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Kosso

Gorgeous colors and grain patterns have resulted in the exploitation of this beautiful species for use in production of “Hongmu” furniture.  It looks similar in appearance to Kiaat/Muninga, another member of the Pterocarpus genus.  We only have a few hundred BF of this endangered species left and don’t expect to get any more when it runs out.

Common Uses:
boxmaking, cabinetry, inlay, knife handles, specialty items
Detail
Common Uses
kosso
Osage Orange - Argentine

This South American species is closely related to the domestic Osage Orange. 

The lumber it yields is typically a bit cleaner with less defects. 

It is pretty hard and dense making it tough on tools, but it turns and finishes well.

Common Uses:
boxmaking, cabinetry, carving, crafting, inlay, specialty items
Detail
Common Uses
osage-orange-argentine
Tamarind - Spalted

Spalted Tamarind comes from South East Asia.   The decay/spalting gives the wood awesome spiderweb type patterns that add character and excitement to its appearance.  The spalting is most prevalent in the sapwood which is prone to attack from bugs and fungus which cause it.

It is moderately difficult to work, but turns and finishes well.  Sometimes the rot is more endemic than is obvious from looking at the surface of the lumber result in some wastage (lost pieces).

Take care to use good dust collection and a dust mask, as the fungal spores add more to the air than dust alone.

Common Uses:
boxmaking, inlay, specialty items, turnings
Detail
Common Uses
tamarind-spalted
Morado

Morado is known by many names.  Pau Ferro, Bolivian Rosewood and Morado are the most common.  The wood earned its “… Rosewood” nicknames (by which it is commonly known) because its colors and density are similar.  It has a medium brown base typically augmented by black streaks or grain lines, and sometimes even purple, tan and golden secondary hues, and sometimes a purplish tint, overall. Although it can have varying grains, straight-grained pieces are generally very easy to work, and the wood turns smoothly and finishes well. It is considered quite durable, although it can be subject to insect attack.

Morado is a popular Brazilian Rosewood substitute and is thought to be about as similar in properties to rosewood as any non-Dalbergia-genus species possibly could be. Its grains are tighter than a typical rosewood specimen, and it is thought to have a more distinctly percussive tap-tone than that of Brazilian. Its tonal response is said to have tight lows, present mids and a clear, singing high end response.

Despite the comparisons, it should be noted that the (much more prevalent) Machaerium-genus species of Pau Ferro has less density, hardness and weight than an average rosewood.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, flooring, furniture, lutherie, musical Instruments, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
morado
Maple - Soft Curly

The term “Soft Maple” is not a reference to any particular maples species, per se, but a segment of the Acer genus known for its lighter weight and density (as well as its propensity for displaying the classic maple “curl” figure). Of these lighter maples, Red Maple has the most weight and density, and is also the most prevalent — growing in areas scattered all over the Eastern US and up into (Eastern) Canada. As is the paradoxical case with all maples, its beautiful pale white / pale yellow / pale golden sapwood are more coveted than its darker heartwood.

Its more heavy, dense nature lends Red Maple to a greater variety of utility applications, versus its less substantial Soft Maple cousins. Its figuring can be quite dramatic; tiger-striped, veined, fiddleback and sometimes even quilt figuring are sometimes present.

Our Soft Curly Maple generally varies from light to medium figure.

Common Uses:
boxmaking, specialty items, turnings, utility lumber, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
maple-soft-curly
Walnut - American Figured

Black Walnut with a stunning figure across the grain.

Black Walnut has long been considered one of the US’s most durable hardwoods, and one of its most popular. Prized for its typically deep chocolate color (often highlighted by red or purple streaks and/or tint), straight grains (though sometimes irregular), fine texture and warm luster, the wood has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio and is considered to have solid dimensional stability after drying. Its cooperative grain structure and moderate density give Black Walnut excellent working properties, which have made it coveted by fine furniture craftsmen for centuries.

While there remains a robust domestic supply, the demand for this wood also remains constant. It is considered a premium domestic hardwood.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, furniture, gun stocks, interior panelling, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
walnut-american-figured
Canarywood

Canarywood grows across South America from Panama to Southern Brazil.  Its heartwood can range from pale yellow to pink, orange and dark reddish -brown.  Some of the prettiest pieces can have all the color variations in one piece.  Other pieces, more consistent in color, tend at times to resemble Cherry.

Being both durable and relatively hard, but still fairly easy to work, it gives woodworkers the opportunity to work with a hardwood species from South America that has good color variation, but is still reasonably priced.

