I should have put aside some offcuts from each species for testing various treatments (above all ammonia and bleaching) and for making a catalog on my website so potential customers have something to choose from. I should have done that, but I did not because I did not think that far ahead. All the offcuts are in bags for use as firewood. Over fifty bags to be imprecise. Enough wood to heat the house for a month in moderately cold weather. In this regard, the work has already saved me some money.
I do hope that when it comes to making knives, and perhaps other things, I will now be able to work much more efficiently because I have immediately usable wood at hand in suitable quantities and I do not need to dick around with a chainsaw and table saw to make a single knife anymore. And as far as the testing and cataloging go, all is not lost yet. Not only will a lot of wood still be cut away in work, but I am also the one who does the heating, and thus I will have plenty of opportunities to get through those offcuts again.
So let us dive into what else I have in my stockpile now.
Juniper (Juniperus sp.)
I have two boxes of wood that is probably from either Juniperus chinensis or Juniperus x media or both. Some I have got from my cousin, and some I have found in various places when people tossed away trees that they cut in their garden (yes, that happens).
I do not have big enough pieces to make knife blocks, maybe one when used as a veneer. So most of this will probably be made into handles. You have seen how it looks already on my not a masterpiece. It is light, soft, homogenous wood with nice creamy white sapwood and reddish-brown heartwood. I suspect ammonia would probably just turn it into brown, in my experience that often happens with darker woods. I might test that if I fish out some offcut from the bags, but the wood is very beautiful as it is.
Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)
I have a few small boxes and some bundles of slightly insect and fungus-damaged ash. That will probably be used for knives and maybe even for blocks. I did not test it personally yet, but allegedly ash turns grey in ammonia, which could be interesting. On its own the wood is not particularly remarkable, it is white and it turns yellow with age. Like oak, it has a distinct pattern of alternating small and big pores. I might try to bleach it and infuse it with UV-stabilized resin so it stays white. My sister-in-law has said that white might be fashionable for some people, but there are not very many non-synthetic white materials out there.
I had put aside one huge log when a friend of mine got permit to fell a huge ash tree in his garden over a decade ago. I was afraid that it was destroyed by wood borers.
I was lucky. The wood borers only ate the bark, the wood underneath was completely healthy. This won’t be used for knives, at least not if I don’t have to do it. This is top-notch wood for the ax, hatchet, and hammer handles. The only other wood that is better for that purpose is hickory, and that does not grow around here. Besides these huge pieces I have also several smaller and shorter ones, so I won’t need to buy a hammer handle ever again.
Jatoba (Hymenaea courbaril)
A few days were spent not cutting but sorting my unexpected treasure pile. I have probably over half a cubic meter of jatoba wood. Enough to make thousands of knives, if I made only knives out of it. So I will also make knife blocks, end-grain cutting boards, and maybe other things too. I have big plans, and I do hope to live to fulfill at least some of them.
It is an extremely hard and dense wood, very difficult to work with but it should also be very durable in the end product. It turns in ammonia to dark brown, almost black. I do not think the wood is improved that way so I probably won’t bother with it.
Shame that in that huge amount of wood there were only several pieces that show the heartwood-sapwood boundary. And of those three show very interesting spalting patterns in the sapwood. I think these should be reserved for special occasions.
Sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus)
White-yellowish wood with visible lignin rays on tangential cuts. It is reasonably hard with small pores, prone to burning when cut with a table saw – as you can see. Like ash, there is no visible difference between heartwood and sapwood. It stains well, but ammonia has no effect on it whatsoever. I have several pieces big enough to make knife blocs out of, especially if I use it as a veneer. I also have some spalted pieces in there, although so far nothing exceptional.
I have a huge log from my own garden that was half-eaten by ants and fungi. Unfortunately, I did not manage to cut it into prisms yet, so I do not know if it will be useful or not. Like all maples, sycamore is not very resistant to rot and insect damage, spalting in wood that was exposed to elements for any length of time is common.
Most of the sycamore wood I have gotten from one of my friends, whose parents felled a huge tree over twenty years ago. I helped with the work and got some wood in return. That is a recurring theme, as you can probably see by now. But I have also one huge plank (you can see it with the jatoba pile)- from the top of my head circa 30 x 50 mm and 1 m long – and I have absolutely no idea where I got that one. It looks like an offcut from a sawmill, but I never bought this wood at a sawmill. Well, the mystery will remain unsolved, I will probably make a nice knife bloc out of it.
Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra)
The white insect-damaged bundle is from a tree that died standing in the forest from whence I have taken it a few years ago. The healthy wood underneath it is from a log that I have gotten from my friend more than two decades ago, from a tree in his garden.
I am bummed that I did not have a chance to get my hands on elm wood when elms were felled during road renovations around here. Felling elms should be criminal since they are very rare due to dutch elm disease. But if they have to be felled, it would be better to make them into something pretty than just burn them. It is not an exceptional wood, but it is not completely plain-looking either. It is hard and my table saw vas already blunt at this point because I have hit a stone in one of the rootballs. It would probably be excellent for end-grain cutting boards because it has interlocking grain and is thus resistant to splitting.
Meranti (Shorea sp.)
A mystery wood that reader tuatara was kind enough to identify for me. It looks kinda like palm wood (for which I have initially mistaken it), other than that I know nothing about it. It is also similar to mahogany. I only have two pieces, so it will either go into handles or a two-knife kitchen set.
And with that, I am done for today but not done yet. There will be more.