Woods for knife handles, updated for total of 70 woods!

Greenberg Woods

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Hey, so I have seen a few people resurrecting this thread. I have made several versions, and though I would make some new updates and post this to prevent thread necromancy.

Hey Again guys, I made some updates and added several new woods to this, so I hope you guys enjoy and learn something new! feel free to ask me anything about woods!
Some tips before hands

95 percent of the woods listed here I finish the same way. I sand to at least 600, higher for fine grained exotics, then buff lightly with pink scratchless. I then hand rub with a cloth before rubbing down with some carnauba wax. A lot of people seem eager to flood every wood with tung oil. Most woods don’t need it! Most of the exotics here are rich in their own oils, and the tung oil will never cure. And stabilized woods cant absorb any oil!

The only time I would use an oil is if I were using an unstabalized domestic wood like maple or walnut.

WEAR YOUR DAMN MASK. Wood dust is never good for the lungs. Ever. But these woods in particular are nasty. You may find you have a reaction to one or more of these. Always. Wear. A resperatior. Not just some chintzy dusk mask you got for 25 cents. These are your lungs, which you have for the rest of your life. I personally use a powered respirator, but I do this a lot. Buy at least a 3M half face mask with some good canisters.

Highly Workable, Good choice for beginner wood workers/ handle makers.

*= wood could be stabilized
**= wood should be stabilized
***=wood MUST be stabilized for use in knives

*Bocote: A wood with a strange mix of characteristics. It is quite dense, nearing the density of some rosewoods but its hardness is tied with Hard maple. Bocote is a wood that is right on the border of needing stabilization and not. What I personally do is stabilize only the nicest pieces, and leave the rest. It has a lovely character and tight grained pieces exhibit a beautiful pattern of stripes and eyes. Bocote's eyes rarely compromise structure, but if a chunk is missing just fill it in with some super glue. This wood works easily and polishes well. One thing to be mindful of is that the wood is quite porous and bits of grit, metal dust and filings can get trapped in its pores. This is one wood where a super glue coating is always welcome. Do be careful though, lightly figured pieces are VERY boring. Use an extra thin saw to make sure both sides match.

**Maple: Figured maple is a longtime favorite of many knife makers, because it is incredibly easy to stabilize, work and dye. In all honestly maple is the easiest wood that makes an acceptable handle. Its figure is described in a few ways. Curly means the grain has "fold" that reflect light differently in a someone random pattern. This is most often seen in quarter sawn pieces “those cut radially to the grain,” often just called figured. Birds eye shows small circles in the grain resembling, you guess it, eyes. This one almost only occurs in hard maple, while all other types of figure are most prominent in soft maples. Tiger/ flame and fiddle back maple all refer to a very tight pattern of curls. Quilted maple is another type of figure at resembles water with a breeze. The folds seem to lap into each other and become quite complex, giving a very 3d figure. This one is most often found in the big leaf maple of the pacific west coast and shows up best when flat sawn.

*Ziricote: Not a commonly used wood, ziricote is none the less a gem. It is quite workable dispite its weight, a strong and rather stable dark colored wood known for its rare figure. Ziricote displays a figure known as spider webbing in which complex strands of nearly black wood criss cross the more grey heartwood. A pattern not seen outside incredibly figured Brazilian rosewood. This wood has a lot of sapwood that tends to come very close to the heart. I like to use stabilized pieces with the sapwood on. I don’t like to oil this stuff, as it darkens the heartwood way to much and yellows the sapwood. Just buff with pink scratchless.

Paduak: Now for some color! Paduak is common exotic often grown on plantations. It has a bright red/ orange tone with not a whole ton of figure. It is stable, strong and very workable. Be careful though, the dust is more toxic than average and the color fades. There are several major varieties of padauk, the one you will most likely find at your local lumber store is African paduak. My personal favorite however is Burmese paduak, which has a nice striated grain so you have something to look at when the color fades!