Common Uses:
bandings, boxmaking, inlay, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
canarywood
Maple - Spalted

Spalted Maple doesn’t denote a species, but can be any member of the Acer genus that has black lines and/or streaks in the lumber caused by slight decay and a fungus in the wood.  With a bit of luck the prettier pieces can present with beautiful random streaks and lines.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, carving, flooring, furniture, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
maple-spalted
Birch - Masur

Masur Birch (also known as Karelian Birch) is not a species in of itself, but rather a particular grain figure that occurs in various species of European Birch.  The result is a beautiful marble like figure – a mix between burl and birdseye.

The cause of this figure is uncertain.  Some say that it comes from a tree’s reaction to invasion by the larvae of the Agromyzia carbonara beetle, but the general opinion seems to be that it is hereditary, classifying the name of the variant as Betula pendula var. Carelica.  Regardless of the exact origin of the figure, it provides us with stunning and unique looking lumber, just begging to be showcased in some fine woodworking. It is most commonly used in accent details, turned objects, knife handles and other small specialty items.

Veneers of Masur Birch are rotary cut (like Birdseye Maple) to ensure the best figure is extracted for the veneer.

Common Uses:
fine furniture, knife handles, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
birch-masur
Thuya Burl

Our Thuya Burl comes from Morocco.  Reddish brown in color, its figure can vary in density from block to block.  It has a distinct odor similar to that of Western Red Cedar.  The figure makes the species prone to tear-out.  It must be worked carefully with only the sharpest of tools.  Highly figured pieces look simply stunning as knife handles or other accent pieces.

Common Uses:
boxmaking, inlay, specialty items
Detail
Common Uses
thuya-burl
Tulipwood

Tulipwood is one of the most coveted and seldom-seen of all (Dalbergia genus) rosewood species. The trees are very small in stature, thus, obtaining long, wide boards is quite rare — and, when found undefective, sell at a premium. It is much more commonly found in smaller, craft-sized pieces. Finding any available boards in widths of 5″ or more is uncommon.

Its heartwood is cream to salmon colored, highlighted by striping which can be any combination of red, violet, purple, pink and rose hues. The sapwood is pale yellow to a very pale yellowish white. Heartwood color gradually fades with continued UV ray exposure.

Tulipwood is typically straight-grained, although grains can also be wavy or (infrequently) irregular. The wood has a high natural oil content and is quite dense, which makes working it an often-difficult prospect. Despite being rather grainy and pourous, it sands very smooth, revealing a pleasing natural luster.

Common Uses:
bandings, bows, boxmaking, inlay, musical Instruments, pool cues, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
tulipwood
Walnut - African

African Walnut is derived from the Lovoa Trichilioides tree — a monoecious, evergreen that is indigenous to Central and Southern Africa’s tropical regions. Its heartwood color can vary anywhere from a golden brown to a reddish brown, often with darker streaks and/or portions. Over time, its color will darken to deeper brown tones. The sapwood is narrow, grey to beige in color, and clearly demarcated from the heartwood. Despite it not being a true walnut (of the Juglans genus), it shares many of the basic characteristics.

African Walnut’s grains are typically straight or slightly interlocked — yielding good working properties — with a fine to medium, consistent texture and a fine natural luster. Finding figured pieces is not uncommon. It turns, glues and finishes well. The wood is considered moderately durable.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carving, flooring, furniture, gun stocks, joinery, paneling, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
walnut-african
Walnut - American

Black Walnut has long been considered one of the US’s most durable hardwoods, and one of its most popular. Prized for its typically deep chocolate color (often highlighted by red or purple streaks and/or tint), straight grains (though sometimes irregular), fine texture and warm luster, the wood has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio and is considered to have solid dimensional stability after drying. Its cooperative grain structure and moderate density give Black Walnut excellent working properties, which have made it coveted by fine furniture craftsmen for centuries.

While there remains a robust domestic supply, the demand for this wood also remains constant. It is considered a premium domestic hardwood.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, furniture, gun stocks, interior panelling, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
walnut-american
Wenge

Wenge is unique among the world’s exotic woods. This tough tropical wood’s distinctive deep chocolate color — which can sometimes augmented by muted gold, orange, red or even burgundy tint — is actually known as “Wenge” in the color spectrum nomenclature of various parts of the world (with paint manufacturers, etc.). Its grains are generally straight (though sometimes wavy or irregular) and are accenuated by overlapping black lines which typically decorate the board’s surface.

While being considered a strong, durable wood, Wenge’s course, rugged texture makes it very splintery — making some craftsmen hesitant to use it. It can be difficult to work, although is glues well and is considered a very dimensionally stable species.

