Solving a Wooden Mystery

I haven’t worked with anything but wood for a while now and I still won’t for another while. But I am progressing and today I started to seriously sort through the Unexpected Treasure woodpile. And it turns out that there is more to that treasure than I initially thought.

When sorting through one bag, there were a few pieces that puzzled me. The wood was sold to me as a mix of jatoba and black locust, but these were definitively neither. I am also fairly certain it is not a local species because I would recognize most of those at a glance, certainly those that can produce pieces of this size. I put the pieces aside for later use and went on sorting the wood into neat piles by size if useful or into bags as firewood. And then I opened one bag and it turns out it is full of this mystery wood.

Here are some pictures:

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

It is a very hard wood, not as hard as jatoba, but close to the black locust. It is also very dense – specific gravity of about 0,8. The growth rings are not very visible, the pores are very fine and the color is various shades of golden-brown and orange. It changes a bit depending on the viewing angle. On none of the pieces is a visible distinction between heartwood and sapwood.

That is not a lot to go on, so I have made one assumption – Jatoba is from South America, so maybe this wood is from there too. It would be sensible for a furniture and flooring manufacturer to order multiple species from one supplier and then for said species to get mixed up in the offcut bags.

So armed with this information I went on a search on the Wood Database website and I am convinced it is Garapa. All the properties check out. And it can be used in combination with both Jatoba and Black Locust because it has very similar properties (not only hardness and density but also shrinkage) to both. I am researching whether it could be used to make cutting boards and I think it is so. I have come to the conclusion that black locust can, despite the plant being toxic – but black locust cutting boards are, in fact, sold here. But even if unsuitable for cutting boards, there is nothing that would disqualify it from knife handles and knife blocks.

If you think my solution to this mystery is not correct, I would be grateful for any info. It is useful to know what wood one is working with.


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