Properties of Timber: Elm

There are about fifteen species of Elm. The Common Elm (Ulmus campestris) is indigenous in southern England. It was in England at the time of the 'Domesday Book', which was drawn up in 1086, as shown by the number of place-names containing 'elm'.

Elm is a tough and strong timber, but coarse and open-grained, especially when grown on rich land. Timber from trees growing in fertile soil is far inferior to the rpoduce of the middle counties of Scotland. This wood is much closer in the grain, harder, more handsome, and takes a finer polish.

The better wood is made into furniture; the coaser wood is seldom used except for coarse purposes: casks, coffins, wooden presses, etc.

The elm grows large and lives to a great age. The healthy period of an elm is probably about a hundred and twenty years.

The most profitable age for elm, for quality and quantity of timber, is about fifty or sixty years. Trees much older than this are prone to rot and decay. The central parts lose their natural sap and are apt to absorb moisture, by which they rot on exposure to the air, long before dry rot consumes them. Pine and larch do not decay in this way because they are full of water-insoluble resins which protect the timber.

It is possible that the elm is injured by too much water in its soil. The Dutch elm, which is usually classed as a different species from the common elm, has timber which is good for nothing, and may be the common one debased by the humid soil of Holland. The elm rises to a greater height than most English forest trees, with a foliage full and hanging loosely, capable of producing the 'chequered shade' which imparts such sparkling beauty to woodland scenes.

Elm is quite unfit for building, because of its tendency to warp and shrink with drought, and expand with moisture. When wholly under water it answers well; and bolts and nails drive better into it than any other timber.


elm tree timber - part of a coffee table made from Leicestershire Elm..... elm tree timber - part of a coffee table made from Leicestershire Elm..... elm tree timber - part of a coffee table made from Leicestershire Elm.....

summarised from "The Library of Entertaining Knowledge - Timber trees" (1829), pub. Charles Knight, Pall Mall.

ND, habitat21

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