Common Uses:
bows, cabinetry, flooring, furniture, handles, paneling, specialty items, veneer, walking sticks
Detail
Common Uses
wenge
Ziricote

Ziricote is one of the most popular, visually striking exotic woods in the world. Renowned for its “landscape” or “spiderweb” grain patterns, its colors range from medium to dark shades of brown (occasionally with either a green or purplish tint), and are accentuated by intermingled bands of unpredictable, irregular black growth rings. Sapwood is easily distinguishable by its dull off-white to pale yellow hue.

Although it is a fairly dense wood, its typical straight (though sometimes slightly interlocked) grains and fine to medium-fine texture give it cooperative working properties, as it cuts, turns, glues and finishes smoothly.

Ziricote is a close relative (and neighbor) of Bocote, with both being Central American woods of the Cordia genus. Its radical, often-dramatic grain patterns have given the wood somewhat of an ‘elite’ status among international exotic woods enthusiasts.¬† While it has never been an inexpensive wood, recent revelations of epidemic poaching across Mexico have resulted in a greatly reduced supply and sharp price increases on wholesale and retails levels.

Unless action is taken to stem the tide (of poaching), Ziricote and other Central American woods could very well be the subject of actions from CITES in the very near future.  Interestingly, the bark of the Cordia dodecandra tree and the wood have medicinal properties: the tea which is derived from their infusion is used in traditional medicine in Mexico, to treat coughs, diarrhea and dysentery.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, flooring, furniture, gun stocks, joinery, lutherie, musical Instruments, specialty items, trim, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
ziricote
Satinwood - East Indian

East Indian (or Ceylon) Satinwood is a truly exquisite tropical hardwood. Its heartwood ranges from light to medium golden yellow, typically. Sapwood generally is white/off white and paler than the heartwood, though not always clearly demarcated. Premium-grade examples can be seen with a mottled or rippled grain pattern — resembling ripples in satin fabric, and, thus, lending to its name “Satinwood;” such examples may possess a chatoyance ranging from subtle to the dramatic.

Grains can be straight, but are more typically interlocked. Although — due to its density, hardness and generally interlocked grains — it can be difficult to work, it turns, glues and finishes superbly; featuring a smooth, luxurious texture and a shimmering natural luster.

In comparison with other exotic woods, Ceylon Satinwood has remained in short supply to the US market. Its exportation from the region remains restricted. That said, this is actually of little concern to the tree farmers of East India, as the wood is highly coveted throughout the Indian Plate portion of Southern Asia.

Finding long boards of it can be quite difficult and pieces of craft-sized dimensions are more commonly found in the US.  Other than the supply issue, a root cause for this is the fact that trees reach full maturity at a height of only 40 to 50 feet, with miniscule trunk diameters of just 1 to 1-1/2 feet. Long boards are always in short supply and sell at a premium, when found.

Common Uses:
fine furniture, inlay, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
satinwood-east-indian
Snakewood

Snakewood stands out as one of the most aesthetically unique exotic woods in the world. Its muted light yellow-, orange- or red-tinted brown underlying base color is covered by tight, uniform patterns of darker brown or black patches which give the appearance of snakeskin. The wood is straight-grained with a fine texture. The wood is extremely dense, so much so that it can be brittle and splinter, or even shatter, when re-sawn; cutting edges should be at there sharpest whenever working Snakewood. In spite of this difficult working properties, it does turn and finish quite well — taking a high polish and displaying an impressive natural luster.

Because of its relatively slender profile — marked by a thin, narrow trunk — thick boards are never seen. Snakewood can be commonly found in the form of small logs or half-logs.

Common Uses:
fine furniture, specialty items, turnings
Detail
Common Uses
snakewood
Sneezewood

Ptaeroxylon Obliquum, from which Sneezewood is derived, is a deciduous evergreen tree or shrub. The lumber it yields has a heartwood which is generally comprised of light to medium golden brown hues (although the brownish hues can sometimes be dark, toward the tree’s center). Grains are generally either straight or wavy, although they can be interlocked. The wood is quite dense, which makes it somewhat difficult to work, but renders excellent dimensional stability when dried.

It turns and finishes well, although gluing can be problematic, due to the natural oil content of the wood.

