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  • American Walnut with figure across the grain.

    Black Walnut has long been considered one of the US’s most durable hardwoods, and one of its most popular. Prized for its typically deep chocolate color (often highlighted by red or purple streaks and/or tint), straight grains (though sometimes irregular), fine texture and warm luster, the wood has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio and is considered to have solid dimensional stability after drying. Its cooperative grain structure and moderate density give Black Walnut excellent working properties, which have made it coveted by fine furniture craftsmen for centuries.

    While there remains a robust domestic supply, the demand for this wood also remains constant. It is considered a premium domestic hardwood.

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

    Common Uses: Furniture, cabinetry, gunstocks, interior paneling, interior trim, musical instruments, veneer, turnings, and small specialty items.

    Comments: Black Walnut’s immense popularity among American woodworkers cannot be overstated. Aside from its rugged, handsome looks — which lend it well to furniture and cabinet building — it is durable, stable and has excellent shock resistance, making it an ideal choice for such applications.

    Walnut trees are known to grow in regions within close proximity to rivers and other bodies of water — primarily in the eastern part of the US, but stretching into the central part of the country, as well as into southern Canada (Ontario). Trees have proven of historical economic significance, as much for the walnuts they produce as for their coveted lumber — a wood which, unfortunately, has provided an attractive target to domestic poachers.

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  • A cousin of the more popular and well-known African tonewood, Bubinga, Ovangkol/Shedua is a softer wood (of similar weight and density) with handsome, yet greatly varying aesthetics. Its heartwood color can range anywhere from a light to medium yellow, to a light orange- or reddish-brown, usually highlighted by darker brown or black striping. Its unmistakable sapwood is pale yellow in color.

    Its grains can be straight, wavy or interlocked, with generally a medium texture and nice natural luster (due in part to a somewhat high silica content). It is a tough, durable wood, usually possessing fairly cooperative working properties — although its silica content can gum up blades and cutting tools, and there can be tearout issues with boards with interlocking grain patterns. Shedua turns, glues and finishes quite well.

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    Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices; categorized on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as a species of “least concern.”

    Common Uses: Veneer, flooring, furniture, cabinets, trim, musical instruments and turned objects.

    Comments: Although it bares very little aesthetic resemblance to Bubinga, Shedua (also a member of the Guibourtia genus) can be an impressive, visually stunning exotic wood. Tiger-stripe, fiddleback and mottled figuring can be found, on occasion. Examples can vary dramatically in appearance, one from another — so much so that they could easily be thought to be of different, unrelated species.

    The wood has become quite popular as a body wood with many electric guitar luthiers who are familiar with it. Some of the more dense pieces are sometimes used as fretboards, also.

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  • Ziricote is one of the most popular, visually striking exotic woods in the world. Renown for its “landscape” or “spiderweb” grain patterns, its colors range from medium to dark shades of brown (occasionally with either a green or purplish tint), and are accentuated by intermingled bands of unpredictable, irregular black growth rings. Sapwood is easily distinguishable by its dull off-white to pale yellow hue.

    Although it is a fairly dense wood, its typical straight (though sometimes slightly interlocked) grains and fine to medium-fine texture give it cooperative working properties — as it cuts, turns, glues and finishes smoothly.

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    Sustainability: Not currently listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. That said, given the recent poaching epidemic taking place in Mexico over the last several years, this status — as well as other Mexican woods, such as Bocote, Camatillo and Katalox — could be changing in the very near future.

    Common Uses: Furniture, veneer, cabinetry, flooring / parquee flooring, gunstocks, musical instruments (in particular, guitars), entrance doors, turnings, decorative beams, trim and small specialty items.

    Comments: Ziricote is a close relative (and neighbor) of Bocote, with both being Central American woods of the Cordia genus. Its radical, often-dramatic grain patterns have given the wood somewhat of an ‘elite’ status among international exotic woods enthusiasts. It truly is an oddly unique — ‘exotic’ in the truest sense — wood with an allure and mystique all its own.

    While it has never been an inexpensive wood, recent revelations of epidemic poaching across Mexico has resulted in a greatly reduced supply and sharp price increases on wholesale and retails levels. Unless action is taken to stem the tide (of poaching), Ziricote and other Central American woods could very well be the subject of actions from CITES in the very near future.

