Here is a collection of photos and descriptions of many of the woods that I work with. I like to think of trees as living things with personalities and have included notes about what it's like to work with several of these woods to offer some additional insight into their character beyond just how their finished surfaces look.
Some of these woods are very easy to work with and some are more challenging. Some have a uniform almost featureless appearance of smooth color while others have lines, streaks, swirls, and highly contrasting grain patterns. Some are dramatic and some are simply elegant. All of them are beautiful and all of them are my favorites.
This page is a work-in-process and photos and descriptions of new woods will be added over time. I am also slowly adding images of examples of pieces made with the different woods. These images appear when you move your mouse over the pictures that have white borders.
A few items made from African Blackwood
The left image shows a very dark example of African blackwood. Subtle shades of brown are visible in the blackwood shaft in the middle image and dark brown grain patterns show clearly in the ring in the right image.African Blackwood Good quality African blackwood is absolutely exquisite. This wood is best known for making woodwind instruments because of its hardness, stability, and good tonal qualities (think of clarinets, oboes, and bagpipe drones and chanters). It is a joy to work with and looks lovely in flowing shapes and shows fine decorative cuts well. The color can vary and I have worked with different pieces that have ranged from deep black, almost indistinguishable from Gabon ebony, to deep dark purple, to deep dark brown. African blackwood dries very slowly and I often have to repeatedly unclog the small drill I use when making the holes for the pins we use to attach the beads.
Some pieces made using Bloodwood
The left image shows a bloodwood stick made using simple flowing lines. The middle image is one of the Wicked series of hairsticks I've made where I scorched the rim of the platform. On the right, I also lightly scorched the length of the shaft.Bloodwood Bloodwood has a very deep and rich dark red color with a very even grain pattern. It cuts cleanly and sands easily to a smooth surface. This wood can look very striking when thin edges are scorched, turning them rich dark brown, almost black. When it's heated, bloodwood gives off a wonderful smell that reminds me of cooking apples. I have wondered what it would be like to use bloodwood to grill food on but it's way too precious for that.
- Bocote Bocote has a very pretty complex grain pattern of fine light green/brown and darker brown lines that sometimes swirl around tiny knots. The wood produces very fine almost dusty shavings. You have to be careful to not catch and pull bits of the grain and looking at the direction of the grain can help when cutting long gentle tapers. The wood is moderately soft, which makes cutting or sanding away small issues easy provided you haven't cut too close to the final profile.
Dark, rich, and complex Burmese Blackwood grain patterns
The hair stick on the left shows off Burmese blackwood by itself while the other two images show how well it works as the foundation of designs incorporating glass and other woods.Burmese Blackwood Burmese blackwood has a dark complex grain pattern that looks like swirls of dark green and black mixing together. It is quite hard but cuts cleanly and sands well to a very smooth surface. The color makes me think of dark swirling river water from the forests where this tree grows in Southeast Asia.
Some of Cocobolo's colors
The hair stick on the left shows a piece of cocobolo with a rich orange-brown color. The middle shawl pin and ring have much darker and complex brown colors. Once in a while I am lucky enough to find pieces of cocobolo that have sapwood inclusions that I can incorporate into designs like the shawl pin on the right.Cocobolo Cocobolo is very hard and strong. It shows an incredible variety of dark orange, red, purple, and dark brown colors and grain patterns. Its sapwood is cream color and can make a very nice accent against the darker heartwood. The most-used tool in my shop is my dust collector and I bought it when I started working with cocobolo. Cocobolo dust has a sharp irritating smell and people can develop a severe allergic reaction to it. The dust aside, the wood is absolutely gorgeous and wonderful to work with. I like to use hard wax on some of my cocobolo pieces, which I apply while the piece is spinning on the lathe and rub in with a soft cloth. As the wax melts into the surface, the wood darkens and takes on a deep shine. It's almost magical to see this line of deep color move across a piece under the cloth.
- Dot or Dalmation Ebony Dot ebony is a variant of black and white ebony with a wild figure that occurs very rarely in the center of the trees and is hard to find in large sizes. I have a few pieces that I like to use in Victorian-inspired mysterious and whimsical designs.