Common Uses:
carving, construction, furniture, specialty items, turnings, utility lumber
Detail
Common Uses
sneezewood
Stinkwood

Black Stinkwood has long been popular for use in fine furniture building in South Africa (where it is indigenous), due to its fine, tight, typically straight grains and a resolute durability that is often compared to Teak. It’s heartwood color can vary from almost black to dark brown, to more medium brown tones with a reddish tint; the sap is easily distinguished by its contrasting pale yellow coloration. Despite its inherent density, Stinkwood possesses very cooperative working properties. It has beautiful finishing characteristics and a rich natural luster.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, fine furniture, gun stocks, joinery, specialty items
Detail
Common Uses
stinkwood
Sycamore - French

Like all other members of the true maple genus (Acer), European Sycamore is a hardwood whose sapwood is greatly preferred and sought after, versus its heartwood. It sap can vary from an almost pure white to a light cream color with tinting ranging from a golden yellow to a muted red; heartwood is generally medium to dark reddish-brown colored. Grains are generally straight, but can be wavy. Combined with its fine texture, it is easy to work (although, like all maples, it can burn easily) — turning, gluing and finishing well, with a good natural luster. Not unlike its Acer-genus counterparts, pieces can sometimes be dramatically figured.

Boards are typical found quartersawn, as European Sycamore is the lumber renowned for its preferential, and historical, use as a body wood for stringed orchestral instruments (violins, violas, etc.), possessing superb resonance qualities and full-spectrum frequency response at a very moderate weight.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, flooring, furniture, joinery, millwork, musical Instruments, specialty items, turnings, utility lumber, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
sycamore-french
Tamboti

Tamboti is a beautiful African hardwood which is derived from the Spirostachys Africana tree — a medium-sized, semi-deciduous to deciduous, fruit producing tree. The heartwood is brown to dark brown, with darker markings and streaks, clearly demarcated from the whitish to pale yellow sapwood. Its grains are usually straight to slightly wavy, with a fine, even texture. The wood has a beautiful banded figure and a satin-like lustre, with an oily surface. Known for its durability, dimensional stability and exceptional rot and insect resistance, Tamboti is a hard, heavy wood — and one which remains in steady demand throughout regions of its natural range, despite its somewhat challenging working properties.

Between the tree’s natural oils and latex production, resawing the wood tends to gum up saw blades. Difficulties aside, the wood turns and finishes well, and its density and pleasant aesthetics make it popular with wood carvers, as well.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carving, construction, flooring, furniture, specialty items, turnings
Detail
Common Uses
tamboti
Teak - Zambezi

While not a true (Tectona genus) teak, Zambezi Teak shares a similar stability, durability and rot resistance. The heartwood is a reddish-brown color, with prominent, irregular black lines and flecks. The sapwood is a pale muted pink and is clearly demarcated. In contrast to its “Genuine” counterpart, Zambezi Teak is an extremely dense hardwood. Despite its generally straight or slightly interlocked, finely-textured grains, this density makes the wood very difficult to work.

The wood has a high silica content, as well — so resawing the wood can quickly dull and gum up blades.

Common Uses:
carving, flooring, musical Instruments, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
teak-zambezi
Pink Ivory

Pink Ivory remains one of the most elusive, coveted and highly desirable of all the world’s many exotic woods. Despite being indigenous to Southern Africa, the wood is rare throughout its home continent. What isn’t exported abroad is said to be hoarded by rich, hierarchical families throughout Africa, as the wood is considered to be on the same level of value as diamonds and emeralds.

Its reputation in the US is that of being one of the most elusive, difficult-to-source of all exotic woods, and one of the “holy grail” exotic tonewoods in the eyes of many guitar builders.

Common Uses:
chess pieces, inlay, knife handles, musical Instruments, pool cues, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
pink-ivory
Purpleheart

While renowned for its often deep, rich purple hues, Purpleheart is actually one of the toughest woods in the world. It is considered one of the stiffest, hardest woods — boasting an impressive strength-to-weight ratio. It is also extremely water resistant, which, combined with its toughness, has seen it frequently used in outdoor decking and even as truckbed flooring. The wood is typically straight or wavy grained (though sometimes irregular). Its texture ranges from fine to medium, and it has a nice natural luster that emerges when fine sanded. The wood works and turns well, although sharp tools and blades are a necessity. It glues and finishes well, also.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carving, decking, flooring, furniture, inlay, paneling, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
purpleheart
Redheart

Redheart is a unique Central / South American hardwood characterized by a reddish base color — ranging from dull to bright pink, pinkish-red or red — with streaks and highlights diverse in color, from darker red tones, to yellows, oranges and even occasional purples. Grains range from irregular to wild (although sometimes straight, also), and can often be multi-dimensional or overlapping — often to very dramatic effect, especially when vibrant secondary colors are present.

