Redheart Wood

Nov 5, 2016
I was gifted a piece of redheart. I believe it was initially intended for turning because it’s 1.5x1.5x12ish. I don’t have any knowledge or experience with this type of wood. I was able to find some basic info on some of the wood web stores, but not much in the way of use for knife handles. Does anyone have any experience with this wood? I’m particularly wondering where it falls on the stabilization spectrum, whether it’s a must stabilize, should, can, or can’t. I’m considering using it for a matching kitchen knife set I’m planning for myself because it’s long enough to make more than one handle out of the same piece, but I want to make sure it will be appropriate in that application first. I went to my usual source of truth, Greenberg’s wood info list, and I didn’t find it in the list.

I have some kiln dried redheart that I've been sitting on for 2 or 3 years but haven't used. A couple woods that are similar in density and hardness that I've used non-stabilized with success are black walnut and movingui. I did use a multiday gunstock style wet sanding technique to fill the grain and finish both with an oil varnish like Tru Oil though; took about a week or two.

The one thing I'd be afraid of is the ratio of tangential to radial shrinkage is way higher for redheart than those other two. I think you should be able to stabilize? Redheart is also known as chaktetok or chakte kok which might be on that list you mentioned? I know the wood database page says there are at least two different species that get called redheart, and the mechanical properties they listed were from the one, not the other.

I would also be worried about turning wood. A lot of turners prefer greener wood which can be easier to cut. You turn it roughly, let it dry more to see where it cracks, then final turning when dried out more. You don't want to use green wood on a knife handle. I would weigh it, write that on it, then wait 6 months to a year, or sooner if you built a drying cabinet, and see if it lost weight.

I believe redheart is like purpleheart in that they both turn into "brownheart" eventually. :( I have a cutting board with purpleheart that you can't tell which blocks were ever purple to begin with.