Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Red

When Entwood Crafts was first founded, we used only one type of wood; poplar. We now use almost 70 different species of wood. This broad range of wood choices opens up a whole new level of creativity. Colors range in almost every color one would need. I find this large selection of woods particularly useful in making intarsia.

American cherry is not the only choice for red wood. In fact there are several species of wood with colorful red hues. So which wood should you use for which project? I’ll briefly talk about some of the red woods that I have used and what I like or dislike about them.

Bloodwood: Bloodwood is one of the few woods that I generally avoid using for the main reason of poor workability. It’s too dense to cut well with a scroll saw. The wood burns and smokes more often than being cut and broken blades become a common occurrence. However, the color is beautiful ranging from a light, faded red in some cases to a dark, rich red in others. I use it mostly in intarsia and only in small quantities. If you’re using a table saw or a band saw the wood is much easier to work with.
Phoenix - Maple & Bloodwood

American Cherry: The most used wood of all 70 species we have. The color of cherry ranges quite a bit from an almost white to a dark brownish red. This color range makes it ideal for a variety of uses. The down fall is that one side of the board can be one color and the other side a completely different color. I also look for cherry with a bit of sapwood for certain projects.

Cairn Terrier - American Cherry
Brazilian Cherry: A great wood for sure. The wood is a very dark red  color and mostly straight grained. It’s a good choice for creating red shadows in intarsia.

Hydra - Brazilian Cherry
Red Heart (chakte kok): Red heart is a wood full of colorful red bursts. The colors differ greatly from a pinkish color to bright and dark red but once oiled, the colors blend some. I use this wood if I want some interesting texture with grain and/or color. Bad thing is the red color fades rather quickly when exposed to air. Keep it out of direct sunlight or your red board will turn grey.

Playful Dragon - Red Heart
African Mahogany: Another red wood with varying shades from very light to very dark. It’s a beautiful wood but in my experience brittle. If you’re cutting anything with narrow sections its best to avoid this wood.

Welsh Dragon - African Mahogany
Genuine Mahogany: This wood is rather hard to find and expensive! It has a rusty, red/brownish color. Another good choice for a weak red. Easy to use.

Bunny - Genuine Mahogany
Padauk: If you want RED you want padauk. The brightest red color I’ve ever seen in wood. The grain is straight for the most part but I’ve used some with gentle swirls and curves. It’s the top choice for red highlights or if a bold color is needed.
Fat Bellied Dragon - Padauk

There are other red woods that I have yet to use. Feel free to share your experiences with red colored wood in the comments below.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Picking for Wood

At trade shows, festivals, and events, I get asked quite a few questions throughout the day. One of the most asked questions is where I get my wood from. Having about 70 species of wood from all corners of the world grabs people’s attention and they wonder how on earth I came to get the wood.

A little less than half think that I travel to different countries to get the wood. I just smile and say “I wish”.  Perhaps in the future but for now, international travel is on the to do list. I’d really enjoy visiting all the regions where the different wood species grow.

Online stores are the most common guess. While I have thought about ordering some wood online and very well might in the future, I have not done this for a few reasons. First off, the prices are almost always sky high, especially so with exotic wood species. Wood is not the easiest and cheapest thing to ship either. Second, you have no clue what you will get. Not to discredit online wood sellers but wood is extremely variable in color and grain texture. I’m the sort of person that likes to pick up the wood in my hands and inspect it thoroughly before making a purchase. There is nothing more discouraging that buying a piece of cherry expecting a nice reddish color and getting something that is just as white as maple.

So where do I get my wood from? My answer to inquirers is everywhere. I am always on the search and never know when I might run into that perfect piece of wood. I’ve found some wood in surprising places. One time I was camping in western North Carolina and found a stunning piece of cherry half burned in a fire pit. A little touch up work with the sander and it was perfectly useable.  Instead of adding to the pile of ashes in the pit it found a new life as this koala puzzle.

I have several contacts with contractors, flooring companies, and other woodworkers where I buy wood that is generally too small for them to use. I keep an eye out in newspaper and local online classifieds for sellers. For custom requests or hard to find woods, I pay a visit to some local exotic wood dealers. Most wood dealers also have scrap bins where you can find small pieces of wood for a fraction of the market value.
This method of obtaining wood is an adventure in itself. It reminds me of the American Pickers tv show. I’ve literally crawled through half standing barns and dug through piles of construction debris to find some amazing pieces of wood. I once found a large 14 inch wide piece of Genuine mahogany that someone was using to prop open a barn door. It was so weathered and covered in mud you couldn’t even tell its real color. Once it was surface planned and sanded, I made 4 different puzzles out of it including this greenman puzzle. I have even dismantled broken furniture and made things from the usable parts.