Its texture is fine and smooth, although it does not possess much natural luster. It works, turns, glues and finishes well, as would be expected with a wood of its moderate density.

Common Uses:
fine furniture, inlay, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
redheart
Rosewood - African

African Rosewood is a species from the same genus as Bubinga (Guibourtia), which has led to Bubinga often mistakenly being referred to as “African Rosewood.” Though obviously not a true rosewood, it does often bear aesthetic similarities. The grain is generally straight but can be interlocked; its texture is moderately fine. The heartwood color ranges from pink to reddish-brown, with purple or red streaks / lines / highlights.

African Rosewood works well, although it can have a moderate blunting effect on tools. It glues and finishes well. It needs to be dried slowly and carefully, to prevent warping and cracking. It’s a durable wood and is considered stable, once dried.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, decking, flooring, furniture, millwork, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
rosewood-african
Rosewood - East Indian

East Indian Rosewood can vary greatly in color. Although its base color is mostly always brown, the shades can range from golden brown to purplish or dark reddish brown. Secondary colors are often present. The wood’s colors will darken with continued UV exposure. East Indian Rosewood is generally less dense than most other rosewoods. Its grains are typically interlocked (although they can be irregular or straight), which can make it difficult to work. Care must be taken when finishing the wood, as it is not uncommon for the wood’s natural resins to impose if it is not first sealed. It has a medium texture.

Since the exportation ban on Brazilian Rosewood, more than twenty years ago, it has become a popular substitute with corporate guitar manufacturers (electric and acoustic, alike) — due in large part to its historically steady supply and relatively low cost (compared with other Dalbergia’s). By comparison to Brazilian Rosewood, its pores are smaller, but it is also a very durable wood that’s not overly susceptible to bug damage/infestation and it is considered stable after drying.

Don’t confuse this species with Sissoo (Dalbergia sissoo) which can also be referred to as¬† “Indian Rosewood” in certain locales. It is believed that Sonokeling: a true Dalbergia indigenous to Indonesia — where it is also known as “Jacaranda” is also Dalbergia latifolia, however tree farmers in Indonesia are not in agreement with this assessment. Our research into Indonesia and the cultivation of rosewood trees there revealed that back in the 1700’s, while the Indonesian islands were considered a colony of Holland, Dutch merchant colonists transplanted two major Dalbergia’s to Indonesia: Dalbergia Nigra (Brazilian Rosewood), from Brazil, and Dalbergia sissoo (Indian Rosewood), from India.¬† This could well be a botanical mystery worthy of further investigation for the detail oriented student of the Dalbergia genus.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, furniture, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
rosewood-east-indian
Rosewood - Madagascan

Madagascar Rosewood is a very popular wood with both acoustic and electric guitar luthiers (especially the former), as well as furniture craftsmen, despite being a wood that has been difficult to acquire in the US for the bulk of this new millennium. Depending on the specific species, heartwood colors can range anywhere from a pale yellowish-brown to orangish-red to deep burgundy to a chocolate brown, typically highlighted by bold black ink lines and secondary hues. Its straight grains and medium texture generally make for excellent working properties, despite its considerable hardness and density; its cuts, turns and finishes beautifully, with a nice natural luster.

The wood typically has a high natural oil content, which can make gluing challenging.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carving, flooring, furniture, inlay, specialty items, trim, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
rosewood-madagascan
Rosewood - Nicaraguan

Nicaraguan Rosewood — also known as Yucatan Rosewood, or Panama Rosewood — is the least dense, hard and heavy of all the Dalbergia species. Its heartwood can vary from a pale yellow-brown, to tan, to varying shades of brown (both light and dark); sapwood is pale yellow and clearly demarcated. Grains are generally straight, but can be wavy or interlocked; its texture ranges from fine to medium, with large, open pores. Its moderate luster is in keeping with its reputation of being aesthetically bland, although darker accents and occasional figuring are sometimes present.

Despite being significantly less stout than all of its true rosewood cousins, the wood is surprisingly durable. It is less oily, also, which adds up to some generally very cooperative working, turning, gluing and finishing properties.

