See our Sycamore stock
Sycamore is one of our favourite English timber species. We treasure it for it’s delicate lustred colouring and fine grain. The trees are sizeable so board size can be fantastic and it’s relatively easy to source good quality logs so it’s a big hit with furniture makers and manufacturers.
What’s in a name?
Acer pseudoplantanus is Sycamore’s botanical name but it’s also known as Great Maple, European Sycamore, Sycamore Plane, and Sycamore Maple. Confused? Well Sycamore & Maple are both Acers and as trees not so very different, plus Plane (Platanus) has similar qualities and appearance as a tree so it’s understandable they’ve all been mistaken for each other in the past. For us wood people they’re actually 3 quite identifiably different timbers, which of course means more choice for you if you’re a furniture maker or an interior designer or specialist joinery!
Sycamore trees are native to the UK, deciduous and fairly commonly found from well managed, sustainable woodland sources. The trees can grow to enormous dimensions of 50m height and 1.5m diameter or more and so it follows that Sycamore logs are substantial in size too. As a timber its hardwood, pale white wood. The sap and heartwood are the same colour size and visual qualities. It’s grain is broad, strong and vibrant because the annual growth rings of the tree are very marked. The overall colouring is creamy yellow with the marked growth rings a rich reddy-brown. We think SYP is a very handsome looking timber and have found that it’s graphic ‘woodgrain’ look means it’s growing in popularity all the time.
The European Sycamore is know to be the hardest, strongest pine in existence and it’s is fairly durable and resistant to decay.
For us the striking characteristics of this timber are it’s big, distinctive grain pattern, the large dimensions and durability. An interesting combination of qualities for a creative designer maker or joiner to work with.
This is a timber species that’s not exactly common, we have cut and dried it for the last… oh uh um…. at least 3o years. It’s been a staple on our stock but a niche timber in the great scheme of things, sought out by traditional furniture makers and turners who knew their stuff. Interestingly we’ve seen an increase in demand recently, perhaps because homegrown timber use is increasing but we think it’s a reflection on a revival of interest in the knowledge base of wood and wood culture and we’re thrilled this is the case, not least of all because Sycamore timber deserves to be treasured!
For projects that require a clean, white colouring or a crisp, strong contrast or an almost stoney hardness then it’s a popular option. For use with food, kitchen workshops, chopping boards, turning for platters and serving dishes or even rolling pins not least of all because it is inert i.e. it doesn’t taint or leach tannin.
The only snag with this particular Acer is is perishability. Not something most people know but it’s something we understand having handled it for so long. Basically it doesn’t keep when it’s wet so it’s not a species we can air dry. Once it’s been cut it’s necessary to kiln it almost immediately. A few days for a bit of initial drying but then it needs to be vacuum kilned to extract water to bring down moisture levels. You can tell timber that hasn’t been cared for as it should because it often has stick marks (no air drying no stick marks!) and a grey coloration rather then nice, pristine white. As we understand it he greying and stick marks are stains due to the active bacteria that begins to degrade the cells once the timber has been exposed to the air.
As for workability, this species is a dream. It cuts and planes well with hand or machine tools, it has good bending strength so is good for steaming and it takes stains and finishes well.
So it’s a sensitive little soul with a heart of gold, our Sycamore… and a bit of TLC tis all it asks!
The proper Technical Info from TRADA
Wood Type: Hardwood
Mechanical Strength: High strength properties similar to those of Oak
Durability: Not durable (without further processing e.g. thermal modification)
Moisture movement: Medium
Density (Kg/m3 at 12% moisture): 630 but varies by up to 20% +/-
Sycamore trees can grow to enormous dimensions of 30m or more in height and 1.5m or more diameter so it follows that Sycamore logs are substantial in size too. Sadly it’s more often the timber handling equipment that determines the size of available boards. We aim to seek out and facilitate the drying of long and wide boards in homegrown timbers and Sycamore is included in that spec.
If you took the lack of durability of Sycamore as it’s bottom line, that keeps in within the interior realms. flooring, furniture making, kitchen worktops, interior joinery and variations along those themes. With thermal modification it’s possible to change that spec to use it for cladding and exterior furniture making too.
Do you use Sycamore in your work or do you won some Sycamore furniture? We’d love to see it!
Sycamore is pretty much always in stock as boules and waney edge (through and through) boards. We can machine it to order to but the raw wood is pretty raw! So in through & through we cut and keep thicknesses 27, 34, 41, 54, 65, 80 & 100mm thick.
Typical boards widths go from as small as 150mm on a crown board up to 1.0m or more sometimes for a centre board. The majority are 300-400mm and, as you can imagine, the super wide boards sell very quickly*. Lengths can actually be quite short, starting at around 2.0m and going up to 4 to 4.5m in length. Longer is harder to come by, but we’re working on it !
The boards are likely to encompass all the grades although Sycamore is a classic straight fine grain timber. It’s harder to come bu lots of character within Sycamore boards, in fact the prized rippled grain Sycamore might even be more common than a gnarled, burred, knotty board. Them the breaks we guess… horses for courses… that’s what Oak, Elm and Yew are for!
Alternative & Mixer Species
Ok, well here’s where you could have some fun. Sycamore’s so strikingly pale that you could have fun mixing it with any other species, but if you wanted to stay on the pale side, some white Ash boards would go, and if you want serious contrasting strip pick Black Walnut maybe. If you want to match in hardness or strength the Ash and Walnut are good but prime Oak will give you matching strength almost like for like and if it comes to it and you really can’t find what you need with a Sycamore spec you might find something in sister species, N.Am Maple.
MORE about Sycamore
See what people are doing with #Sycamore on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/sycamore/
Thermal Modification? Why, where what and how by Wikipedia
Wikipedia says https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acer_pseudoplatanus