My first reaction on looking at the four of them together is the urge to say: “Would the real Quina please stand up!”
I understand that Quina is highly variable in the appearance of the heartwood but this set of four, all sold to me as Quina by West Penn Hardwoods, whose labelling I completely trust, stretched my expectations of variability in one species of wood. The smallest bowl is mostly reddish brown with lots of streaking and figure. The next two are distinctly pink AND they had the tell-tale scent of sandalwood or balsam for which this wood is famous, so I didn’t doubt their identification. The largest bowl is a russet reddish brown with lots of figure and open pores. Honestly, I don’t know what to think. I am just about positive that the two pinkish bowls are without questions Quina based on color and fragrance, and make no mistake, fragrance can be a very valuable tool in identifying an unknown wood.
As for the other two which did not have a fragrance, I am uncertain. I had another blank labelled Queenwood on one side and Quina on the top. I am quite reasonably certain that it was Queenwood since I distinctly remember ordering it from West Penn Hardwoods as well, but these two oddballs don’t match up with Queenwood either. I have chosen to say that they are variations on the theme of Quina while recognizing that they may well be something else entirely. I do have a fair amount of “mystery wood” where labels have fallen off or been obscured through other means and it is rare that I will make a positive identification in those cases.
That said, the beauty and craft of a bowl isn’t determined in the slightest by the specific name of the wood. Having recently begun selling bowls at a local gallery, I have been quick to realize that people buy what they like; they won’t pay more because a wood is rare or exotic, as if they would know one wood from another in terms of retail value. Choosing to work with exotic woods should be because you like the experience, the appearance, and the adventure of working with ever changing wood varieties, at least until you develop favorites (mine at the moment being Black Mesquite and Camphor), not because there is any more inherent value in a Pink Ivory blank versus a Hickory blank even the price tags for the lumber will be quite different.
So, I present these four bowls to the world, certain that two are technically Quina while the other two, whatever they actually may be, are in the end the more attractive in appearance despite their unknown identity. If anyone has guesses as to what the other species might be, please do not hesitate to let me know what you think.