Ironwood, The Musclewood That Grows In American Forests

Ironwood is a hardwood tree species that is prized for its extreme hardness and durability. It is native to North America and can be found growing in a variety of regions, including the eastern United States, the Great Lakes region, and parts of Canada.

American Musclewood

The ironwood tree, also known as the American hornbeam or musclewood, is a small to medium-sized tree that typically grows to between 20 and 40 feet tall. It is a slow-growing tree, which contributes to its density and hardness. The tree's bark is smooth and grey, and its leaves are small and oval-shaped.

The Hardest Wood Grown In America

Ironwood is one of the hardest and densest woods found in North America, with a Janka hardness rating of around 3,840 pounds-force. This makes it extremely durable and resistant to damage from impact and abrasion. Ironwood is also highly resistant to rot and decay, which makes it ideal for use in outdoor applications, such as decks, fences, and utility poles.

However, the extreme hardness and density of ironwood also make it very difficult to work with from a woodworking point of view. Its hardness can make it challenging to cut, shape, and sand, and it can be tough on cutting tools. Its rarity in large sizes suitable for milling also makes it a challenging wood to work with from a commercial perspective.

Ironwood is also prized as a firewood due to its high BTU (British Thermal Unit) output. Its density and hardness make it burn hotter and longer than other woods including apple, making it an ideal choice for heating homes and other buildings during the winter months.

Additionally, ironwood is becoming increasingly popular in the wood pellet industry due to its high density and energy content. Wood pellets made from ironwood are highly efficient and provide a high level of heat output per unit of fuel.

Old Ironsides

Ironwood's extreme hardness and durability also made it an attractive choice for shipbuilding during America's Revolutionary War. According to some accounts, British cannonballs were said to bounce off the sides of American ships that were built from ironwood, due to the wood's extreme hardness and density. This made ironwood an ideal choice for shipbuilders, as it offered a level of protection from enemy fire that other woods did not. One of these ships was deemed unsinkable and was called "old ironsides" by the British.

Finally, ironwood is also prized as a material for hardwood flooring. Its extreme hardness and durability make it an ideal choice for high-traffic areas of a home or commercial building. Ironwood flooring is also known for its unique and striking grain patterns, which can add a touch of natural beauty to any space.

So in summary, ironwood is a highly valued and sought-after hardwood tree species due to its extreme hardness, durability, and resistance to rot and decay. While its hardness and density make it a challenging wood to work with, its high BTU output, energy content, and suitability for shipbuilding and flooring applications make it an attractive choice for a variety of industries and uses.

American Musclewood, Article Posted Aug 12, 2023