What’s In a Name

Once again I will reference two small pen blank sized pieces of wood purchased some time ago from Woodcraft that were part of a set of 32 pieces, comprising 16 different types, of African woods. Included in the set were two pieces of a wood I had certainly never heard of, Weeping Boer Bean. Turns out that Weeping Boer Bean is one of the common names for the tree botanically known as Schotia brachypetala. Two other common names are Tree fuchsia and African walnut. And it is with that second common name that the potential for confusion and mis-identification creeps in. Wood workers are more likely to use the common term African Walnut to refer to the tree and wood botanically known as Lovoa trichilioides which is native to western Africa whereas the Weeping Boer Bean, as the name implies, is a native of southern Africa. Neither tree, by the way, is in any way related to the true walnut trees of the various species within the Juglans genus.

Weeping Boer Bean Stylus Pens
Weeping Boer Bean Stylus Pens

Continue reading

What’s In a Name?

Some years ago, as I have mentioned several times already, I purchased a set of pen blanks marketed by Woodcraft as “African Pen Blanks.” There were 32 pieces of 16 different types of wood. Two of them were labelled as “African Mahogany.” Most everyone, especially woodworkers, have heard of “Mahogany” but I doubt that most are aware of the full complexity associated with that term, its “true” meaning and its many misuses and abuses, depending, I suppose, on your perspective. I have seen and worked with the “real deal” as I was once fortunate enough to own a home constructed in the late 1920s that still had the original floor and crown moldings, as well as window frames, that in at least some rooms, was all solid genuine Mahogany from a time when the wood was common, high-end, yes, but commonly available, completely unlike today.

African Mahogany Stylus Pens
African Mahogany Stylus Pens

Continue reading

Naming Conventions and Controversy

A few years ago I bought a set of pen blanks that were marketing by Woodcraft as being “African Pen Blanks” and since I have had a lifelong interest in Africa and all things African, this appealed to me. Included in the set of 32 pieces were two pieces labeled as “Nigerian Satinwood.” It was only years later, having used the blanks to make a custom order of stylus pens for Christmas gifts, that I researched the wood and discovered some interesting controversy surrounding its naming.

What was sold to me as “Nigerian Satinwood” is more commonly known among woodworkers as Movingui and it is that name that I will use from here forward. Of course, the tree from which this wood is harvested has a much different scientific name; in this case it is Distemonanthus benthamianus.

Movingui Stylus Pens
Movingui Stylus Pens

Continue reading

Geographical Distribution

Makore is the common name for the wood harvested from the tree scientifically known as Tieghemella heckelii. The closely related T. africana is also sometimes sold interchangeable with T. heckelii as Makore so short of a DNA analysis there really is no certain way to know which species you have when purchasing from a hardwood vendor. It is also possible that either species will be referred to, and potentially sold as Maku or Cherry Mahogany, despite there being no relationship between either of these two species and true Cherry wood or true Mahogany. Fortunately, there is little to any difference in the characteristics of the two species that are relevant to woodworkers.

Makore Stylus Pens
Makore Stylus Pens

Continue reading

Geographical Distribution

Lilac belongs to the genus Syringa, and it was as “Syringa” that my small pieces of this wood were marketed to me as part of a set of Australian woods. I’m not certain why Syringa was considered an Australian wood as the 12 currently recognized species are native to Europe and Asia, but certainly not Australia. Syringa, as the widely recognized Lilac bush, is now widespread across the globe, having become naturalized in some places, including New Hampshire where it is the state flower. My pieces may, therefore, very well have originated in Australia for Lilac certainly grows there.

Lilac Stylus Pens
Lilac Stylus Pens

Continue reading

Geographical Distribution

Avodire wood is harvested from a tree scientifically known as Turraeanthus africana. As the name implies, the tree is native to Africa, specifically to a wide range of territory spanning the following nations: Angola, Benin, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Uganda. The tree is particularly fond of the banks of rivers and lakes, and is most commonly associated with the eastern rainforests of Côte d’Ivoire. The tree can reach impressive heights of over 100 feet with trunk diameters ranging from 2 to 3 feet. As is common for tropical woods, Avodire has multiple common names, derived from local languages as well as European common names that are descriptive of the woods color and character. These names can include, but are not necessarily limited to: Avodire, apeya, engan, agbe, lusamba, wansenwa, African Satinwood, and African White Mahogany.

Avodire Stylus Pens
Avodire Stylus Pens

Continue reading

Geographical Distribution

I had purchased a selection of pen blanks packaged together and two of those pieces were labeled as “Jacaranda.” I didn’t think much of it, turned the blanks and made notes to come back to later. In researching “Jacaranda” I have uncovered one of the more confusing uses of wood-related terms I have yet discovered.

Jacaranda Stylus Pens
Jacaranda Stylus Pens

Jacaranda is believed to derive from the Guarani-Tupi languages of western Brazil, western Bolivia, and Paraguay, perhaps as far south even as Uruguay. The word meant something like “a wood that is dark.” The word was more or less adopted by the Portuguese in Brazil and applied to several woods.

Continue reading