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The concept of resistance in the world of wood is quite ambiguous from a colloquial point of view. We can find comments and references to the strength of wood in different ways:

  • Durability: Understood as resistance to the degrading action of some environmental factors, insects and / or microorganisms. In many cases, it is referred to as weather resistance.
  • Hardness or impact resistance: Basically understood or measured as the amount of force needed to «mark it» faced with a blow or pressure. To measure the hardness of wood are used different methods, the most popular are Monin, Brinell and Janka.
  • In relation to mechanical properties. Resistance to traction, compression, flexion, or elasticity.

Relationship between density and strength

To say that there is a certain level of correlation between the density of wood and its hardness is obvious. The denser the wood, the harder it is. Although this correlation is not entirely linear.

There are species that, although slightly less dense than others, are more difficult.

Something similar happens with mechanical properties and durability.

With this, what we mean is that, although there are some woods that, even though they are light, stand out in some aspects, if what we are looking for is an authentic resistance, we will have to resort to heavy woods.

Types of light and resistant wood

The following list of light woods is ordered from lightest to heaviest.

Paulownia. Also known as kiri, paulownia wood has been of interest for some time. It is a very light species, approx. 265-280 kg / m3, only balsa wood is lighter.

It has excellent mechanical characteristics in relation to its weight, it is stable and very easy to work with.

On the other hand, it is susceptible to attack by insects and fungi, and its hardness is limited.

Poplar or Balsamic Poplar (Populus balsamifera) This is a poplar type especially light, approximately 370 kg / m3. Despite being denser than paulownia, it has a similar hardness and is slightly less stable.

It is also susceptible to attack by insects and fungi. It is not recommended for outdoor use.

Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) The first thing to clarify is that it is not really a cedar, although it has important similarities. It has an approximate density of 370 kg / m3 and slightly higher hardness than balsamic poplar and Paulownia.

Although it is susceptible to insect attack, it does very well outdoors. Therefore, it is classified as durable.

Samba. It is also known as obeche or ayous. It has a density of approximately 380 kg / m3 and it is also a little more difficult than the previous ones.

It is a stable wood, with excellent mechanical characteristics in relation to its weight. It is not durable and is very susceptible to attack by insects, mainly fungi.

It is widely used for the manufacture of saunas.

Linden. The density range of this wood is especially variable. We can find examples of American linden of 415 kg / m3, while the European reaches 560 kg / m3.

It stands out for its ease of work, which is why it is preferred within the world of wood carving.

On the other hand, it is not very durable and moderately nervous. It is not recommended for outdoor use.

Sequoia or Sequoia. It has an approximate density of 400-430 kg / m3 and a little more difficult than the previous woods. Therefore, it has a better relationship between hardness and weight than linden or samba.

It is a stable and moderately durable wood.

It is known among other things because redwoods are the tallest trees in the world, exceeding even 100 meters.

Okume. If we compare it with the sequoia in these terms (lightness and hardness), it clearly loses. It has a weight similar to 430 kg / m3, but it is softer, less stable and also less durable (should not be used outdoors).

Despite this, it does not have bad characteristics, at least they are enough to be on this list.

With brown tones, almost chocolate, it is very attractive and very popular for indoor furniture.

Cedar (Cedrela odorata). Cedar wood is the heaviest on the list, just a little harder than redwood.

However, it stands out for its stability and resistance outdoors. That is, it has excellent resistance to attack by insects, fungi and environmental factors.

plywood. Although it is not a type of wood, but rather a type of industrially manufactured panel, its design (veneers alternating in different directions) improves mechanical strength and even durability in relation to solid wood.

That is, it will be more resistant and plywood from a certain wood is more stable than a solid board from that same wood.

What is the lightest wood in the world?

If what you’re looking for is an even lighter wood than the ones mentioned so far, there’s one, balsa wood.

Its density is approximately between 100-150Kg / m3 at 12% humidity. It’s really light wood, even less than half of the paulownia wood, which is already a very light wood.

Despite this, it is not included in our initial classification. It is due to your resistance, or rather, the lack of it. It is logical, considering its density, but of course, it is 4-5 times less difficult than Paulownia.

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