Spruce trees belong to the genus Picea, a group of evergreen conifers native to the Northern Hemisphere. Several members of this genus are sold simply as "spruce" on the lumber market. These species are all softwoods, with a characteristic resiny odor, but they have different working characteristics. The suitability of each type of spruce lumber depends on the job in question.
Spruce lumber is lightweight and has an even texture, making it a good choice for framing and light construction. Its relatively low strength gives it poor performance in high-stress situations. Spruce lumber has little to no decay resistance, and should never be used in wet conditions or in contact with the soil unless it has been painted or otherwise treated to resist rot. This wood responds poorly to most preservative treatments. Red spruce works well to make round timbers, while silver or Sitka spruce is more common in cabins, factories, foundations and joists and beams. This wood's higher durability makes it a good choice for siding. Norway spruce is often cut into dimensional framing lumber.
Many musical instruments are made partly or entirely of spruce lumber. According to the U.S.Department of Agriculture, Sitka spruce and red spruce have resonant properties that make them excellent for sounding boards in pianos and guitars. Red spruce is also used to produce violins and violin bows, xylophones, piano keys, and drumsticks. Black spruce is also sometimes used for the same purposes as red spruce, but it is less common due to this tree's smaller size.
Many packing cases, crates, and pallets contain spruce lumber, which is lightweight and inexpensive. Spruce, especially Sitka, is also sometimes used to produce casks and other containers. Spruce may dent and ding, due to its low hardness but is strong enough for most shipping.
Sitka spruce, also called Sitka spur, coast spruce, western spruce, and silver or yellow spruce, is a species native to the western half of the United States. It is sometimes planted as an ornamental on the East Coast and in Europe. According to the USDA, this tree produces the most important wood for glider and airplane construction.
This wood's relatively light weight and low cost make it a common choice for tools that do not require significant strength. Spruce, especially SItka spruce, is used to make ladders, boat oars and similar objects. Spruce may also be used in some tool handles but does not work well in tools that need to withstand strain or regular wet conditions.
Despite spruce's low resistance to rot, several species have traditionally been used in boats. When coated with pitch or another waterproofing material, spruce produces a lightweight boat and is easy to shape and cut. Sitka spruce is common in racing sculls, while red spruce appears more often in canoes and general shipbuilding.