewhat rough texture on the surface. When aiming for a sleek and fine finish, these pores often need to be filled or treated.
Durability and Maintenance
Among the family of hardwoods, ash is renowned for its robustness. Its intrinsic strength allows it to withstand shocks effectively, making it a popular choice for tool handles, furniture, and even sports equipment. Another one of ash wood's great advantages is just how low maintenance it is. Especially when used indoors, it tends to be incredibly long-lasting with minimal upkeep.
Wood Working Properties
A good piece of ash is a dream come true for craftsmen. It's dense enough to hold its own against wear and tear, yet it isn't so hard that it becomes difficult to work with. Its straight and regular grain pattern ensures that tools can carve, cut, and split it with relative ease.
When it comes to finishes, ash is highly receptive. It stains well, absorbing finishes evenly across its surface without any blotchy patches. This property highlights its beautiful grain and texture. Moreover, ash responds remarkably well to steam bending, expanding its range of applications.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ash Wood
Can Ash Wood Be Used For Both Indoor and Outdoor Fires?
Absolutely. Ash's versatility makes it suitable for all types of wood-burning scenarios, from indoor wood-burning stoves to outdoor fire pits and BBQ grills. Its high heat output and efficient burning characteristics are beneficial in any setting.
How Do Kiln-Dried Ash Logs Compare to Seasoned Ash Logs For Heating?
Kiln-dried ash logs are generally superior to seasoned logs when it comes to their heating efficiency. The kiln-drying process reduces the moisture content to well below the 20% prescribed in Defra’s Ready to Burn standard, allowing for a hotter, cleaner, and more efficient burn.
Seasoned logs, on the other hand, cannot be dried so efficiently and tend to vary greatly in their log-to-log moisture content. As a result, they may smoke, smoulder, and burn inefficiently.
Are Kiln-Dried Ash Logs Cost-Effective For Heating?
While kiln-dried ash logs may be more expensive upfront than cheaper types of firewood (birch logs, for example), their high heat output and burning efficiency often make them more cost-effective in the long run. You'll need fewer logs to maintain the same temperature, which means that each log will provide you with more heat.
How Should I Store My Kiln-Dried Ash Logs for Optimal Longevity?
Kiln-dried ash logs should be stored in a cool, dry place away from direct exposure to the elements. A dry, well-ventilated log store or shed is ideal. Proper storage ensures that the logs maintain their low moisture content and high heating efficiency.
Do kiln-dried ash logs produce less ash residue?
Yes, while it is somewhat ironic given their name, ash logs produce less ash residue when compared to most other types of logs. This makes cleaning your fireplace or stove easier and more convenient.
How Long Does Ash Take to Season?
Seasoning is a vital process for wood logs. Properly seasoned ash wood offers better burn efficiency, reduced smoke, and a longer burn time. For ash wood, the seasoning duration can vary based on environmental factors. This being said, if a green ash tree is shielded from direct contact with moisture and soil, the seasoning process in British weather can take anywhere from 12 to 24 months.
Is Ash Wood Water Resistant?
Ash wood is not inherently waterproof or weatherproof. Its open-pored structure means that untreated ash wood can absorb moisture, potentially leading to expansion, warping, or structural complications over time. However, when sealed properly or treated under pressure, ash wood can better resist moisture and ward off insects.
It's essential to note that while no wood is entirely waterproof, some species, particularly those with natural rot-resistant and insect-resistant properties, tend to fare better in moist conditions than ash wood.
Can You Smoke Meats With Ash Wood?
Yes, ash wood is a popular choice for smoking meats due to its clean-burning properties and the mild smoke flavour it imparts. It's particularly suitable for those who prefer a subtler smoky taste rather than the overpowering flavours that some other woods might provide.