There are many different species of Acacia. I generally will use Huisache or Tasmanian Blackwood. The coloration of this wood ranges from tan to dark brown to red. Most pieces of this wood are fairly straight grained but it is most known for wavy, flame patterned pieces. This is a very hard, durable wood that allows small details. I will not stain this wood because the only reason to obtain it is for its beautiful coloration.
Black Alder is a light, soft wood with a straight even grain. It can be dented more easily than other more dense woods and should be handled with care. It’s often used as a substitute for more expensive woods as it accepts stain very well. Alder’s natural coloration is pinkish to yellowish. There is no recommended finish for this wood.
Apple is a very dense wood with a swirling grain. These properties make it difficult to carve but the results are beautiful. I will not stain this wood as its natural coloration is a gorgeous golden brown or red brown. There is no recommended finish for this wood.
White Ash has a strong, straight grain with very open and porous rings. Its natural coloration is white to yellowish and it tends to turn more yellow over time. Ash’s long fibers make lathe turning difficult as it will tend to splinter. It takes staining well. As it is a pale wood with a large grain I would recommend a shiny finish rather than a matte finish.
There’s a good chance any book you own is made from Aspen pulp. It's plentiful, the fiber is very soft, frizzy, and it does not contain resin. Aspen is very easy to carve and does not tend to create splinters. Its natural coloration is white to greenish white. It does not take stain well as it tends to blotch unless sealed first. There is no recommended finish for this wood.
The Red Beech’s coloration is pale yellow to pink-white. Its grain is very fine and even. It has no noticeable markings or pattern. This wood takes stain well but due to its lack of pattern I would recommend lighter colored stains. Beech is a strong, heavy wood but not overly difficult to work. There is no recommended finish for this wood.
Blackthorn aka Sloe is actually a large shrub with stiff spiny branches. Any item made with this wood will be thin. Its wood is very tough and tends to be a golden color with the possibility of red streaks. There is no recommended finish for this wood.
Black Walnut’s coloration consists of a dark wavy grain with streaks of tan sapwood or dark brown heartwood. The grain is coarse and the wood has good strength but it is not difficult to carve. I will not stain this wood as it is usually already a dark color. There is no recommended finish for this wood.
Cedar is a name that applies to many different types of trees. There are cedars in the juniper, cypress, and meliaceae families. I will generally be using Eastern Red Cedar aka Aromatic Cedar. This wood has a yellow sapwood and a bright red heartwood. The transition between these two colorations is sudden and very striking. This wood is known for its pleasant smell and uses as an insect deterrent. It is harder than most evergreen woods and has a less porous grain.
I will generally be using Black Cherry. This very dense wood can be difficult to carve but worth the effort as it holds details well. Its coloration is a light pink brown which darkens with age to a darker red-brown. It tends to have a strong wavy grain that looks wonderful on flat panels or when turned. This wood looks good with dark red-brown stains if you don’t want to wait for it to age. There is no recommended finish for this wood.
Unfortunately, the American Chestnut was almost driven to extinction by the chestnut blight of 1904. There have been some efforts to develop a hybrid that is resistant to the fungus but re-growth has been limited. Therefore, most chestnut lumber comes from European sources or the vast stands of dead trees and costs a bit more. The coloration of this wood is a light to dark tan with long straight grains. I will not be staining this wood in part due to its rarity. There is no recommended finish for this wood.
Cypress is a common tree in bogs and swampy areas. Its wood is bright yellow or tan with long straight narrow grains. This wood is very soft and oily and not great for very detailed patterns. It takes stains remarkably well for such an oily wood. As it is a pale wood with a large grain I would recommend a shiny finish rather than a matte finish.
Dogwood is an exceptionally hard wood and often used as mallets and machine parts. Its wood color is a pinkish tan with a small and smooth grain. Sometimes the wood can have some lovely and surprising dark brown streaks. I’ve heard it works very well on a lathe. It’s not a commonly available wood due to the small size of the tree so unfortunately I’ve never had occasion to work with it. Definitely something I look forward to though.