Purpleheart: This is a common wood for new makers, for the reasons that it can be exceedingly purple and is very cheap for an exotic "often close to the price of walnut". The coarse grain structure means it cannot be polished to a very high finish and the lack of figure and fading color means this is best suited to either a lower budget knife or a heavy work knife. The strength of this wood is underestimated a lot, its tough enough to forge steel into!

**Koa: Koa is known across the world as one of the curliest woods around. Personally I often use less curled pieces for the simple fact that curly koa is also costly as all holy hell. It works easily and is not to hard. Works very similarly to walnut. Color can vary greatly, from a light brown to deep tans. Can be streaked with red, grey or yellow.

Olivewood: A very attractive wood, Olivewood is a light yellow brown wood with swirling blacks and deep browns that makes a very attractive handle. It is also popular due to its biblical and historical roots. There are several sources of good olivewood. In the middle east, Parts of north Africa, and the Mediterranean as a whole, but also from Russia where a lovely white and black olivewood can be found. Olivewood is difficult to dry, but once dry does not need stabilization.

Osage Orange: Also called Bois De arc, or bowwood, This wood grows like a weed throughout the American south. Its very tough and can have a nice yellow orange color, though the color sadly doesn’t last very long, and once it fades the wood doesn’t have much to offer. The wood has a reasonably fine grain and has good strength and rot resistance

Satinwood: Many many woods are sold under the satinwood name, but the two true Satinwood both comes from tropical Asia, mostly India And Sri Lanka. They are known for being hard, fine textured woods with an amazingly deep, metallic curl to them. They have been driven to near extinction the past. Ceylon Satinwood is the most prized, it’s has a brilliant golden color that ages to a sunset orange. It often has a roey pattern that is to say when looking carefully at quarter sawn surfaces it appears to be made of many small circles.

**Lacewood: Another common exotic, lacewood has some nice figure to it but beyond that is not too amazing. Easy workable and low price make this a good beginner’s choice. There are many woods that fall under the title of lacewood, the major ones are lacewood, a south American hardwood with very large medullar rays, Australlian lacewood, actually macadamia that has been quarter sawn, common sycamore, and the Australian silky oak. Most lacewood are reasonable soft “around the toughness of walnut”

Leopard wood: While very similar in appearance to lacewood with HUGE ray figure that appears to form a series of spots, Leopard wood can be distinguished by its weight and hardness. Leopardwood is almost dense enough to sink in water and is very tough. Color is more of a rust red than a soft brown.

** Mango: Mango wood is a wood that often comes with Koa from Hawaii. It is known for having lovely curl to it. The color is often a light tan brown, though a more golden color is seen from time to time. The wood is quite irritating, so be sure to wear a mask and shower after using it.
Canary wood: A nice wood, though its popularity has dropped off recently. Canary wood is a yellow wood with darker, reddish brown lines running through it. It has middle of the line hardness and workability.
 
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Greenberg Woods

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Canary wood: A nice wood, though its popularity has dropped off recently. Canary wood is a yellow wood with darker, reddish brown lines running through it. It has middle of the line hardness and workability.
Medium workabilty: Nothing wrong with these, but work slowly and be careful for burning!

Rosewoods: This needs a little explanation, so I will go over the rosewood you are most likely to see

Honduras rosewood: While not the best color, Honduras rosewood is a very hard and heavy rosewood that can show nice striation patterns. Over all the color tends towards a deep honey brown, but there is a lot of variation. I tend to use this one mostly in boxes and sheaths, but im also a bit of a wood snob.

