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  • Yellowwood is an even-grained, lightweight South African wood that has been used historically for hundreds of years, and a variety of purposes. It was extensively used in railway sleepers, as well as in multiple phases of construction. Its tough, durable nature saw it used as an exterior wood in the region. (It is still very popular throughout Southern Africa for indoor carpentry and floors, as it is also dimensionally stable.) The heartwood is pale yellowish brown, and not easy to distinguish from the sapwood; reddish streaks are sometimes present (in the heart). Grains are typically straight, though occasionally wavy; its texture is fine and consistent, with a nice natural luster.

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    Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is classified as a species of “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: The Podocarpus Latifolius tree is a slow-growing evergreen tree. It thrives in a moist forest environment, where it will reach maturity at approx. 100 feet. Conversely, trees grown in isolated, drier areas, tend to have their growth severely stunted.

    Yellowwood is a wood of cultural significance across Southern Africa; it is the national tree of South Africa. It was used extensively for the floors and ceilings in numerous older houses throughout South Africa. Its huge popularity and wide range of uses / applications has led it to become overharvested over portions of its natural habitat (on the verge of extinction in some areas); all species of the Podocarpus genus are protected from harvesting in South Africa.

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  • Wenge is unique among the world’s exotic woods. This tough tropical wood’s distinctive deep chocolate color — which can sometimes augmented by muted gold, orange, red or even burgundy tint — is actually known as “Wenge” in the color spectrum nomenclature of various parts of the world (with paint manufacturers, etc.). Its grains are generally straight (though sometimes wavy or irregular) and are accenuated by overlapping black lines which typically decorate the board’s surface.

    While being considered a strong, durable wood, Wenge’s course, rugged texture makes it very splintery — making some craftsmen hesitant to use it. It can be difficult to work, although is glues well and is considered a very dimensionally stable species.

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    Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices, but is listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: Flooring / parque flooring, paneling, veneer, musical instruments (in particular, guitar), furniture, cabinets, archery bows, walking canes, handles, ornaments, laminates and segmented woodturnings.

    Comments: Exercise caution when working with this wood. Its splinters can be like little razors and when one pentetrates the skin, it is quite painful and the area can quickly and easily get infected, if quick action isn’t taken to remove it (the splinter) and sterilize the area.

    Although most sources consider Wenge to be a dull wood with poor natural luster, our experience has revealed that a deep, glossy luster can sometimes emerge through fine-grit sanding of flatsawn boards. Its combination of relatively light weight, rot & insect resistance and impressive tensil strength has yielded the wood to a variety of indoor and outdoor uses, being particularly well suited for flooring in heavy traffic areas.

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  • Tulipwood is one of the most coveted and seldom-seen of all (Dalbergia genus) rosewood species. The trees are very small in stature, thus, obtaining long, wide boards is quite rare — and, when found undefective, sell at a premium. It is much more commonly found in smaller, craft-sized pieces. Finding any available boards in widths of 5″ or more is uncommon.

    Its heartwood is cream to salmon colored, highlighted by striping which can be any combination of red, violet, purple, pink and rose hues. The sapwood is pale yellow to a very pale yellowish white. Heartwood color gradually fades with continued UV ray exposure.

    Tulipwood is typically straight-grained, although grains can also be wavy or (infrequently) irregular. The wood has a high natural oil content and is quite dense, which makes working it an often-difficult prospect. Despite being rather grainy and pourous, it sands very smooth, revealing a pleasing natural luster.

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    Sustainability: This species is listed in CITES Appendix II, but not yet on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: Veneer, inlay work, marquetry, turnery, bandings, jewelry boxes, archery bows, pool cues, various musical instrument applications and small specialty items. Rarely (but occasionally) seen in furniture, also.

    Comments: There is some confusion surrounding this wood, as many have confused it with Tulip Poplar (which is indigenous to North America). It has also been misidentified as also originating from the Dalbergia Frutescens tree by many sources / authorities, after originally being miscategorized as a non-Dalbergia (“Physocalymma Scaberrima”).

    Finding any sizable boards is pretty rare in the US, especially ones without some sort of significant defect. Its supply is inconsistent, at best, due not only to the very small tree size, but also to a very limited natural range (exclusive to Northeastern Brazil).

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  • Genuine Teak is one of the world’s most well-known and coveted woods. Its heartwood is light-medium to medium brown, with a tint that can range from muted gold to a pale red. (Its color darkens as it ages.) Sapwood colors are a pale white, off-white or a pale yellowish brown. But it is the wood’s great toughness, rot resistance and durability — versus some rather bland aesthetics — which make it so popular.

    Its grains are typically straight (although sometimes wavy, or even interlocked) with a high natual oil content. This generally makes for favorable working characteristics, although the wood does possess a high silica content.

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    Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: Ship decking, boat building, veneer, flooring, furniture, exterior construction, docks, bridges, carvings, turnings, and other small wood objects.