A few pieces made with European Pear
I bleached the cut beads in the dark European pear shaft on the left to provide a contrast against the darker color of the unbleached wood. The shaft of the broom in the middle photo is made of dark European pear. The shaft of the hair stick on the right is bleached light European pear, which is much lighter and much less yellow that the bleached darker variety. While I am looking for another supply of light European pear, this sort of design works well with other white woods like some varieties of maple.European Pear I have had shades of European pear in lighter and darker cream colors. (Unfortunately, I am out of the light color wood at the moment.) The photo shows a piece that is typical of the darker shades I have. I bleached half of the stick to show how it can become a beautiful creamy color that can provide a striking platform for our glass and wood tops. European pear is a softer wood that cuts easily and cleanly and is a real pleasure to work with.
Working with Gabon Ebony
I had a hard time selecting only a few photos to show here. The left shot shows a Gabon ebony shaft supporting a black heart wrapped in a line of red glass. The other two photos are full shots of two other hair sticks that show how nice the wood looks in different shapes. The last photo shows me holding a handful of "chocolate" shavings.Gabon Ebony Dark black Gabon ebony is dramatic, beautiful, and very hard, as witnessed by its being the material of choice to make stringed instrument fret boards, bridges, and tuning pegs. Many tropical woods are shipped entirely encased in wax to prevent the wood from splitting by drying too rapidly. Once I had been working with several pieces of kiln dried ebony that produced very dry, almost dusty shavings. I then grabbed a large piece of naturally dried ebony, scraped the wax off, and sawed out some turning squares. When my gouge touched the wood, instead of dry bits, off came wide soft flakes. I was amazed to find as I worked that it felt and looked for all the world like I was turning a very hard very dark bar of chocolate. When I was done I had made a wonderful piece and had a big pile of fluffy dark chocolate colored flakes in front of me. Wet woods are always easier and usually more pleasant to turn than fully dry woods, but the difference in the characteristics of dry and wet Gabon ebony is amazing.
- Kingwood Maybe I'm letting myself be too influenced by the name, but I do think of kingwood as being sort of regal. It has a gorgeous almost purple color with a fine dark grain pattern. The wood is hard but not so hard as to make it challenging to cut. It is a pleasure to work with and looks wonderful.
Some pieces made using Macassar Ebony
These photos show both very dark and lighter shades of Macassar ebony.Macassar Ebony Macassar ebony looks almost like milk chocolate swirled with dark chocolate stripes. It cuts and sands very easily to a beautiful smooth finish. It looks very nice in designs that show off the different colors.
A few examples of pieces made using Maple
Here are a few pieces made using some of the different kinds of maple. Even in the static photo on the left, you can clearly see the curly grain pattern in the shaft. When you hold this kind of wood in your hand and move it in the light, the grain shows a shimmering effect.Maple The word "maple" refers to the acer genus of trees, of which there are 125 identified species worldwide and 13 native to North America. The thing that all these trees have in common is sharp points on the leaves. (The word "acer" is Latin for "sharp".) Depending on the species, where in the tree the wood came from, and the growing conditions and mineral content of the soil, the wood can be soft or hard, light or dark, almost featureless or with pronounced grain patterns. I have shown three examples of curly maple where the grain has formed more and less visible up and down wavy patterns. You never know when you might run into a treasure and I found some beautiful maple when I was splitting firewood and ran into some pieces that just didn't want to split. Because the curly grain runs every which way, you have to cut it with sharp tools and may need to sand a bit to remove any remnants of disturbed grain.
Some pieces made from Marblewood
These photos show some examples of how I've tried to incorporate marblewood's dramatic grain pattern into the overall design of our pieces. On the left, I was able to get the alignment of the dark grain pattern and the stem of the flower to work on both sides of the bead.Marblewood Marblewood's grain pattern practically demands to be worked into the overall composition of a piece. It is fairly hard and machines well. Marblewood is one of those woods that look quite different before and after finish is applied. Finish brightens the grain color but at the same time the very light background foundation color darkens significantly.
- Padauk Padauk calls attention to itself because of its intense reddish orange color. It can be temperamental and splinter if not cut with very sharp tools. Even when the surface isn't torn up, the grain can be disrupted by a careless cut so it's important to inspect the surface carefully when sanding.
