At the lumber store, we quickly found white ash and red oak boards that bore a strong resemblance to one another in grain size and pattern. Though not identical in color, they weren't far apart after a coat of Zar Provincial #114 stain.

Q: As I was admiring a friend's door, he informed me that it was made of ash. I would have bet that it was red oak. Is there any problem with substituting ash for oak in my projects?

—John Scott, Indianapolis

A: No problem at all, John. As you see in the photo above, the grain patterns of white ash and red oak are similar. The same stain or topcoat applied to each produces a lighter result in ash than oak, but if you see that as a problem, just select a darker stain than usual. And, who knows? You just might prefer the golden tone of ash once you try it.

Ash machines well; offers plenty of strength; and, when cut into thin strips, ranks as one of the premier woods for making bent laminations on a form. Even better, white ash beats red oak at the cash register. We found ash priced at $2.28 per board foot at our local lumber outlet, while red oak cost $3.44. That's a 33 percent savings, the kind of difference that really adds up on a large project.