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Physical properties

Beech - "Fagus sylvatica"

Physical properties

Physical properties

European Beech, Beech, Common Beech

Occurrence of European Beech

Western, Central and Southern Europe, Northern Spain, Southeastern England, Denmark, Southern Sweden, Western Poland. In the mountains of Romania, the Balkan peninsula, Italy and Corsica.

Growth area In Europe about 10% or the total forest area; this corresponds to about 17 million hectares
of beech forests. Germany, France, Switzerland 10 … 20% proportionately, Balkan peninsula 35-45%; shade bearing species.
Soil conditions Prefers loose soils, that are rich in minerals and well watered, beech is sensitive to low temperature and late (spring) freezes, it is forming forests (even in pure population) in altitudes of up to 750 m in the „Harz“ and „Thüringer Wald“ mountain ranges, up to 850 m in the „Erzgebirge“, 1200 m in the „Bayrischer Wald“ (Bavarian Forest) and 1400 m in the „Schwarzwald“ (Black Forest). It is found in the Vosges mountains in altitudes of 1300 m,
in the Tyrolean Alps up to 1540 m, in the Ticino up to 1850 m, the Apennine Mountains up to 1837 m and in Bosnia up to 1600 m above sea level.

General characteristics of European Beech

Height of tree up to 30 m, occasionally 35...40 m
Length of bole 15...20 m
Average middle diameter of boles 0,3...0,9...1,0 (1,5 m)
Shape of bole cylindrical, straight
Bark of young tree smooth, thin, glaucous colored with a light lustre, older trees silver-grey, especially on lime soil, bark in lower section sometimes slightly rough; fraction 7,4%; density about 579 kg/m³
Colour reddish yellow to reddish brown (when steamed), false heartwood red to reddish brown, cloudy or with ragged gradation = optional red heart
Texture plain, slightly grained (tangential), slightly striped (radial), rarer pomelle (tangential), with fine hairline cracks
Smell non conspicuous

Macroscopic structural characteristics of European Beech

  • Boundaries of growth rings and wood rays visible to the naked eye
  • Cells only visible with optical instruments
Arrangement diffuse; singular and in groups, number and size decreasing towards late wood
Diameter 8...45...85 µm
Density 80 to 125 to 160 per 1 mm² cross section
Proportion 24,6...39,5...52,5%
Contents tylosis and heart ingredients only with redheart
Longitudinal parenchyma:  
Arrangement apotracheal-diffuse
Proportion 3,5...5,2...7,0%
Wood rays:  
Arrangement - Irregular, in two different sizes, very wide and very narrow, with tangential cuts
  seen as dark lines, wood reddish brown, false heart reddish brown
- larger ones in regular intervals of 0,5 mm to 1,0 mm, widening at the growth ring
Configuration Homogeneous, in two different sizes, smaller ones single-layered and larger ones with up to 25 layers, widening itself at the growth ring boundary, mottling of vessels in opposing and also scale-like form, longitudinal parenchyma scattered between fibres.
Height large height ...4000 µm; small height 60...1000 µm; 15 to 100 cells
Width large height 30...200 µm; 2...25 cells; small height 20...60 µm; single-layered
(1 cell)
Density large height 2 to 3 up to 5 on 1 mm (tangential) small height 3 to 6 up to 9
on 1 mm (tangential)
Proportion 11,2...15,7...21,2 %
Arrangement irregular
Type predominantly librioform fibres, small percentage of fibre-tracheids, sporadically tracheid-vessel elements (proportion 0,4% to 1,2%).
Wall thickness (2W) 3,6...7,5...10,3 µm
Lumen (L) 3,5...7,1...11,2 µm
„Runkel number“: (2 W:L)
Length 600...1300 µm
Proportion 25,2...39,6...57,2%
General direction of fibres straight, often having twisted fibres, rarely waved tangentially and radially
Specialties formation with light heartwood (sapwood and heartwood same color - „Reifholzbaum“); earlywood vessels with single, latewood vessels with
scale-like through holes at the end with up to 20 rungs.