    Interestingly, the bark of the Cordia Dodecandra tree and the wood have medicinal properties: the tea which is derived from their infusion is used in traditional medicine in Mexico, to treat coughs, diarrhea and dysentery.

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  • Zebrawood is a tough, durable, visually striking West African wood whose heartwood base color — which can range from tan to a dull pale yellow, to a muted off-white / almost gray hue, depending on specific region and consitions of growth — is decorated by dark brown striping of varying degrees (ranging to almost black), hince its name. The striping is typically long and fairly uniform when the wood is quartersawn, but wavy and irradic when flatsawn. Sapwood is easily distinguishable (by its lack of striping, naturally) and is usually a light, pale white color.

    Its coarse, open-poured texture combined with its wavy and/or interlocked grain patterns can make planing a challenge. (… as well as finishing, if filling all surface pores is requisite.) For any sort of resawing or surfacing, blades and cutting tools should be at their sharpest to minimize tearout. The wood glues well and usually possesses a pleasant, moderate to high luster, which can make for impressive finishing.

    While its demand is based almost exclusively on its aesthetic appeal, Zebrawood is a strong, stiff lumber, once dry.

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    Sustainability: This species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, but is classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: High-end furniture, veneer, musical instruments (in particular, guitars), skis, handles, and turned objects.

    Comments: While flatsawing the lumber can yield some quite dramatic aesthetic results, quartersawn lumber provides maximum (and sometimes much needed) stability. The species is known to be difficult to dry, with pieces sometimes warping during the kiln drying process. Tiny pockets of small void areas, also, are not uncommon along the darker striped areas — especially among flatsawn boards.

    Zebrawood’s trademark aesthetics have made it very popular with veneer mills around the world. However, great care is required when handling, to avoid it cracking.

    The wood’s popularity keeps it in steady demand, which makes it moderately expensive in spite of a generally steady supply in the US.

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  • Black Walnut has long been considered one of the US’s most durable hardwoods, and one of its most popular. Prized for its typically deep chocolate color (often highlighted by red or purple streaks and/or tint), straight grains (though sometimes irregular), fine texture and warm luster, the wood has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio and is considered to have solid dimensional stability after drying. Its cooperative grain structure and moderate density give Black Walnut excellent working properties, which have made it coveted by fine furniture craftsmen for centuries.

    While there remains a robust domestic supply, the demand for this wood also remains constant. It is considered a premium domestic hardwood.

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

    Common Uses: Furniture, cabinetry, gunstocks, interior paneling, interior trim, musical instruments, veneer, turnings, and small specialty items.

    Comments: Black Walnut’s immense popularity among American woodworkers cannot be overstated. Aside from its rugged, handsome looks — which lend it well to furniture and cabinet building — it is durable, stable and has excellent shock resistance, making it an ideal choice for such applications.

    Walnut trees are known to grow in regions within close proximity to rivers and other bodies of water — primarily in the eastern part of the US, but stretching into the central part of the country, as well as into southern Canada (Ontario). Trees have proven of historical economic significance, as much for the walnuts they produce as for their coveted lumber — a wood which, unfortunately, has provided an attractive target to domestic poachers.

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  • African Walnut is derived from the Lovoa Trichilioides tree — a monoecious, evergreen that is indigenous to Central and Southern Africa’s tropical regions. Its heartwood color can vary anywhere from a golden brown to a reddish brown, often with darker streaks and/or portions. Over time, its color will darken to deeper brown tones. The sapwood is narrow, grey to beige in color, and clearly demarcated from the heartwood. Despite it not being a true walnut (of the Juglans genus), it shares many of the basic characteristics.

    African Walnut’s grains are typically straight or slightly interlocked — yielding good working properties — with a fine to medium, consistent texture and a fine natural luster. Finding figured pieces is not uncommon. It turns, glues and finishes well. The wood is considered moderately durable.

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

    Common Uses: Furniture, cabinetry, joinery, veneer, decorative trim, plywood, paneling, ship building, fixtures, flooring, pianos, gunstocks, turnings, carvings, fuelwood and utility applications.

    Comments: Despite its nickname, African Walnut is more closely related to mahoganies (being a member of the Meliaceae family) than true walnuts. When quartersawn, the wood can display a long, horizontal stripe figuring and chatoyance that is similar to Sapele.