The two main types of ebony are Macassar and Gabon. Gabon is known for being solid jet black though it can also be solid tan/brown. Macassar ebony is a strikingly striped tan and black. These are heavy and very hard woods with very fine grain and smooth texture. This is an expensive and rare wood found in tropical regions. The price also increases dramatically based on the solidness of the black coloration. As it will be out of most customers price range I will suggest that pear stained black makes a very fine substitute as the texture is very similar.
Elder is a type of flowering and berry bearing shrub or small tree in family Sambucus and should not be confused with Box Elder, which is actually a type of maple. The species I will likely use is Sambucus Cerulean aka Blue Elderberry. As this is a small ornamental tree any wand made with this wood is likely to be thin. Availability of the wood may also be an issue.
Elm supplies are currently suffering due to Dutch Elm Disease. Elm is a moderately hard wood that turns well. It has a coarse interlocking grain that makes it very durable. As such most of the available lumber supply goes into machine manufacturing. Its coloration is generally dark tan to dark brown. There is no recommended finish for this wood.
Oak is a dense, stiff wood that ranges in color from grey-white to yellow-brown. It is straight grained and has a distinct “chattering” (small dashed lines) caused by large vertical pores. It’s a commonly available lumber and stains well in a whole range of colors. There is no recommended finish for this wood.
Douglas Fir is a large evergreen commonly used for construction material and as the standard Christmas tree. Its wood is a white or pale yellow with a large, porous and straight grain. It is a very soft wood and does not take detail carving very well. It also needs to be cut with care because it tends to splinter. With some pretreatment it looks great in all stain colors. As a large grained white wood I would recommend a shiny finish rather than a matte finish.
Black Hawthorn aka Douglas’ Thornapple is a small flowering shrub or small tree. Its most notable feature are the 2” spikes that grow along its thinner branches. As this is a largely ornamental or wild plant that is not often cut for lumber, wood availability may be an issue. Pieces made from this shrub will also likely be thin. If you would like a piece with the thorns attached please note so in the comment section of your order.
Hazel aka Birch Hazelnut is a type of very small birch that bears the edible nuts we find available in stores. Due to the size of the plant any piece made from this wood will be thin. Its wood is pale yellow with the possibility of reddish heartwood. It has a thin, straight grain and smooth texture.
Holly is an oily bright white wood with a tight, smooth texture and practically no noticeable grain. This wood is extremely difficult to dry properly without warping or losing color. Holly trees also tend to be on the smaller side so they are not generally cut for lumber. Therefore, Holly comes at a high price from lumber dealers. I will not be staining this wood type as it does not really absorb stain very well.
Hornbeam is a type of Birch. It has been called “Ironwood” due to its incredible density and how near impossible it is to cut. It has a thin, close grain and its coloration ranges from white to pink-tan. Unfortunately, I do not have a source for this lumber at this time.
Larch has an evenly spaced, large grain and is generally a golden yellow or tan color. Its large grain structure and tendency to have resin pockets makes it unsuitable for carving fine details. It accepts staining and the strong grain pattern looks good in many colors.
Laurel is a huge family of trees but laurel wood is stunning no matter the species. I will be using either Bay Laurel or Camphor Laurel. This wood has a golden and dark brown striped wavy grain. Bay Laurel is the plant Bay leaves for cooking come from. Camphor Laurel is most known for its pleasant smell and medicinal oils. I would recommend a shiny finish rather than a matte finish in order to really highlight its striking grain.
The Maple family contains a few notable species. Box Elder, Eastern Hard Maple, Red Maple, and Western Maple. Eastern, Western, and Red Maple are all very similar in coloration. They are a light tan with a darker tan grain pattern. It’s a smooth textured wood that is easy to work. The important thing with maple is how it is cut and figured. This wood is prized for its flamed and swirled patterns resulting from grain deformations and burls. Box Elder is completely different. Box Elder is a pale wood known for its bright red streaks and swirls.
Pear wood is a gorgeous pink brown or orange brown that is generally without strongly contrasting patterns. The grain of this wood is so thin that its texture is amazingly smooth. Pear wood is very dense and hard so it holds fine details very well. Unfortunately, Pear is a bit hard to dry and the tree it comes from is small. This increases the cost from lumber dealers. I will only stain this wood black as a substitute for ebony.