East Indian Rosewood: This is a wood that is quite easy to find due to its use in guitars as a replacement for Brazilian rosewood. In my opinion, it outdoes Brazilian. East Indian has nice green, blended with deeper purple and black tones that tend to fold into themselves to make a simply stunning wood. Indian rosewood is on the softer side of rosewood though, so it may not be the best choice for a really hard use knife.
Burmese Blackwood: Not a very common wood in western markets, Burmese blackwood is a very interesting wood. The color is a bit of a molted brown/ purple with black lines running through it, though the wood is often quite full of sapwood. Hardness is amazing, being stronger than desert ironwood, though natural oils make it much easier to work.
Next is Cocobolo. This is probably the wood most often used on custom knives, and with good reason. Cocobolo is incredibly hard, dense, and most of all, God dam beautiful. The wood has streaks of black, purple, yellow, red, orange, brown and white. It’s simply an amazing wood. It tends to form small eyes and other figure while staying quite strong. The wood is also highly water proof and even slightly antiseptic due to its insanely high oil content. Those oils can cause issues though. Always wear a mask, as the dust is very irritating and can cause rashes, wheezing, confusion and nausea. Cocobolo can be identified quite easily, as other rosewood smell very floral, cocobolo has a notable spicy scent that is unmistakable.

My favorite is kingwood. The strongest wood in the "classic" rosewood family, it is a more purple wood, with an amazing contrast of lighter purple and deep browns and blacks. It behaves a lot like cocobolo but the smell is much more floral and the woods striations are better defined. Definatly an amazing, If hard to find, wood.

Tulipwood is similar to kingwood in its striation, but it has white and bright pink instead! A real find, but expensive. The wood is one of the weaker rosewoods and due to its light color much more apt to pick up dust and swarf, making the handle stained. Not the best choice for an outdoor knife, though it does well in the kitchen. I have found women really like this wood.

Brazillian rosewood. I advise against using this stuff, for the simple reason it is to rare. Harvesting B.R has been illegal for several decades and any new sources are illegal. I received a board from a carpenter of some 50 years who has been storing it since the ban. Its also just not that amazing. Relatively dull tones of deep brown with a few reddish streaks, It just can’t compare to cocobolo.

This goes hand in hand with Bois De rose Is a Madagascar rosewood with a deep eggplant purple, but it doesn’t last. This stuff fades to black quick and is incredibly endangered. Just leave it.

A few notes on using rosewood. Always use a mask, as the dust is very irritating. After using rosewood, go straight to the shower to wash it off. The less time the oil is on your skin, the better. I find that showering with shampoo rather than soap helps, as shampoo is a surfactant rather than a soap and is much more effective at removing the oils from the skin.
When gluing rosewood, the common advise is to wipe with solvent before you glue to get a better bond. This is only half of it. I have been working with HUGE amounts of rosewood for several years, and this is what I find to be the best method. Wipe the wood with acetone about 5 minutes before you plan to glue. The fibers in the wood will create what’s called osmotic pressure, the same force that pulls water up a paper towel. This first wipe lowers the osmotic pressure in the wood fibers right next to the glue joint, and then wipe again just before you glue to get the strongest possible bond. I don’t advise making glue up handles with light woods like maple, as the oils of rosewoods can seep into nearby woods and stain them.

Pau Ferro: Variety of colors. Tending to look something like a cross between hondrous and east indian rosewood, it falls mostly into the brown/ honey gold color range, and can have reasonable charaotence from time to time. This wood is often sold under different names, Moredo, Bolivian rosewood, santos Rosewood, Peruvian rosewood and other. It is not technically a rosewood, but it is a hard, dense oily wood that makes me itch like crazy, so isn’t that close enough? It is popping up more and more as real rosewood become harder to find, but for the small sizes most knife scales are made, I like to spring for the real thing. Be careful of upsellers. The price should be LOWER than that of real rosewood by at least 20 percent.
Yew: Yew is a softwood botanically, though it is a very tough wood. Tight rings, made of a light orange-pink wood with Dark orange to reddish grain lines running through it. Makes for a very grippy handle as the latewood wears away more slowly, leaving a very slight texture to the wood. Quite toxic! Always use a mask when cutting or sanding yew, and show immediately after use. Weathes very well, and does well in a marine or damp environment.
Laburnum: Called European rosewood, this is a tree found all throughout Europe, often called Golden Chain. The heartwood is somewhat narrow, but it has a pleasing purple black tone. Its a very tough wood, about 45 percent tougher than Oak. Its also rather oily so I advise treating it like rosewood. Some reports say the wood can be a strong irritant so wear a mask.