    Comments: Despite an abundant supply — originating from both a wide natural range and a plethora of plantations scattered around the world — Teak remains in constant demand and, thus, has a rather stout price. (… in spite of being an unfigured wood noted for its generally forgettable aesthetic qualities.)

    Teak has always done well in aquatic environments — used in boats and ships, as well as docks, bridges and marinas — as it is resistant to shipworm: a wood-boring sea mollusk. Teak’s sawdust contains naturally occurring organic compounds (called “quinones”) that inhibit the growth of the fungi which cause wood rot.

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  • Black Stinkwood has long been popular for use in fine furniture building in South Africa (where it is indigenous), due to its fine, tight, typically straight grains and a resolute durability that is often compared to Teak. It’s heartwood color can vary from almost black to dark brown, to more medium brown tones with a reddish tint; the sap is easily distinguished by its contrasting pale yellow coloration. Despite its inherent density, Stinkwood possesses very cooperative working properties. It has beautiful finishing characteristics and a rich natural luster.

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    Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, although the species has been classified as a “Protected Tree” in South Africa.

    Common Uses: Fine furniture, cabinetry, doors, decorative trim and gun stocks.

    Comments: Despite its humorous name — given for the horrid smell the trees put off when first cut — Stinkwood has remained a tremendously popular wood with South African fine furniture craftsmen, cabinet makers and gunsmiths, alike.

    The bark of the Ocotea Bullata tree has medicinal properties which, combined with the immense popularity of the tree’s timber in South Africa, has led to the species being effectively extinct in a number of scattered areas throughout its (original) natural range; the bark stripping has fatal consequences for the tree.

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  • Engelmann Spruce is typically a high-altitude mountain evergreen tree, indigenous to the mountainous regions of western North America, with scattered, isolated distribution in surrounding lower-level areas. The wood is prized among many acoustic guitar luthiers, for its superior resonance and tonal response qualities when used as a soundboard (acoustic guitar top). Its color can range from a light off-white to cream.

    It is straight grained and has a fine, consistent texture, which makes it generally easy to work — although common-grade pieces may contain numerous small knots, and the wood can be difficult to stain. Its excellent stiffness-to-weight ratio has made it historically useful in a variety of construction and utility applications, benefited, also, by a virtually limitless domestic supply.

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    Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is reported by the IUCN as being “a species of least concern.”

    Common Uses: Acoustic guitar soundboards, harps, violins and pianos, construction lumber, sheathing, railroad ties, wood pulp / papermaking and also used in the Western US as Christmas trees.

    Comments: Although Engelmann Spruce is a fairly cheap, easily accessible lumber, clear instrument-grade, quartersawn billets can be very pricey — as small knots are quite common in the species, and such coveted clear pieces typically are derived from undisturbed specimens grown at higher altitudes.

    While Sitka Spruce remains a more heavily utilized wood for such acoustic guitar soundboard applications (being slightly stronger and heavier than Engelmann), there are a number of discriminating guitar builders who covet Engelmann. (By comparison, Sitka Spruce trees are far more massive in stature.) Due to this unique demand, premium-grade billets can command prices comparable with any of the most expensive domestic wood species.

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  • Sipo Mahogany (commonly referred to as either just “Sipo” or “Utile”) is an African wood that is considered to be the closest, aesthetically, to Genuine Mahogany (although not a true “Swietenia”). It’s interlocked grains are akin to other African woods and generally produce a characteristic contrasting light-dark / two-toned sort of appearance, when quartersawn — which can be visually stunning in the case of more chatoyant boards. The fact that the wood is considerably easier to work, with less tearout, than African Mahogany and possesses a hardness that places Sipo between it (African Mahogany) and Genuine Mahogany has seen it transcend from relative obscurity to become a quite popular and highly regarded “mahogany substitute” wood, presently.

    Aesthetically, the wood is similar, also, to its African first cousin, Sapele (with both being species of the Entandrophragma genus) — although Sipo is more pourous, and has richer color.

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    Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices, but is categorized as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: Furniture, cabinetry, turned objects, veneers, musical instruments, boatbuilding, and carving.

    Comments: Sipo makes a really great mahogany substitute, with nice color and stunning aesthetics, when quartersawn. Like many such woods, it can become discolored when left in contact with iron and other metals. When combined with its very modest price range, its continually growing popularity as such (mahogany substitute) is easy to understand.

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  • East Indian (or Ceylon Satinwood) Satinwood is a truly exquisite tropical hardwood. Its heartwood ranges from light to medium golden yellow, typically. Sapwood generally is white / off white and paler than the heartwood, though not always clearly demarcated. Premium-grade examples can be seen with a mottled or rippled grain pattern — resembling ripples in satin fabric, and, thus, lending to its name “Satinwood;” such examples may possess a chatoyance ranging from subtle to the dramatic.

    Grains can be straight, but are more typically interlocked. Although — due to its density, hardness and generally interlocked grains — it can be difficult to work, it turns, glues and finishes superbly; featuring a smooth, luxurious texture and a shimmering natural luster.