    In spite of its fairly cooperative working properties, sharp cutting tools and blades are recommended to avoid the tearout which can occur with pieces featuring a more interlocking grain pattern.

    The wood is sometimes available in the US as precut flooring, although lumber is not too commonly found — due, in part, to being overly exploited in a significant portion of its natural range.

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  • While not a true (Tectona genus) teak, Zambezi Teak shares a similar stability, durability and rot resistance. The heartwood is a reddish-brown color, with prominent, irregular black lines and flecks. The sapwood is a pale muted pink and is clearly demarcated. In contrast to its “Genuine” counterpart, Zambezi Teak is an extremely dense hardwood. Despite its generally straight or slightly interlocked, finely-textured grains, this density makes the wood very difficult to work.

    The wood has a high silica content, as well — so resawing the wood can quickly dull and gum up blades.

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    Sustainability: This species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, but is listed as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: Flooring, veneer, millwork, stringed instrument fingerboards, carvings, turned objects and small specialty items.

    Comments: Because of its tannin content, moist wood will stain when in contact with iron.

    The wood has seen recent fluxuations in supply, as part of it natural range (in Southern Africa) has been decimated. That said, the wood is reputed to flourish under difficult growing conditions, so supplies are still accessible.

    Rhodesian Teak has a low shrinkage rate and is considered to be a solid, dimensionally stable wood, when dry.

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  • Like all other members of the true maple genus (Acer), European Sycamore is a hardwood whose sapwood is greatly preferred and sought after, versus its heartwood. It sap can vary from an almost pure white to a light cream color with tinting ranging from a golden yellow to a muted red; heartwood is generally medium to dark reddish-brown colored. Grains are generally straight, but can be wavy. Combined with its fine texture, it is easy to work (although, like all maples, it can burn easily) — turning, gluing and finishing well, with a good natural luster. Not unlike its Acer-genus counterparts, pieces can sometimes be dramatically figured.

    Boards are typical found quartersawn, as European Sycamore is the lumber renowned for its preferential, and historical, use as a body wood for stringed orchestral instruments (violins, violas, etc.), possessing superb resonance qualities and full-spectrum frequency response at a very moderate weight.

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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 (specifically orchestral stringed-instrument bodies), architectural millwork, furniture, cabinetry, joinery, wood flooring and parquetry, utility wood, turnings and small specialty items.

    Comments: The Acer Pseudoplatanus tree has seen wide naturalization not only due to the wood’s highly desirable status as a tonewood, but, more generally, because of its wide natural canopy — making it ideally suited for use as a shade tree in public parks, bordering public streets and roads, on private residences and other such locations. Its seeds easily germinate and take root, so the tree has wound up becoming labeled an “invasive species,” “environmental weed” or “nuisance” in numerous areas scattered across both its indigenous and naturalized regions.

    As the wood ages, it typically does so by gravitating toward a more golden brown appearance. European Sycamore is a non-durable wood, so it is not well-suited for outdoor applications; some sort of tough, durable finish for products crafted from this wood is recommended.

    Lumber is also commonly utilized in Europe for architectural millwork, where the more white-colored boards are frequently used and highly coveted.

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  • Madagascar Rosewood is a very popular wood with both acoustic and electric guitar luthiers (especially the former), as well as furniture craftsmen, despite being a wood that has been difficult to acquire in the US for the bulk of this new millennium. Depending on the specific species, heartwood colors can range anywhere from a pale yellowish-brown to orangish-red to deep burgundy to a chocolate brown, typically highlighted by bold black ink lines and secondary hues. Its straight grains and medium texture generally make for excellent working properties, despite its considerable hardness and density; its cuts, turns and finishes beautifully, with a nice natural luster.

    The wood typically has a high natural oil content, which can make gluing challenging.

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    Sustainability: Listed in CITES Appendix II, and reported as “Vulnerable” to “Near Threatened” (depending on specific species) by the IUCN; part of the Dalbergia -genus worldwide exportation ban.

    Common Uses: Veneer, musical instruments, boats and shipbuilding, furniture, cabinetry, trim work, flooring, inlays, carving, turned objects, and other small specialty wood items.

