I am particularly fond of the
hardest of hardwoods, not only because of their color and grain, but
because of the way they work and smell during the sculpting process.
Some of the woods have the aroma of exotic herbs and spices -
Cocobolo and Lignum Vitae being among the most notable. Several of the
woods that I choose to work with are so dense that they sink in
water. With water weighing 62 pounds per cubic foot, anything
heavier will not float. The following are my favorite woods for
sculpting and a note of information about each:
Native to the
coastal region of northwest South America. It gets its name from the
grain pattern that resembles snake skin. It is one of the densest
woods with an average weight of about 76 pounds per cubic foot. The
wood is very hard to find in sizes large enough to sculpt, as most
is cut and sold as veneer or in small fliches.
Native to the West Indies
and tropical Central and South America. It is also one of the
densest woods with an average weight of 79 pounds per cubic foot. It
has a resin in its grain that acts as a lubricant. It was used in
early shipbuilding for bearings and propeller shafts because of its
resistance to salt water. It was also commonly used for wharf
pilings. It has a very pleasant smell when freshly cut that reminds
me of nutmeg.
A wood familiar to most
people because of its black color. Native to ranges in central
Africa, notably Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Zaire. It is also a
very hard wood to find in sizes to sculpt, since most is used in
marquetry and other small flitch items. Originally used for the
black piano keys. It is a quite dense wood weighing on average about
64 pounds per cubic foot.
the Celebes Islands. It is dark black with streaks of yellow and
tan. It is also quite dense and slightly heavier that its Gabon
relative, with an average weight of about 68 pounds per cubic foot.
Because of its beautiful grain, it is used in marquetry and other
uses where small pieces pieces can be utilized.
Native to the west coast
of Central America. This is also on the top of my favorite list,
because of the smell from a fresh cut. To some people the dust is a
severe irritant, but fortunately not to me. It is part of the
Rosewood family and has a beautiful grain pattern. Another very
dense wood, weighing about 68 pounds per cubic foot.
This is a relatively
unknown wood, native to northwest South America and the countries of
Guyana, Surinam and Venezuela. Used often in shipbuilding and marine
construction because of its durability. Relatively dense, with a
weight of about 64 pounds per cubic foot.
Native to the Andaman
Islands in the Bay of Bengal. This is a wood that I like to work
with that is lighter than water. It is a beautiful red wood with
streaks of black in its grain. It also has a pleasant odor, similar
to Walnut, when being worked. It is used mainly in furniture making
and veneers. It weighs about 48 pounds per cubic foot.
This is the
densest wood native to North America. It is found in the Sonoran
Desert areas of Arizona and northern Mexico. Because the trees are
small, it is used for tourist carvings and small items. It is quite
dense and weighs about 75 pounds per cubic foot. I particularly like
Walnut burl is simply
beautiful. Its uses are many and finding large pieces to sculpt is
getting hard. It is not particularly heavy, which means that large
pieces can be used (when found). Walnut has a wonderful smell when
African Blackwood is
part of the Rosewood family, like Cocobolo mentioned above. It is
dark purple-brown with black streaks which predominate, giving it an
almost black appearance. The grain is extremely fine textured and
slightly oily to the touch. It is exceptionally hard and weighs 75
pounds per cubic foot.