Yellow pine is a stronger softwood and commonly available from any wood supplier. It has a large, open, and porous grain. The grain pattern is generally long, straight, and consists of a pale yellow with darker yellow rings. This wood is prone to resin pockets which can show as darker areas in the piece. The large grain and fuzzy softness of this wood make it generally unsuitable for detail carving. With a bit of preparation this wood accepts stain and is available in many colors. If you choose a lighter color, I recommend a shinier finish.
Poplar is a grey-tan or off-white colored wood with the possibility of distinct green streaks even when fully dried. This pale wood does not have a strong grain or grain pattern and is very soft. These properties make it excellent for carving but it should be handled with care to prevent dents and scratches. Poplar looks great in any color of stain but when staining it’s best to choose pieces that do not have the green streaking.
Red Oak is slightly softer than White Oak and is generally lighter too. Its red coloration can range from strong to pale but it generally doesn’t become as brown a color as White Oak. The chatter lines in this wood are generally shorter than what is seen in White Oak. It’s all about wood selection with oak lumber as oak wood (both red and white) can look very different based on the growing conditions of the individual tree. Red Oak takes stain well. There’s no recommended finish for this wood.
Redwood does indeed have a lovely red color in its grain just like the name implies. Unfortunately, it tends to be a very brittle wood. It has a very long, straight, wide, grain that is prone to splitting and splintering. It is very unsuitable for fine details. That being said, Redwood burl is less prone to splitting but is also more expensive due to its gorgeous figure. I do not recommend staining this wood.
Rowan is a family of small flowering and berry bearing shrubs. I will be using either Sitka Mountain-Ash (sorbus sitchensis), American Mountain-Ash (sorbus americana), or European Mountain-Ash (sorbus aucuparia). As this is a small shrub, any piece made with this wood will likely be thin. The coloration ranges from white to golden and as I will be using smaller branches there will likely be no visible grain pattern. Wood availability may be an issue.
Basswood is one of the best carving woods. It’s very soft with a very light grain texture and pattern. Due to its softness it should be handled with care to prevent denting and scratching. It has a tan or pink-tan, sandy appearance. It takes stains amazingly well and is widely available. If the cost of a specialty wood is too much, I recommend this wood as an affordable alternative. Just have it stained it to match the desired coloration.
Spruce has a good strength for a softwood. It also does not tend to chip and splinter as much as its other evergreen relatives. It’s widely available as it is used as a major construction component. This wood has a long straight grain and is generally white to golden yellow in color. With some preparation it takes staining well. If you choose a lighter color I recommend a shiny finish rather than a matte finish.
I will be using California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa) to make pieces labeled as Sycamore. I will not be using European Sycamore (acer pseudoplantanus) as it is actually a type of maple. This is a medium density wood that is nice for carving. It has a light tan to grey tan coloration with little to no visible grain pattern and figuring. It has a smooth texture and polishes well. It takes stain well. There is no recommended finish for this wood.
I will be using the vines commonly available to my area. These are likely to be Trumpet Vine and English Ivy. Due to the small thin nature of this plant any piece made with this material will likely be thin. Supply shouldn’t be an issue. I am currently not recommending staining this material.
Walnut is a dark brown wood with an even darker grain pattern. The pattering of the grain can range from fairly straight to extremely swirled and flamed. The more figure in the wood, the higher its price. This wood is extremely hard but that allows it to hold detail very well. I will not stain this wood as it is already very dark and beautiful. I recommend a high shine polish for this wood with no waxing.
Willow is a very light weight wood. Its coloration is pale with the possibility of red or gray streaks. It has a smooth texture and is very similar to poplar.
This elastic evergreen has a tight fine grain. Nearly all parts of this tree are highly toxic and working it should be done with gloves and a mask. This toxicity is likely the source of superstitions surrounding the tree. This tree actually grows in a rather twisted way that makes harvesting usable lumber from it difficult and increases the price of this wood. The natural color is white to light yellow with a thin darker yellow waving grain. I do not recommend staining this wood. I also recommend a shiny rather than matte finish.