Black Willow

However, due to the commercial scarcity of some woods, resorting to auction sites such as Ebay or Etsy may be the only way to obtain some desirable domestic, or in some cases exotic imported, species that are not routinely commercially harvested.  The potential risks of buying in these marketplaces have to be balanced against the desire to work with a specific species of wood.  That is inherently an individual decision.

I also realize that many, if not most, wood workers do not have endangered species lists memorized, therefore I think it worthwhile and important to do even a small amount of research before purchasing any lumber, domestic as well as imported, to be certain of the potential impact you are having, even in a small way, on threatened or endangered populations.  This information is easy to come by and takes only minutes to locate through any Internet search engine, including those you can access on your phone as you are standing in the lumber yard or store.  Unfortunately, you simply cannot count on a vendor to tell you a product they are selling is endangered.

Health Hazards:

Aside from the standard health risks associated with any type of wood dust, there have been very few adverse health effects associated with the actual wood of willow (Salix genus), however, the bark and other parts of the tree have been reported as sensitizers. The most common reactions include skin and respiratory irritation.

It is important to remember that although many people may, or may not, be sensitive to any given wood, the only experience that truly counts is your own, so use reported side effects as guidance but not as a substitute for cautious and safe practices.

Appropriate protective equipment is therefore always recommended when working with this, or any other, wood, exotic or domestic, unless you have worked with the species before and are certain you are not sensitive to it.

Complete information about health hazards associated with a wide variety of exotic hardwoods is available from The Wood Database.  Additional information about how to best use a dust collection system and personal protective equipment, such as respirators, can also be found through this excellent and comprehensive resource.

Fortunately, I experienced no significant difficulties while working with Black Willow.

My Personal Experiences:

I’d never worked with Willow of any type before and I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  It was obvious from the first steps that the Black Willow wood was very soft and as I would have predicted the Black Willow did not cut cleanly as is often the case with very soft woods.  By using a Robert Sorby fingernail bowl gouge I was able to get rid of the worst of the tear out but the piece still required some careful sanding.

Willow 6.5 x 2

The color of the Black Willow was rather plain darkish brown but there is a slight degree of chatoyance and some interesting “eyes” vaguely reminiscent of bird’s eye figure in Maple.

I don’t think I would be in a big hurry to work with Black Willow again but I am glad I had the experience of working with something new.

All major cuts were made using the Easy Wood Tool system on my Robust American Beauty lathe, although I do use Robert Sorby bowl gouges for light final passes before sanding.  Forward chucking was in a Nova Chuck, while reverse chucking was done using a Nova Chuck with Cole Jaws.  Sanding was with Gold and Green Wave sanding discs from Packard Woodworks.  Final finish is Odie’s Wood Wax.