Bubinga: Known as false or African rosewood, bubinga is a pretty wood that has many characteristics of rosewood for the more budget minded. It has a lot of color variation and can be light cream with pink red stripes, or a sort of red/ purple with darker streaking. It can however come in a striking figure known as waterfall bubinga. If you know a high end carpenter or turner, ask for scraps! It is quite hard so again, work slow. Prices are on the rise as real rosewood become more scarce.

Katalox: Another lesser known wood, Katalox is similar to ebony, but is much more purple. It is very heavy, considered one of the heaviest woods in the world. It is also very dense and while not very pricey, hard to find. This wood also tends to have a lot of sapwood, so you will either need to stabilize the whole thing or try to cut out small enough chunks of clear heartwood.

Grey Ironbark: Another hard as hell wood for our friends down under, Grey Ironbark is a characteristically tough wood with an almost walnut like appearance with more blueish purple tint to it. Its hard to find in the states, and when it is it is often only milled burls, so expect those prices to be quite high.

*Tiger and Zebra wood: while not related, I grouped these two together because of their similar characteristics. Both are heavy and while not too hard, their striated nature means they can be a little unpredictable to work if you are not experienced. Both show bands of darker, harder wood that appear in straight lines when quarter sawn and in wide swirling arcs when flat or rift sawn.

Boxwood: This is a bit of an old timey favorite. Boxwood is a very smooth looking wood with a yellow white tone. Its incredibly stable and makes a nice stand in for ivory or bone. Used mostly by European makers, I can stunned by the fact that this wood is not more common in the U.S. It makes an amazing ivory substitute, its stable as a rock and its fine grain means it can take very precise detail. While it may not be as striking as a burl, it does have a sort of simple elegance not unlike elephant ivory.
 

Greenberg Woods

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*Holly Wood: Very difficult to search as you just get Hollywood the place, holly is a bright white wood that is often mistaken for bone. It is not often used on its own, but rather as a accent piece or in a glue up with ebony for the black and white effect.
Hard to work: These woods are difficult to work, hard, incredibly irregular grain or frequent tear outs. Precede with caution, but I promise it will be rewarded. Get ready for beauty

Ironwood: Classically beautiful wood. Color ranges from golden browns, blonde streaking and sometimes jet black banding. It has a deep glow and charatoncy, making it a supremely attractive wood. Ironwood is perhaps the best knifemaking wood. It is incredibly hard, nearly impossible to scratch, has a beautiful figure and is the most dimensionally stable wood currently known short of petrified wood! It has a beautiful pattern and color to it, so work slowly and with fresh belts or you will burn it. Its hardness is really what puts it on the list, as many people get frustrated, flip the sander to high and burn the hell out of their wood. unimportant side note though, it does smell EXACTLY like a litter box. Don't worry, the smell is only there when it's being worked. Be careful about just buying a log, the wood cracks like hell when its drying, and most of the wood has very poor figure. Small cracks are easy to deal with, just pour some super glue of the cracks. It darkens a fair bit as it ages as well

Gidgee: Also called Ringed gidgee, this is an interesting Australlian hardwood. Its incredibly hard like most Australian woods, but it is best known for having some of the most amazing metallic curls I have ever seen. Color tends to be a darker brown, though the wood varies from light blonde to jet black. While the really curly pieces can be difficult to find, it’s a real treat when you do find them. Timber joint Is the best source I know of for Gidgee.

Lignium Vitae: The wood of life. Lignium is widely considered one of the heaviest and hardest wood on earth. Its like working a brick, but nothing will last longer. It is so oily it can be self lubricating, tough as nails and takes a nice polish. The color is not outstanding, mostly greenish brown, but who cares! Its so heavy!