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    Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices, but categorized as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: Veneer, fine furniture, inlay, musical instruments, turned objects, and small specialty wood items.

    Comments: In comparison with other exotic woods, Ceylon Satinwood has remained in short supply to the US market. Its exportation from the region remains restricted. That said, this is actually of little concern to the tree farmers of East India, as the wood is highly coveted throughout the Indian Plate portion of Southern Asia.

    Finding long boards of it can be most difficult; pieces of craft-sized dimensions are more commonly found in the US. Other than the supply issue, a root cause for this is the fact that trees reach full maturity at a height of only 40 to 50 feet, with miniscule trunk diameters of just 1 to 1-1/2 feet. Long boards are always in short supply and sell at a premium, when found.

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  • The Sassafras genus is renowned for and distinguished by its aromatic properties. Its typically straight grains and coarse texture bear patterns which resemble Ash; and its generally tan to light brown coloration makes its appearance easy to mistake it as such, though sometimes tints ranging from pale orange to olive green can be present. Despite its relatively light dried weight (31 lbs/ft3 / 495 kg/m3), once dry it is considered to be dimensionally stable, with excellent durability and easy working properties.

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    Sustainability: Not currently listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: Furniture, utility lumber, boatbuilding and turnings.

    Comments: Given the trees’ small profile, Sassafras is better known for the oil derived from its root bark and fruit than for the lumber it yields. Since never viewed as a commercially viable timber — despite being indigenous to the US — boards and even craft- and turning-sized pieces are not that commonly offered here.

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  • Saligna is scattered across South Africa, but originally comes from Australia.  It is difficult to dry, and the local wood not very durable, but it is easy to machine and finish and it is fairly well priced.

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    Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common uses: Used a lot for utility purposes such as school desks, laboratory counters, benches. Also used for flooring.

    Comments: A well priced timber species.

     

     

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  • Siamese Rosewood, a.k.a. Vietnamese Rosewood, is one of the most dense, dimensionally stable rosewoods. The wood is derived from large evergreen trees which grow in open, semi-deciduous forests. It’s primary heartwood colors are typically confined to varying brown hues, although secondary colors of red, orange and yellows are commonly present. (Sap is a pale yellow, and easily distinguished.) Its pores are very small by rosewood standards; it sands smooth and finishes beautifully, with a wonderful natural luster. It is typically straight grained, although grains are occasionally interlocked. It is considered to be one of the most dense, stable and durable of all rosewoods.

    Because of these properties, Siamese Rosewood has remained extremely popular with Chinese furniture builders — and which has also made it, for many years, a popular target for poachers. This has led to its current ‘near extinction’ status.

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    Sustainability: This species is listed in CITES Appendix II, and is categorized as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species; part of the Dalbergia -genus worldwide exportation ban.

    Common Uses: Veneer; fine furniture; carvings; musical instruments; cabinetry and other interior applications; turning; small specialty items.

    Comments: Wikipedia had this to say with regard to Dalbergia Cochichinensis:

    “Siamese rosewood is denser than water, fine grained, and high in oils and resins. These properties make the wood dimensionally stable, hard wearing, rot and insect resistant, and when new, highly fragrant. The density and toughness of the wood also allows furniture to be built without the use of glue and nails, but rather constructed from jointery and doweling alone.”

    Unfortunately, it has been the demise of this species at the hands of regional neighbors, China, which has placed it on the verge of extinction and is its tragic modern legacy. The incredible demand for it in this new millennium was accelerated prior to the 2008 Olympic games, in Beijing, and continued with the new construction boom the country has experienced.

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  • There are actually two different types of wood which are known as Pau Ferro: the most common one is also known as Bolivian Rosewood, and Morado; the other one is significantly more dense (generally around 50% more), and is known also as Brazilian Ironwood and Brazilwood. The vast majority of what os made available in the US is former of the two — the less dense variety. The wood earned its “… Rosewood” nicknames (by which it is commonly known) because its colors and density are similar, which its medium brown base typically augmented by black streaks or grain lines, and sometimes even purple, tan and golden secondary hues, and sometimes a purplish tint, overall. Although it can have varying grains, straight-grained pieces are generally very easy to work, and the wood turns smoothly and finishes well. It is considered quite durable, although it can be subject to insect attack.

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    Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: Veneer, musical instruments (in particular, guitars — both electric and acoustic), furniture, cabinetry, flooring, interior trim, turnings, and other small specialty wood objects.

    Comments: Pau Ferro is a popular Brazilian Rosewood substitute and is thought to be about as similar in properties to rosewood as any non-Dalbergia-genus species possibly could be. Its grains are tighter than a typical rosewood specimen, and it is thought to have a more distinctly percussive taptone than that of Brazilian. It’s tonal response is said to have tight lows, present mids and a clear, singing high end response.

    Despite the comparisons, it should be noted that the (much more prevalent) Machaerium-genus species of Pau Ferro has less density, hardness and weight than an average rosewood.

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