    Comments: There are four distinctly different Dalbergia species which are all commonly called “Madagascar Rosewood.” Back in the 1990’s, wood poaching on the African island of Madagascar reached epidemic proportions. Logging and exportation of the wood was banned, in response, in 2000, but was lifted in 2012, in the aftermath of major political upheaval in 2009. Madagascar Rosewood’s exportation was once again banned in 2015, but between an unwaivering demand for the lumber and continuing poverty throughout the region, the illegal logging trade has continued (despite bans).

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  • African Rosewood is a species from the same genus as Bubinga (Guibourtia), which has led to Bubinga often mistakenly being referred to as “African Rosewood.” Though obviously not a true rosewood, it does often bear aesthetic similarities. The grain is generally straight but can be interlocked; its texture is moderately fine. The heartwood color ranges from pink to reddish-brown, with purple or red streaks / lines / highlights.

    African Rosewood works well, although it can have a moderate blunting effect on tools. It glues and finishes well. It needs to be dried slowly and carefully, to prevent warping and cracking. It’s a durable wood and is considered stable, once dried.

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

    Common Uses: Furniture, flooring, decking, architectural paneling & woodwork, veneer, interior trim, musical instruments, boatbuilding, turnings, small decorative and specialty items.

    Comments: This wood has been used for a huge variety of roles in its native Africa. The tree, itself, and its budding flowers have been used for everything from cooking oils, to nutrional / healing drinks and even for producing a red dye which African craftsmen use for staining furniture.

    The wood is considered very durable, thus seeing it used in a host of exterior as well as interior applications. It is relatively easy to work, although it can be very difficult to dry.

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  • While renowned for its often deep, rich purple hues, Purpleheart is actually one of the toughest woods in the world. It is considered one of the stiffest, hardest woods — boasting an impressive strength-to-weight ratio. It is also extremely water resistant, which, combined with its toughness, has seen it frequently used in outdoor decking and even as truckbed flooring. The wood is typically straight or wavy grained (though sometimes irregular). Its texture ranges from fine to medium, and it has a nice natural luster that emerges when fine sanded. The wood works and turns well, although sharp tools and blades are a necessity. It glues and finishes well, also.

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

    Common Uses: Veneer, flooring, parquee flooring, decking, paneling, musical instruments, furniture, cabinetry, inlay, boatbuilding, carvings, turnings, decorative items and small specialty objects.

    Comments: When freshly cut, Purpleheart is actually more a dull brown with feint purple overtones. Within minutes, these colors quickly change into a variety of different purple hues (depending upon species, growth environment, etc.), but generally mutate back towards a darker brown with purple tint with continued exposure to UV rays. This process can be slowed and minimized by using a finishing product with UV-inhibitor additives.

    While the wood is generally very cooperative when worked, given its hard, dense nature, dull tools and blades can be an issue. When resawing a board with a dull saw blade, it hardness can cause the wood and blade to overheat, producing a black, tar-like resin which requires some very patient sanding to completely remove.

    Despite its large natural range and 23 different species, recent surges in popularity in this new millennium have led to some isolated cases of “near extinction” levels of tree population reduction in several Central American regions where it grows.

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  • The Yellow Poplar (Liriodendron Tulipifera) tree is the tallest of all Eastern US hardwoods; the wood it yields is some of the least dense. Yellow Poplar is characterized by a light muted cream color, often with mineral-stained streaks typically of gray and/or green. (Sapwood is ivory- to white-colored, easily distinguished from the heartwood.) Although, traditionally, Poplar has been long considered a “utility” type of lumber, the wood’s straight, uniform grains and medium texture affords it very cooperative working properties, and it glues and finishes well when finely sanded.

    Yellow Poplar is moderately durable, in spite of its inherent light weight and low density, which has seen it commonly used for crates and pallets throughout the US.

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

    Common Uses: Veneer, paneling, musical instruments (specifically, electric guitar bodies), plywood, pulp (for paper production), crates, pallets, and other utility applications.

    Comments: The aesthetically desirable of Yellow Poplar boards is often referred to as “Rainbow Poplar;” so named for its muted mineral-stained color streaks, which truly span the rainbow. (… with red, orange, yellow, green, indigo, purple and black hues all possibly present and not uncommon.)

    It is interesting to note that the tree is not actually a true Poplar (of the Populus genus), is a member of the Liriodendron genus. Liriodendron is Latin for ?lily tree.? After the tree buds, its flowers have a simlar hourglass shape to that of tulips — earning it the other common name by which its known of “Tulip Poplar.”

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