About the Woods
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:

     
Snakewood   Lignum Vitae
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.

 
 
Gaboon Ebony Macassar Ebony
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. Native to 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.

 
 
Cocobolo   Greenheart
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.


 
Vermillion Padauk   Desert Ironwood
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 its burl.

 
Walnut Burl   African Blackwood
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 being worked.   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.