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PostPosted: Mon Oct 14, 2019 1:29 pm 
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Jim Kiel of Northwind kindly got back to me from an email I'd sent. Reprinted here with his permission:

Quote:
Hi Jason,

Basswood or linden wood as it comes from the linden tree is a consistently dense light hardwood that works easily without the end grain pullout that most other woods have. That means that when you cut or shape the piece of wood across the grain, it leaves a smooth surface whereas other woods have the grain pull out instead of being cut smoothly. this leaves small holes where the grain has been pulled out. Basswood has been traditionally been used for small case goods as it is consistent in strength through the width of the board, so when you cut a small piece, you do not have to worry if it has the same strength as the piece on the opposite side of the box, so the box is less likely to warp or crack. It also has minimal expansion in heat so that it remains more consistent when temperatures change. And lastly, it tends to have the same density across the width of the board. You do not have the typical harder and softer places where the growth tree rings are. This allows sanding without the ridges you especially find in pine and spruce.It is readily available at most lumber yards and grows in mixed growth woods as opposed to single species managed forests out here in the west. Therefore the foresters are cutting a variety of woods anyway so are more likely to preserve the few Linden trees that are in the growth.
Hope this answers your questions.

He didn't address the issue of grade (but then I didn't ask, either; my basic question was, "Why basswood?"). But my guesses as to structural stability and tradition proved correct. It's pretty evident that one wouldn't use plain, naked basswood for a fine case, because its appearance is bland, unimpressive, and it would show dirt readily - but it makes an ideal substrate.

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