Dead Finish: Another hard Australian wood, this stuff is known for its fine reddish grain and abilty to take find curves and hold them well. While not a wood I have personally worked, my research tells me it behaves something like a fine rosewood.

Ipe. An example of a technically excellent wood that fails in one major category. Ipe is dirt cheap and hard, heavy and oily. While most of its physical properties make it an ideal choice for knife making, ipe has one downside. Its just a plain old ugly wood. Sad to say.

Wenge: The wood has vert contrasting growth rings, with jet black and dark brown leading to a variety of looks based on the cut. Not too expensive, often used in furniture wenge has a great pattern to it and again can be either in neat rows or wild grain depending how its cut. It is listed here for its tendency to have tearouts, and the splitters just seem to always get infected. Be careful of what finish you chose, as any oil based finish will really darken up the wood, so dark it has been used an ebony substitute. Some people like the ark look, but if you want to keep the woods natural contrast, go for a super glue finish.

Greenheart: An insanely hard and oily wood, it may be one of the stiffest woods in the world. its sometimes used in decking and often on boats because of its incredibly water resistance. It can be hard to find, but it makes an amazing handle for heavy use or marine use.

**Palm: Not a real hardwood, technically a monocot the wood of black and red palm is dark brown or white respectively, flecked with either black or red flecks "guess which is which". Look for pieces with more specks as these are what give the wood its strength. This stuff is an amazing wood because it has a magical abilty to sell knives. Customers love a palm handle. Bais cut is the most attractive, though the woods narrowness means that bias cut pieces will have a lot of wastage. Expect to pay much more for good quality bias cut palm as oppsed to buying pain palm from an online retailer. Its very rare to find good widths of this stuff, as unlike hardwoods where the inside heartwood is strongest, palm woods inside are totally free of the darker flecks and very weak, and the outside layer is the living cells and is also weak, so the outside of the inside is the only useable part. “the way I explain this is imagine a solid cylinder inside a tube. The tube is the outer layer of the palm, the living part that is soft and useless. The inside of the cylinder is also unfigured and useless. You are looking for the outside of the inner cylinder” A real beauty when shined up, but again tear outs and splinters are an issue. This is another wood that should be stabilized. Wear goggles or i promise you will be out an eye. This stuff is an amazing wood because it has a magical abilty to sell knives. Customers love a palm handle. Bais cut is the most attractive, though the woods narrowness means that bias cut pieces will have a lot of wastage. Expect to pay much more for good quality bias cut palm as oppsed to buying pain palm from an online retailer.

Snakewood: Beautiful. Just beautiful. But a little devil. This stuff is hard, heavy and not all pieces have figure. Many sellers will sell you the whole log, because the center is often ruined and most of the log doesnt have figure. This is one wood where it is always best to buy by the block. Figure is absolutely stunning in high grade pieces, with an unmistakable snakeskin like feature that wraps around the block. Try to only buy quarter sawn pieces, as not only do these best show the snake skin figure “other cuts highlight more of a poka dot figure” but this is the best way to avoid uneven looking scales. Color tends to be in the reddish brown to rust red, favoring the earthy tones. The figure shifts as you sand into the wood, and using well quartersawn pieces “meaning the growth rings run perpendicular to the faces” shows off the best and most even figure. The wood should be left in your shop for several months after purchase, best with waxed ends, to allow it to acclimate.

Bloodwood: A rising star. Bright red wood with great wearing characteristics. Grain tends to have some ribbon figure, but this is of little use to knife makers who only use small sections. Is a close relative of snakewood and while cracking is not so much an issue, its hardness does make it difficult. Most pieces aren’t the deep blood/ scarlet red people want, rather it tends towards a weak orange pink like faded pink ivory, but it makes a very solid handle and is available in good sizes, so what do I know.

Ebony: There are a surprising number of ebonies, but the most common used in knives is Gaboon. Gaboon ebony is rated on color, or lack there of. The highest quality ebonies are Jet black with no specks of color. These are EXCEDINGLY rare, so it should be expected that even high quality ebony will have a small amount of Caramel or beige specking on it. There is no wood that can match the black of good ebony.