Common Uses:
furniture, specialty items, turnings
Detail
Common Uses
rosewood-nicaraguan
Rosewood - Santos

There are actually two different types of wood which are known as Pau Ferro: the most common one is also known as Bolivian Rosewood, and Morado; the other one is significantly more dense (generally around 50% more), and is known also as Brazilian Ironwood and Brazilwood. The vast majority of what os made available in the US is former of the two — the less dense variety. The wood earned its “… Rosewood” nicknames (by which it is commonly known) because its colors and density are similar, which its medium brown base typically augmented by black streaks or grain lines, and sometimes even purple, tan and golden secondary hues, and sometimes a purplish tint, overall. Although it can have varying grains, straight-grained pieces are generally very easy to work, and the wood turns smoothly and finishes well. It is considered quite durable, although it can be subject to insect attack.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, flooring, furniture, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
rosewood-santos
Rosewood - Vietnamese

Siamese Rosewood, a.k.a. Vietnamese Rosewood, is one of the most dense, dimensionally stable rosewoods. The wood is derived from large evergreen trees which grow in open, semi-deciduous forests. It’s primary heartwood colors are typically confined to varying brown hues, although secondary colors of red, orange and yellows are commonly present. (Sap is a pale yellow, and easily distinguished.) Its pores are very small by rosewood standards; it sands smooth and finishes beautifully, with a wonderful natural luster. It is typically straight grained, although grains are occasionally interlocked. It is considered to be one of the most dense, stable and durable of all rosewoods.

Because of these properties, Siamese Rosewood has remained extremely popular with Chinese furniture builders — and which has also made it, for many years, a popular target for poachers. This has led to its current ‘near extinction’ status.

 

Wikipedia had this to say with regard to Dalbergia Cochichinensis: “Siamese rosewood is denser than water, fine grained, and high in oils and resins. These properties make the wood dimensionally stable, hard wearing, rot and insect resistant, and when new, highly fragrant. The density and toughness of the wood also allows furniture to be built without the use of glue and nails, but rather constructed from joinery and doweling alone. Unfortunately, it has been the demise of this species at the hands of regional neighbors, China, which has placed it on the verge of extinction and is its tragic modern legacy. The incredible demand for it in this new millennium was accelerated prior to the 2008 Olympic games, in Beijing, and continued with the new construction boom the country has experienced.

 

Common Uses:
specialty items, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
rosewood-vietnamese
Padauk - African

African Paduak is a very strong, stable hardwood. It is known for its typically robust reddish-brown coloration (which darkens with age), although colors can range from a bright orange to a slightly muted burgundy often with highlights, grain lines and/or secondary colors ranging from brick red to a more purplish muted hue. The wood can sometimes be found figured (ribbon; striped; etc.), and it is well known for its deep chatoyance and wonderful natural luster. Grains are typically straight, though sometimes interlocked.

The wood is considered very durable and also resistant to bug / insect / termite attack, which accordingly has seen it used in outdoor applications for centuries in its native Africa. Its working and finishing characteristics are decidedly favorable.

Common Uses:
flooring, furniture, handles, specialty items, trim, turnings, utility lumber, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
padauk-african
Panga Panga

Panga Panga is the first cousin to Africa’s more popular and well-known exotic, Wenge (with both trees being of the Millettia genus) — sharing a similar large pored, course texture, and presenting some of the same challenges when working. It is generally a bit lighter colored, with heartwood ranging from the lighter to darkers sides of medium brown, with dark brown to black streaks and/or highlighted grain lines. Darker examples can be easily confused with Wenge, and they have been known to turn almost black as they age.

Common Uses:
fine furniture, flooring, paneling, specialty items, trim, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
panga-panga
Pau Ferro

There are a few different types of wood which are known as Pau Ferro: the most common one is also known as Bolivian Rosewood, and Morado.  This one (also known as Pau Rosa), however, comes from Southern Africa.  It is hard and heavy, but can present itself with beautiful colors Рreds, oranges and yellows.

It turns and finishes well, but the grain is fairly porous.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, flooring, furniture, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
pau-ferro
Pau Marfim

Pau Marfim is a dense, fine textured, mostly straight grained hardwood which is generally a creamy white colorm but it can vary from a lemon color to a pale yellowish-brown, also. There is very little contrast between its sapwood and heartwood, although the heartwood can be decorated with darker streaks, occasionally. It is an extremely tough, durable wood, which has seen it utilized as a popular substitute for maple and birch and makes it an ideal choice for anything from flooring to tool handles.

The wood turns excellently, and it is easy to nail, crew or glue. It polishes to a smooth, fine finish, and is considered to be a very dimensionally stable wood.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, canoes, carving, flooring, furniture, handles, oars, paneling, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
pau-marfim
Pau Rosa

Pau Rosa is a very beautiful tropical wood. Depending on the specific region of the trees’ growth, colors can vary from a medium chocolate brown to an almost Padauk-like red or orange, or even a mixture of such colors which can also include yellows and purples (also like Padauk). It is a very dense wood, with grains which are typically wavy or interlocked, and moderately course. Despite its density, it is considered relatively easy to work and turns, glues and finishes well.

