Maple Burl

I had a piece of wood that I had marked as “maple burl,” which I had obtained at some now unknown time and place. The wood was obviously also spalted which added to the interest of the uncut piece. The spalting became more pronounced and evident once it was cut to round on the band saw. Other than the spalting, the piece suffered from none of the irregularities or weaknesses often found in burl wood or spalted material. Perhaps the innate strength of maple served it well to prevent these common problems in these otherwise often stunning but problematic pieces of wood material.2014-09-13 14.42.43 Continue reading

I have no idea what wood this bowl is turned from, but I do know that it was part of a large cache of wood purchased from a local woodturner who was retiring and selling all of his shop equipment and wood.  He had an eclectic collection, with some very fine, rare and expensive pieces, along with, frankly, a great deal of junk!  I suspect that this piece falls closer to the junk category, but I could be very wrong.  It was not prepared well for drying and the checks were obvious on the surface.  I would find out that the checks penetrated completely through the piece.  There was also considerable insect damage, particularly on one end of the unturned piece.2014-09-01 15.45.43

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Iroko is a wood from tropical western and central Africa which resembles teak in appearance and durability.  It is sometimes used, therefore, as a teak substitute due to its lower prices and non-endangered status.

Geographical Distribution

Iroko is scientifically known as Milicia excels or Milicia regia.  Some sources may also refer to it as Chlorophora excels or C. regia although these genus and species identifications have been replaced in most circles.  The wood originates in the tropical coastal regions of western and central west Africa.

General Characteristics

Iroko heartwood varies from yellow to a more golden or medium brown.  The color tends to darken over time as is common with many tropical hardwoods.  If this is of concern to you when you are working with Iroko, you should become familiar with some of the various ways that color change can be slowed or prevented in hardwoods such as Iroko.

Iroko has a medium to coarse texture, with open pores and an interlocked grain.  The endgrain is diffuse and porous.

Iroko is very durable, and is resistant to both rot and insect attack.  Because of its durability and also due to its appearance, Iroko is sometimes used as a Teak substitute and may be refered to by some as African Teak, although Iroko is not remotely related to the actual Teak wood tree. Continue reading

Origins of the Material

About two years ago or so, a long time wood turner in my local area retired as he was over 80 and wasn’t working much anymore.  Over the years, he had acquired a sizable collection of different turning woods along with some lumber since he also made furniture from exotics as well as more locally sourced woods.  He was always on the lookout for something unique or different and he never felt that it was necessary for a piece of wood to be “perfect” for it to be an interesting piece to turn.  Once he decided to retire he held an auction to sell off his stocks of wood and equipment.  I was originally interested more in the very fine rack system he had for storing wood, but purchasing that system meant purchasing the wood that was on it as well.  I figured that between my son, who is also a wood turner, and I, we could find a way to use what amounted to quite a lot of turning wood of many different species, types, and qualities.  Among some of the most notable pieces is a log piece of African Blackwood with the tan sapwood intact, some planks of Australian Desert Rosewood, and many more pieces that are of unknown origin and unknown quality.

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At some time in the past, I purchased a selection of Australian wood pen blanks and when selecting wood for a rather large production run of stylus pens (for use with electronic touch-screen devices) I decided to use some of them.  I made my own notes as I worked and I am glad I did since these woods seem to be quite mysterious and there is a decided lack of content about them available.  This could be because the woods are rare, although given the pricing I doubt this, or it could more likely be that they are not commonly used for wood working applications, at least not in the United States.  It is also possible that the common names used when selling are not those that are truly common in the areas of origin.  Regardless, I will discuss what I can and hope that others will have experience to share.

Box Cedar

Cedar is a very common name applied to woods across several species.  Genus level representatives include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following: Calocedrus, Cedrela , Cedrus, Chamaecyparis, Cryptomeria, Cupressus, Juniperus, Melia, Thuja, and Toona.  There are least one species in each of these genus categories that is commonly known as a type of Cedar, and in some cases, there are multiple species within a genus listed here.  This gives some sense of the multiple possibilities of accurate identification when confronted with the common name of “cedar.”  The appellation “box” contributed nothing aside from a reference to “Cigar-Box Cedar” which is Spanish in origin and unlikely to be the wood I worked with since it was listed as an Australian wood.  The only “cedar” native to Australia is Toona ciliate and I have to guess that this is the wood I worked with.

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Geographical Distribution

The wood I know as Red River Gum is scientifically known as Eucalyptus camaldulensis.  As many readers will guess, the tree from which the wood is harvested is a native of Australia.  This species of Eucalyptus  a familiar and iconic tree (it leaves have appeared on Australian stamps) seen along many watercourses, including dry river beds which retain adequate underground water for growth, right across inland Australia.  The tree produces welcome shade in the extreme temperatures of central Australia, and plays an important role in stabilizing river banks.

While native to Australia, the tree has been exported for growth, literally, around the world and it is the most widely planted Eucalyptus species in the world.  As of 1980, plantations of Red River Gum were known to exist in all of the following nations and US States: Argentina, Arizona, Brazil, Burkina Faso, California, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Uruguay, and Zimbabwe.

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I undertook a major project to make bottle stoppers using TruStone material, which I have written about in the past.  This post is simply the photo of the finished stopper tops arranged in a baking tray.  The finished pieces are about the size of chicken eggs and make a very colorful display!