Macassar Ebony: Another member of the ebony family, Macassar is known for its deep brown striations that run through the black wood. Good quality Macassar “that is to say wood with nice, clear lines and little bluring” is on par with gaboon ebony in terms of price.

Filipino Ironwood: Another member of the Ebony family, Filipino Ironwood bears resemblense to Macassar, though the deep brown lines are replaced with more of a charcoal grey, leaving an extremely beautiful look. This wood is very rare outside of Indonesia though and is likely to remain so.

African blackwood: Technically a rosewood, African blackwood is a great choice. Its more stable than ebony, harder, just as heavy and not endangered. If you want black, check this out. This stuff is harder than hell though. A lot of tests show that African blackwood is even harder than Lignum vitae. The wood tends to be black with subtle greyish grain running through it that personally, I find much more interesting the solid, featureless black of ebony. Same rules as rosewood apply.
 

Greenberg Woods

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Burlwood: Burls are inherently difficult to work, as the irregular grain means that they will not sand, saw or chisel away at an even rate. Go slow and check frequently.

***Buckeye burl: One of the easiest burls to work with once stabilized. It’s a very soft wood, and one of the few woods that naturally generates a grey color. It is often dyed and can make some out of this world handles. This wood is full of pockets, ingrown bark and voids. For small issues, just pour some super glue in. For larger voids, mix some epoxy with dark sanding dust and fill in the whole. I have also seen epoxy dyed black for a nice finish.

***Boxelder: A member of the maple family, this is another soft wood that is often stabilized and dyed. Sometimes it forms viens of red caused by a fungal infection and may be called bloody box elder. Very similar in terms of properties as buckeye burl.

Madrone burl: The burls are am medium golden brown and tend to solid and attractive. Can either have a curly wave pattern or a series of eyes depending on how it is cut. From a west coast native, madrone burl is prized by veneer makers, as its one of the few burl woods with a good consistency of pattern and a solid throughout. Expect prices to be on the high end, and madrone lumber is considered the highest teir of domestic hardwoods, beating out cherry and walnut. The rule I have heard is, they should be stabilized if they are used as scales, but can be used unstabalized for hidden tang applications. Don’t expect much weight gain from stabilizing

Manzinita burl: Deep, sometimes blood red burl. Rarely does it have the classic eyes of other burls, tending to more often have a deep curl and rarely a blistered sort of figure that makes a very attractive handle. Another west coast favorite, this wood is heavy and strong and while it does take stabilization, it is not required at all. While the trees are quite common, they are protected. The burls are also INCEDIBLY liable to crack, shatter, move and be full of sandstone.

***Redwood Burl: A very expensive burl due to the US goverments limits on harvesting. Redwood burl is graded on what kind of figure it has. The most sought after is often a lace figure, though flame and heavy curling are not far behind. There is also a lot of competition from furniture makers and guitar makers for this wood, driving up the price. The wood is very attractive, with deep reddish rusty wood and eyes that get darker as they reach the center gives this wood an amazing contrast and detail.

Amboyna: Probably the most expensive wood you will buy. Amboyna Burl is actually from a few members of the paduak family, most often Narra Wood. While the trees themselves are quite common, the burls are very rare and fetch insane prices. They can be either red or gold depending on their origin and are one of the few burls that do not need any stabilization.

Thuya Burl: Once harvested all over the middle east, this root burl is now in short supply. It is a deep brown/ honey wood with lots of eyes, it is also well known for its pleasant almost lemony odor. It works nicely, but is prone to gum up belts with its high oil content. It is also liable to burn and scorch when sanded to quickly or with dull belts.