Drying the wood is a slow, burdenous process. Like many woods which are comparably hard, logs and boards have a tendency to crack while drying, although Pau Rosa is considered very durable and dimensionally stable, there after.

Common Uses:
carpentry, carving, furniture, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
pau-rosa
Sapele

Sapele is an economically-important wood to the continent of Africa, and one that continues to grow in popularity in other industries beyond veneer mills, here in the US. It is commonly used as a substitute for Genuine Mahogany — also belonging to the Meliaceae family — and it, too, is considered moderately durable and stable. Its color can range from a light golden brown to a darker reddish- or pinkish-brown. The color will darken as the wood ages. Sapale is renowned for its sometimes quite dramatic figuring, which comes in an array of different styles: ribbon, pommele, quilted, mottled, waterfall, wavy, beeswing, tiger-striped and fiddleback. It also possesses a beautiful natural luster.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, flooring, furniture, specialty items, turnings, utility lumber, veneer
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Common Uses
sapele
Makore

Makore is a beautiful African wood which is renowned for its great strength and durability, despite being of a moderate density. Its heartwood can range from pink to a light to medium reddish-brown, with its yellow sapwood be clearly discerible, when present. Figuring is not unusual, with striped, mottled and sometimes even beeswing being found in quartersawn boards. It is typically straight-grained and easy to work, although grain patterns can occasionally be wavy or interlocked. Although it can have a dulling effect on saw blades, its high silica content contributes to its fine natural luster and poses no real issues with gluing or finishing.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, flooring, furniture, specialty items, turnings, utility lumber, veneer
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Common Uses
makore
Maple - Ambrosia

Ambrosia Maple is a general term attached to a variety of Acer (true maple) species whose boards included colorful bug “trails” — caused by a fungus carried by the Ambrosia Beetle which penetrates the tree sap as the beetle eats into the tree, and it spreads both through the worm hole and up and down in the tree (carried along by the sap) and causes discoloring of the wood in streaks. The two primary species which draw the beetle’s attention are Acer rubrum (Red Maple) and Acer saccharum (Sugar Maple), although — with there reputedly being more than sixty different Acer species indigenous to North America — this unusual phenomenon is certainly not confined to just the two. Weight and density can vary greatly — depending upon the actual species — the typical varieties of maple figuring can also be present, often creating some very unique, visually spectacular specimens.

Like any other maple, it is easily worked; generally cooperative through all phases. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine — since bugs have, quite obviously, already penetrated the wood’s surface — that the wood is decidedly non-durable, although it is generally stable enough for use in furniture and guitars.  Its surface is typically darker than most sap maple (often featuring secondary / additional discolorations and other long streaks), although it retains the same high degree of natural luster.

The scientific explanation is that the impregnated Ambrosia Beetle burrows into the maple tree (presumably for a safe place to deposit larvae), carrying fungi on its feet into the wood — which serves as food for the insect’s offspring, when they hatch. The fungal residue left behind as it digs into the maple can cause discoloration throughout the wood, via the tree’s sap, in addition to the dramatically contrasting (mostly) blue and (sometimes) green trails which surround the small tunnels they chew. The beetles prefer wood that is not soaking wet, but that is in the beginning stages of drying. Once kiln dried, they will not re-infest.

Common Uses:
crafting, furniture, lutherie, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
maple-ambrosia
Maple - Birdseye

Birdseye Maple is another title which does not, necessarily, denote a specific Acer species — although the bulk of what is sold is Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) — but rather a unique figuring that occurs in maple as a result of numerous small- to medium-sized knots accumulating in the wood. It remains one of the most coveted and sought-after of all figured maple varieties.

Although it has never been scientifically proven, the prevailing school of thought is that the figuring is reportedly caused by unfavorable growing conditions. As the tree attempts to access more sunlight, buds begin to sprout in its trunk — to try and grow more branches, to access more light — but the tree lacks the requisite nutrients to support the growth and the new shoots are aborted, resulting in “birdseyes” (small knots) embedded in the tree’s wood.

There can be very large variances in birdseye size and content. Boards with larger concentrations of birdseyes are, obviously, more sought after and thus command greater prices than more sparsely decorated pieces. When sanded and finish-sanded, boards featuring somewhat larger birdseyes can have an almost 3D look — like brown bumps, sitting up on a light golden surface.