Physical properties

Oven-dry density (0%) 490...680...880 kg/m³
Gross density (12-15%) 540...720...910 kg/m³
Gross density (wet) 820...1070...1270 kg/m³
Proportion of pores (c) about 55%
Shrinkage longitudinally: 0,3%
radially: about 5,8
tangentially: about 11,8%
Volume 14,0...17,9...21,0
per 1% decrease of moisture content: 0,46...0,60% volume;
0,20% radially, 0,40% tangentially
Other Coefficient of thermal conductivity: 0,16 W/(m*K)

Mechanical properties of European Beech

Compressive strength 41...62...99 N/mm²
Bending strength 74...123...210 N/mm²
Tensile strength (parallel) 57...135...180 N/mm²
Tensile strength (perpendicular) 7,0...10,7 N/mm²
Shearing strength 6,5...8,0...19,0 N/mm²
Impact resistance 3...10...19 J/cm²
Hardness (Brinell parallel) about 72 N/mm²
Hardness (Brinell perpendicular) about 34 N/mm²
Modulus of elasticity 10000...16000...18000 N/mm²
Torsional strength 15...19 N/mm²
Cleavabiltiy 0,4...0,5 N/mm²
Abrasive resistance Oak : European Beech = 1,56 : 1,0

Chemical Properties of European Beech

Ethanol-benzene extractable content 1,5...1,9%
Water solubility about 1,9%
Lignin 11,6...22,7%
Cumulative sugar 75,7...85,0%
Cellulose 33,7...46,4%
Pentosan 17,8...25,5%
Acetyl groups 6,0...7,1%
Ash content 0,3...1,2%
pH - value 5,1...5,4
Pulp yield about 38,5 %
Methoxyl 5,1...6,8 %

Processing of European Beech

Mechanical Machines very well: sawing, planing, turning, form-bending, carving;
optimum cutting speed 30 m/s, suitable for sliced and rotary cut veneer.
Drying Good; but needs technically careful and gentle process.
Glueing Good, without problems
Surface treatment Good, easy to stain and varnish
Other Easy to steam; redheart can not be impregnated

Durability of European Beech

Low (outside); prone to fungal decay and insect attacks; not weather-resistant;
needs to be protected carefully on the outside; class 5

Wood pests

Fungi Nectria-, polyporus-, trametes-species
Insects Death Watch Beetle (xestobium rufovillosum De Geer), Beech Splendor Beetle (agrilus viridis Linnaeus.), Tanbark Borer (callidium testaceum L.), Capricorn Beetle (cerambyx scopolii Laich.), Plagionotus Arcuatus L., Ladder-marked Longhorn Beetle (saperda scalaris L.), Xyleborus spp., Broad-leaved Ambrosia Beetle (xyloterus domesticus L.), Large Timberworm Beetle (hylecoetus dermestoides L.), Oak Pinhole Borer (platypus cylindrus Fabricius)., Goat Moth (cossus cossus L.), Wood Leopard Moth (zeuzera pyrina L.), Other Black Woodpecker (Picus Martius Linnaeus)

Application of European Beech

  • Veneers (usually as rotary cut veneer for plywood boards, composite boards,
    press-glued multi-layer boards etc.)
  • Wood for furniture (office- and school-furniture, period furniture, childrens bedrooms et. al.,
    chairs, tables, upholstery frames)
  • Wall panelling and parquet flooring, construction wood for average wear used in motor and machine building industry, in civil underground and surface engineering as well as hydraulic construction
  • Special wood for particle and fibre boards, pulp and paper industry, compressed wood, sports equipment, barrels, crates, workbenches, handles, domestic appliances, components for shoes, wood shavings, toys, doorsteps, turned parts for stairs, wood-block paving, parts for musical instruments.
  • For the production of pyroligneous acid, charcoal and tar oil.
  • Perfect for form bending
  • About 250 known ways of application.


  • logs: gross lengths 3,0...18,0 m; gross middle diameter 0,2...0,4...1,0 m
  • laminated wood, sawn lumber (steamed, unsteamed), strips, veneers


  • When defining your log demand, specify long lengths.
  • Always protect logs and sawn lumber from direct sunlight.
  • Constantly supervise measurements for wood preservation.
  • Clean sawn lumber immediately after cutting and stack boards with the help of thin spacers.
  • Starting temperature for kiln drying 50...60 °C.
  • Not suitable for derived lumber products using cement.
  • Stainable to cherry, mahogani and other wood species.
  • Logs with rough bark may develop radial and tangential waves in their outer layers.
  • Methods of preparation of logs for cutting: bisection, edgewise, quarter-cut.
  • Wood quality for formbending: fresh logs with straight fibres and without heartwood.
  • Maximum age: 250-300 years
  • Harvested at: 100-140 years
  • Forming of redheart starting at about 80 years of age.
  • About 13 fagus-species are known.

With friendly permission of Carl Hanser Verlag GmbH & Co. KG.
Excerpts from the „Holzatlas″ by Rudi Wagenführ. The 6. edition is available since 2007.