Rarer exotics of all types

Camel thorn: And interesting wood, and formally am ember of the acacia famiy. Incredibly heavy and hard, it has a deep brown color flecked with black. Imagine a cross of wenge and black palm. Its hard to find, though many wood turners are fond of it, so look to them for supplies

Pink Ivory: Super hard. Super rare. Super expensive. Super Pink. This stuff comes from South Africa and is pretty crazy. It can range from pale orange to neon pink and can even come curly! Be prepared to pay through the nose for the pink stuff though. While about 15 years ago this was all the rage, it has died down in popularity and cost. The pink and curly stuff is still quite expensive though. The wood fades down to a medium orange gold, but the bubblegum pink is hiding just below the surface.

**Pistachio: Yes. That pistachio. It has an amazing figure that blends swirls of green, brown and black into an interesting form. Not crazy expensive, but it is pretty hard to find. Reasonably workable for exotic

***Black and white ebony: Ebony and ivroyyyyyyy. Kidding. A swirl of jet black and cream white, this stuff can be confusing to work. Suddenly you hit a white patch and the belt runs right through the wood. Go slow. Its also expensive so I hope you dont mess up. This wood is a pain, as drying it is very difficult. It reallyyyyy wants to crack on you. I leave mine in wax for at least 2 years before I mill them into slightly over sized blocks, leave them another few months and send them out to be stabilized so the light sections don’t pick up smudges left and right. Another issue is that most of the wood lacks the good cream on jet black contrast. About 50-75 percent of the lumber as a dark brown and muddy looking white part that really diminishes the effect of the wood.

Verawood/ Argintine Lignium vitae: Lignium on a budget! This stuff is just like lignum but less so in every way. Not quite as hard, not quite as pretty, not quite as oily but way way cheaper! This wood also shows a very deep Chatoyancy, the kind of thing you see in tigers eye. It tends towards the green end of colors, though it can be mixed with a little brown and gold. One of several rising stars mentioned on this list. The “original” is becoming more and more rare, and as that happens what used to be seen as imposters are going to rise in popularity and price.

Marblewood: An interesting wood, this is one that is really hit or miss. A lot of the wood is simply unattractive, but nice pieces where the redish purple swirls enter the lighter brown sections make a good compliment to a Damascus handle, or a well done marble counter top in the kitchen.

Texas Ebony: One of the only exotics native to north America, Texas ebony is not a true ebony, but does grow in Texas! So the name is half right. Its hard, heavy and oily. Crotch cut pieces have a great figure and it also adds a little southern charm to any piece. Technically a member of the mesquite family, this stuff is found from mid mexico into southern texas and if often grown as an ornamental tree.

Black Ironwood: A small plant that only grows in parts of Floridas swamps. The heaviest wood on earth. I have never seen a real piece of it. If you happen to find some, please tell me! i would love to see!

Sandalwood: Almost never brought to market anymore, this stuff was famous for its strength and amazing scent. If you see it, save it. Its a real treasure.

Partridgewood: Sometimes sold as an ebony replacement, Partridgewood is a great wood in its own right. It is much like a very, very fine grained ebony. Its hardness mirror that of a high end rosewood like cocobolo or kingwood. It has lighter flecks in a much darker matrix and takes a high polish. Somewhat difficult to work on account of tearouts and sheer hardness.

Bulletwood: A seriously tough African timber, the color is not great, trending towards muted greens and greys, but the wood is incredibly tough and does well in am marine environment

Leadwood: Similar in working to bulletwood, Leadwood has a much greyer tone with streaking of greenish brown. It i slightly less oily which makes workingi t easier, but it is not as good in a marine environment.

Chakte Viga: A close relative of the famous Brazilwood, from which we get the name of Brazil itself, Chakte is a reddish orange wood with a great set of characteristics. Its very dense "sinks in water," quite tough, and its pleasing reddish tones last longer than any other wood I know of, even with a fair amount of direct sun exposure! Really an under rated wood, this wood will certainly be increasing in price as the more rare and classic brazilwood becomes harder and harder to find.

