Mulberries are medium-sized trees that are native to North American and some Asian countries. It’s often cultivated for its fruits and ornamental purposes. But the question is this: is mulberry a hardwood? In this post, I will discuss this wood type, its purposes, and what you can do to utilize mulberry wood if you have some in your shop.
Is mulberry considered hardwood?
Mulberry actually falls in the heartwood category. Heartwoods have a golden brown color with layers of yellow on the outside. What’s fascinating is that this wood will start to darken once it’s exposed in the air and when processed.
Overall, mulberry is considered a hardwood, even if it’s a bit softer than mahogany, oak, and walnut. This is because the term ‘hardwood’ usually applies to trees that shed their leaves during fall. While this isn’t absolute, mulberry is one of those that fall within this criteria.
Moreover, mulberry is a dense wood with high BTU levels. It’s also interesting because mulberry has high water content, which can affect its applications.
However, mulberry is rarely cultivated and cut down for lumber. Nevertheless, the branches can be turned into baskets, and the wood can be used for woodworking projects.
Take note that there are multiple varieties of mulberry. Some of which are white mulberry, red mulberry, Himalayan mulberry, black mulberry, and so on. Aside from the color of the fruit, the wood itself will vary widely among these species. Nevertheless, most of them will have similar characteristics and are equally useful.
But before you consider cultivating mulberries, you should know that these trees are heavy bearers. They can turn your backyard into a bird fest.
Alternatives for mulberry wood
Mulberry is an excellent wood type. But if you don’t have one and looking for an alternative to use on your project, here are a few good suggestions:
- Black Locust. Black Locust wood has a great resemblance to mulberry in terms of appearance and color. However, the major difference is its slightly heavier weight than mulberry. Also, Black Locust wood is harder and can compete with hickory in terms of durability.
- Osage orange. Osage orange is also slightly heavier than mulberry and has mildly lighter color. Overall, this wood can be worked on using ordinary hand tools, the same as mulberry.
- Jackfruit. Native to tropical Asia, jackfruit also makes a great wood source. It’s a distant relative of mulberries and thus shares its excellent wood characteristics.
- Fig. Fig or ficus is widely known for the natural latex it produces, which is useful for a wide range of applications. It’s a hardwood popular for flooring, furniture, and veneer purposes.
- Breadnut. This tree has edible fruits and seeds, but its wood is also a good choice for furniture and other woodworking projects.
- Elm. Mulberry is often compared to elm since both of them are heartwoods. The difference is that elm has a more pronounced pattern and interlocking grains. It also has an uneven texture.
Uses of mulberry wood
Mulberry wood is quite versatile, and you can actually use it for a variety of applications. Here are some of the ways to utilize this spare lumber:
- Caskets and boxes. Mulberry caskets are both beautiful and practical. You can make one for pets or dead animals you want to bury. You can also turn this wood into fancy boxes for storage at home.
- Smoking meat. Do you have a barbecue party coming up? If so, you can use mulberry wood to smoke your steaks and kebabs. I personally prefer the variety with dark purple fruits for a more desirable flavor. If you’re smoking pork or beef, the yellow variety would be a perfect choice.
- Barrels. In some countries, mulberry wood is the preferred material to construct barrels to distill plums. Although a type of hardwood, mulberry can be shaped into staves. After that, it will be cleansed and left to dry before use.
- Veneers. A thin sheet of mulberry wood makes a great veneer material. It has a striking grain pattern that can be dyed or stained. By staining mulberry wood, you can achieve a finish similar to a tortoiseshell color.
There are other uses for mulberry wood. It’s quite a durable wood that’s easy to come by.
Is mulberry wood toxic?
Mulberry wood isn’t considered toxic. It’s quite rare for woodworkers to experience allergies or irritations when exposed to mulberry wood dust. Also, this wood doesn’t have any strong smell that could upset your nose or lungs.
Still, I recommend that you wear a woodworking face shield when working on this wood material. Overall, it’s not safe to inhale wood dust, toxic or not. Besides, you wouldn’t want to get the dust into your eyes and mouth.
However, if you experience any form of irritation when exposed to mulberry wood dust, you should seek medical help right away. This reaction is rare, but I don’t discount the possibility that it could happen.
Is mulberry good firewood?
Since it’s hardwood, mulberry would be an amazing firewood material. It can be used both for cooking and keeping your house warm. Mulberry wood is actually a less tapped source of heat.
One thing that makes mulberry wood good firewood is its low sap or resin content. It’s also easy to split with just about any ax you have in your yard.
When it comes to smoke, mulberry is on the moderate side. However, you should know that young mulberry trees have high moisture content. If you cut and burn it too early, the wood will produce more smoke and fewer embers. This is because mulberry has an average green moisture content of 75%.
Overall, you’d want to want for the mulberry to be at least 12 inches in diameter. After the lumber has been chopped, it will be ideal to let it dry for 12 to 19 months, though I recommend waiting for 2 full years for the wood to be dry enough.
In my experience, mulberry seems to dry faster than other hardwood like oak. Also, it has a British Thermal Unit (BTU) similar to that of ash and close to that of oak.
Can you turn mulberry wood?
Absolutely, yes! Mulberry is a good material for woodturning, where you can transform them into fancy vases, cups, ashtrays, and so on. Just about any ordinary lathe tool will do here, even those used for metalworking.
Moreover, you can use any sharp-pointed tool to turn mulberry. Once finished and stained, mulberry wood will have an excellent pattern perfect for decorative purposes.
Do mulberry trees make good fence posts?
Yes, mulberry wood can be used as fence materials. They are pretty resistant to rot, though I still recommend applying a waterproof coating if you want your mulberry fence to last long.
Overall, mulberry is pretty resistant to rot and can hold fasteners quite well. Aside from fences, mulberry wood also makes great material for barn poles and shed construction.
Is mulberry a hardwood? Yes, this versatile tree is a good source of hardwood that can be turned into furniture, fence material, decorative pieces, and more. Just make sure that you cut and process mulberry wood right on the season for the best results. Overall, mulberry wood is easy to work on using typical woodworking tools.