Wood Notes

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Customers at shows often ask about woods that I’ve made pen from. These are my shop notes about wood species I've used and my experience with them. There are probably twice this many wood species that I’ve used, but I only made notes about these.

Cocobolo – Mexican Coco is the best color, more red. Avoid Honduras, starts orange and turns grey

Bocote – Yellow and gold with dark lines is best

Bocote crosscut – Pretty but not stable

Maple Burl – Stabilized only, looks better with stain

Buckeye burl - needs a stain, must be stabilized

Curley Maple – use a stain to make it darker

Birdeye Maple – use stain to make it darker

Amboyna Burl – All types are good, exhibition grade is best, minimal sap is best

Red Cedar – Only if it has some small knots, use burgundy wood dye

Gabon Ebony – Don’t use, will crack

Black Walnut - looks good on furniture, boring on a pen

English Walnut - Better than black walnut, still boring

Texas Persimmon – better than ebony

Black & White Ebony – Some good, some not so good

Lignum Vitae (Argentine) - makes a good pen, green tint

Lignum Vitae (Mexico) good pen, brown tint

Coolibah Burl – needs void fill and extra finish

Rosewood – Brazilian is protected, don’t use

Bois de Rose (Madagascar) - rare and beautiful 

Rosewood other – use only burls

Jatoba – always disappoints, try a stain or dye

Redheart & Bloodwood – good for segmenting, turns dark brown over time

Purpleheart – good for segmenting

Bethlehem Olive Wood – use best grade only, high contrast between brown and black lines

Black Palm & Red Palm – cross grain is interesting but hard to turn without shattering

Holly – very white, ok for segment

Wenge – Hard to finish, open grain

Zebra – crosscut and angle cut good, hard to turn. Straight grain is boring

Pink Ivory – will develop cracks

Snakewood – usually develops cracks

Ipe – well figured only

Cuban Mahogany – some crouch wood was good

Koa – curly only

Tamgooti – curly only, crazy lot of curls

Beeswing Narra - Nice curls

Koa (Hawaii) - great curls

Blue Mangrove – Protected, don’t use

Mesquite – usually disappoints

Cherry – fades over time, curly is not very curly, try staining red

Ebony - cracks, no matter how old or how dry, it develops cracks

Blackwood – good solid black, does not crack like ebony

Desert Ironwood – not protected but it should be. Yard and park grown is good

Leapordwood – looks good as a slab, disappoints as a pen

Beefwood – pretty, needs a better name

Sapele – good, not great

Hophornbeam – old growth is amazing, can’t find much

Thuya Burl – voids are large

Bog Oak – hard to finish, worth the effort

Bubinga – forgettable

Osage Orange – striking yellow, will turn boring brown, try dying

Padunk – best choice for red

Sycamore – looks interesting, doesn’t sell

Ambrosia Maple - depends on how much spaulting