Of the several species of Elm in the United States, White Elm is the most abundant. Other common species include Rock Elm, Slippery Elm, Cedar Elm and Winged Elm. Cedar Elm and Winged Elm are generally used for the same purposes as White Elm and are included in its classification. Rock Elm is heavier and harder than White Elm and ranks second only to Hickory where these properties are important. Slippery Elm is darker in color than either Rock Elm or White Elm and its mechanical properties are about mid-way between the two. It is little used because of its scarcity.
The chief difference between Northern and Southern Elm is in color and texture. Their mechanical properties are about the same. Northern Elm is of finer and more uniform texture with less interlocked and diagonal grain but its color and character is rather mild. Southern Elm has considerable character with colorful streaks and grain figure which make it particularly adaptable for decorative natural finish panel effects.
American Elm, while not considered a ranking cabinet wood, is a good furniture wood despite difficulties encountered in machining. Its bending properties make it a good wood for chair parts to be steam bent. Its better grades are used somewhat for exposed parts in high grade furniture but its tendency to warp prevents more extensive use in this field. Elm is also used considerably for cross-banding and corestocks.
Because of its toughness and bending properties, Elm has long been a favorite wood of the cooperage industry, chiefly for slack barrel staves and hoops. Lacking odor and taste, it is also popular for baskets, refrigerators and food containers. Elm's resistance to splitting, caused by screwing and nailing, causes it to be used extensively for crates, boxes, and shipping containers. Its bending property is also taken advantage of in boat building and in the aircraft industry for curved parts of small radii and bearing blocks.
Besides being used for bent work, Elm's toughness makes it a preferred wood for wagon and vehicle manufacture, particularly the hubs of wheels. It is especially suited, not only because it is relatively hard and tough, but because it is usually so cross-grained as to be difficult to split. Elm is relatively easy to dry, sands well, but does not polish easily. When plain-sawed, it displays a pleasing appearance and is very attractive when properly filled and finished.
Other uses include flooring, fixtures, handles, saddle trees, sleds, sporting goods, toys, and woodenware novelties.
Natural color: Cream to brown.