Some pieces made from Pink Ivory
Pink ivory's elegant color makes it quite versatile in design compositions. These images show a few of its uses, ranging from being the focal point of a design through being the primary material that a piece is made of.Pink Ivory Pink ivory is very beautiful and quite strong. The color variation in the grain pattern can be quite subtle and you may have to look closely to see that the grain sometimes runs in different directions. Sometimes the wood is extremely hard, to the point of being almost brittle, while at the same time being quite springy and flexible. When you have a piece like this, you have to be very careful to avoid chatter and vibration when cutting long thin shapes and if your cutting tool isn't very sharp or if it catches even slightly on a bit of grain, the surface of the wood will be rough or can even fracture. That said, I also sometimes find pink ivory that cuts cleanly and smoothly and is a joy to work with. Wood like that makes me very happy.
- Purpleheart Purpleheart can range from a dark pastel purple to slightly pinkish to almost gray. It machines well and looks beautiful when finished.
Some pieces using Rosewood
The hair stick shaft on the left, the pin in the center, and the pin and ring on the right are Rosewood. The fine detail in the center image worked out well because rosewood is so hard.Rosewood I have several kinds of rosewood. They are all dense and hard and have striking brown and colored grain patterns. Many of the very hard woods I use sound musical when clinked together and I have a fair amount of rosewood that came from an old factory that made xylophones and marimbas. Rosewood cuts well on the lathe and sands easily to a nice polished surface.
A few pieces made from Tulipwood
These photos show some of the ways of incorporating the contrasting grain pattern of tulipwood into designs. The bumps on the shaft in the left photo show off oval grain patterns. The center photo shows how the flowing line of contrasting grain nicely complements the flowing line of the shaft. The colorful grain also shows well in the shawl pin and ring on the right.Tulipwood Tulipwood shows beautiful long pink lines and is quite hard and strong. It cuts well with sharp tools but can sometimes catch slightly when you are roughing out a piece where there are small knots. These small disruptions to the linear flow of the grain pattern give the wood additional character and often look very nice in the finished piece.
- Unknown 1 Many exotic woods are covered in a layer of wax that obscures the color and grain pattern and I occasionally find that the wood is mislabeled after getting it home and cutting into it. This wood had been labeled "Satine" but satine is a synonym for bloodwood, which this is certainly not. I am not sure what species this wood is, but it has a very rich and pretty brown color and grain pattern. It is of medium density and hardness and machines and finishes well and looks great.
Examples of work with Wenge
Only the top of the piece on the left has been bleached, leaving the shaft to darken when finish was applied. The middle image shows how the side grain appears as very fine light and dark layers. I made two rings for the shawl pin on the right, one showing face grain and the other side grain. The ring in the photo is the one showing face grain with the different colored layers exposed by the curved shape of the ring.Wenge Before finish is applied, wenge has a striking grain pattern of closely spaced light and dark layers. When finished conventionally, it shows a rich chocolate brown color but loses the contrast between the layers. After some experimenting, I found a bleach that lightens the grain so that after finishing, the wood looks almost identical to what it looks like without finish. One half of the piece in the photo has been bleached so you can see the juxtaposition of the colors of the unbleached and bleached wood. Wenge is a very dry and splintery wood that I have found cuts much more cleanly with a skew chisel than with a gouge and with the lathe running at very high speed. Wenge is unforgiving if you approach a cut from the wrong angle and it is temperamental and can split out badly if you cut it in a way that leaves the fibers on the surface unsupported.
A few of the places we've used Yellowheart
The 3 carved yellowheart tops are set on Gabon ebony shafts. I have made several broomsticks using yellowheart as the broom bristles and various woods as the stick. The "broom" is bound with sterling silver wire.Yellowheart Yellowheart is moderately hard, has an even tight grain, machines easily, and has a striking bright yellow color with slight darker hints that show up when finish is applied. Yellowheart shows carved detail very well.So far, we've used this wood only in combination with other woods as an accent.
Showing off Zebrawood's distinctive grain
These images show a couple of the ways I've incorporated zebrawood's grain pattern into designs. The grain in shawl pin on the right provides a particularly nice accent to the wenge teardrop shape top.Zebrawood Zebrawood has a contrasting dark and light grain pattern that creates stripes along the direction of growth of the tree. It is moderately hard and is easy to work and finish.
- Ziricote The ziricote I have has a slightly greenish gray color with a close even grain. Ziricote is moderately hard and cuts and carves easily into decorative shapes provided your tools are very sharp.