There have been tearout issues associated with birdseyes, as sometimes these tiny knots can wind up leaving tiny voids. There are also justified concerns that the tiny voids may occur sometime after the wood has been put into service. Because of this, some electric guitar luthiers shy away from using Birdseye Maple for fretboard wood, as slotting the frets can prove adventurous (if not downright painful:-)). Others, who do use it, will apply a finish coat of some type of protective lacquer over the fretboard when completing the neck.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, furniture, lutherie, specialty items, veneer
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Common Uses
maple-birdseye
Maple - Soft

The term “Soft Maple” is not a reference to any particular maples species, per se, but a segment of the Acer genus known for its lighter weight and density (as well as its propensity for displaying the classic maple “curl” figure). Of these lighter maples, Red Maple has the most weight and density, and is also the most prevalent — growing in areas scattered all over the Eastern US and up into (Eastern) Canada. As is the paradoxical case with all maples, its beautiful pale white / pale yellow / pale golden sapwood are more coveted than its darker heartwood.

Its more heavy, dense nature lends Red Maple to a greater variety of utility applications, versus its less substantial Soft Maple cousins. Its figuring can be quite dramatic; tiger-striped, veined, fiddleback and sometimes even quilt figuring are sometimes present.

Common Uses:
boxmaking, specialty items, turnings, utility lumber, veneer
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Common Uses
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Oak - Silky

Silky Oak is not a true Quercus-genus species, although it can exhibit a similar appearance; it is renowned for its dense “rays” and sometime flecked figuring. (Quartersawn pieces can be very dramatic.) It has a light to medium reddish-brown hue, with contrasting rays that are slightly darker can range anywhere from a muted brown to gray color. Despite being more durable than any American oak species, its draw is its aesthetic qualities. Because of its course texture — with quartersawn surfaces being littered with Lacewood-like flecks — Silky Oak can prove to difficult to plane. Once you’re passed that, it is generally easy to work, and glues and finishes well.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, fine furniture, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
oak-silky
Olive - Wild

For millenniums, Olivewood has remained a wood of great cultural and religious importance and significance, especially in the Middle East. The wood can, indeed, be exquisite in appearance: with its (typically) creamy, golden brown base, and darker streaks and highlights, often augmented by spectacular figuring and/or areas of magnificent burling.

Grain patterns are usually either straight or wild, although they can sometimes be interlocked, as well. Although opinions differ, Olivewood is thought by many to be a very durable wood, although it can be susceptible to insect / bug infestation. The wood is considered to be a superb turner, and it generally works, glues and finishes well. Because the fruit of the Olive tree is olives, there is a limited supply of Olivewood that is made available to the US.

For wood craftsmen of all niches, Olivewood is highly desired for its often spectacular aesthetics; being known for its gorgeous, often-twisting grain patterns and dramatic figuring. Defects are not uncommon, and can often present some challenges when working, but hard work and perseverance can produce extraordinary results; there’s really no other wood quite like it.

Found in the Mediterranean Basin — from Portugal to the Levant, and the Arabian Peninsula — and Southern Asia, as far east as China, the Olive tree grows as a small evergreen tree or shrub. It is also known to grow in the Canary Islands, Mauritius and Reunion. The species is / has been cultivated in many places; it’s considered “naturalized” in the Mediterranean coast countries, as well as in Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Java (Indonesia), Norfolk Island, (the U.S. state) California, and Bermuda.

Its trunk is generally twisted and/or gnarled, making long, defected free boards quite rare. When found, they command a premium price.

Common Uses:
carving, furniture, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
olive-wild
Osage Orange

Coming from South-central United States, Osage Orange’s heartwood begins as a bright yellow, but darkens with age…

Osage Orange is highly durable and it turns well, but with its high density and hardness it can be difficult to work with.

It has an Argentinian relation, Maclura tinctoria, which comes in larger sizes and with less knots than the US species.

Common Uses:
bows, fencing, specialty items, turnings
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Common Uses
osage-orange
Kingwood

Brazilian Kingwood is the second most-dense of the Dalbergia species (with African Blackwood being first). As is the case with many such woods of exceeding density, logs have a tendency to split from the center, outward, after being cut. Because of this, it is rare to find boards of any substantial size without defects; cracks and internal checks and tear-out are not uncommon. Grains are typically straight, though they can occasionally be wavy or interlocked. It has a fine, even texture and a high natural luster.

Its heartwood can vary from a muted orange- to reddish-brown, with dark brown or black thin stripes. Sapwood typically has a yellow tint and is commonly seen in boards.

Common Uses:
gun stocks, handles, inlay, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
kingwood
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