Macwooda: Where on earth am i finding these things? Rarely making it to Market,macawood, also called Macacauba is a relatively unknown wood, but this is going to change as new restrictions on classic exotics like rosewood fall into place. It has a lovely orange and red tone, similar to that of marbled paper. Its not the densisted wood on this list, but its about 20 percent heavier than oak, so its certainly respectable.


If you have any questions about other woods, or would like a recommendation, please feel free to ask!
 

Randydb

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I have bookmarked the previous version of this document and used it a number of times. I could see this thread being in the sticky section.
 

Greenberg Woods

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Don't worry. I have learned a lot about wood lately and though this could use an update.
 
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How about Ohia (or more correctly Ohi'a lehua)? A fine American (Hawaiian) hardwood. I have a cottage in Hawaii and had some Ohia fence posts. I wanted to blaze a patch on the front of one to lighten it up with a machete so I could attach dark colored house numbers to it and have it stand out. Man, was that stuff hard.

While we're at it, when I get to move back to my cottage when I retire, I'll have an endless supply of strawberry guava (waiwi). I wonder if it has a use?
 

Greenberg Woods

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To be honest, im not sure. Woods for knife handles are a weird thing. A lot of woods would WORK, its just a queston of if they are attractive enough to use.
 
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Hey Ben, over time, maybe you could add pictures of typical samples (or special figured samples) to each of the species. Maybe an end grain pic for each as well. I know you have a lot of time on your hands these days. :p
 

Greenberg Woods

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Well I'll be home for the summer and this will become my main job, so maybe.

I only have about 50 of the woods that appear on this list. If any other makers would like to contribute photos of wood or photos of knives with specific wood handles, I would be more than happy to compile them
 

Greenberg Woods

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It will certainly work. Its a tough, often straight grained wood. The question is do you deem it attractive enough?
 
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Are you familiar with kekatong? I used some a while back and really liked the results but I've yet to come across another piece. It seemed to be incredibly hard.
 

Greenberg Woods

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I found it in one of my more obscure reference books. Its a malaysian wood, doesnt come to the american markets all that much. Appearance is said to have a dark red earth tone to it with abundant mineral deposits "the white streaking you see on some woods like those used for outdoor decks"

Its a very dense wood, getting up to 1.15 specific gravity "it will sink." Apparently the sapwood can be very think and come close to the core, making good sections of clean heartwood hard to come by. Mostly used in its nativve range for pilings, railroad ties and other heavy use construction. About 1 in 5000 trees has a good figure to it, described as "rippled red interspersed with light purple"
 
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I'm looking for a wood for use in walking sticks, spear shafts, bokken/wasters, etc. It needs to be super hard to withstand a beating (in the case of the practice sword pieces), but must also be available in long pieces with super straight grain, so there's no grain runout that would weaken a long thin piece.

Locally my best choices are Hickory, and maybe Persimmon- I can't find a piece of Osage Orange that's straight enough. I figure if I'm gonna put in the all the time and effort though, I may as well research my options for something even more durable than those.

From my searching so far, it sounds like Ipe may be my best option, since places that sell deck lumber can sometimes get this wood (though I haven't been able to find any yet), and it's not outrageously expensive. I'd probably look for an 8' long 2x4 with straight grain & saw it to size. Do any of you have other suggestions for other woods I should check out as well?
 

Greenberg Woods

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I worked at a custom wood working shop for a few years. my suggestions would be

purple heart. At the shop, we made fighting sticks out of purple heart, and those guys were nigh on indestructible. Purple heart is also very reasonably priced.

Most decking woods. Ipe is something of the best commonly available, but there are others

Cumara, Mengaris, diamond wood "trade name" and if you can find it, Greenheart "I dont know the trade names"

Ipe is a pain to work, so make sure your tools are sharp.
 
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What are your thoughts on Camaru burl for knives and how is the hardness compared to Desert Ironwood?

Jay
 

Greenberg Woods

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They would make some serious knife handles. Cumaru is an insanely tough and strong wood. Its used and sold as a lignium replacment. The issue is, its so boring to look at. Burled Cumaru would be a great choice.

Ben
 
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