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Hardwood for Fine Boxes

Fine boxes are generally made from wood milled from hardwood trees. These are mainly broad-leaf and deciduous in temperate and boreal forests (losing their leaves annually) and evergreen in tropical forests.

oak tree for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Hardwood timbers differ from softwood timbers mainly in their method of reproduction and not necessarily their hardness.   A harwood like Balsawood is much softer than many softwoods and would be of little use for fine boxes.  Conversely, a softwood such as Yew is very hard and is popular for both fine boxes and fine furniture.

Hardwoods often have more intense colours than softwoods and are used decoratively as solid timber, veneer and inlays.

Below is a list of typical hardwoods that I can work with to produce a beautiful decorative box for you.  Spend some time looking at the colours and grains to get an idea of the hardwoods that may interest you.  Please note that the colours and grain patterns are representative of the wood, as this is an organic material there will be differences in the selected woods.

Many of these species have quite interesting variations that may be workable in solid form such as Pippy Oak, fiddlebacks, and certain burrs with wild grains.  But the very nature of some of these variations means that some woods are only workable in veneer.  See veneer for fine boxes for an explanation of veneers, parquetry, marquetry and inlays.

 

European Hardwoods

Ash
fraxinus excelsior
ash for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Normally brownish-white.

olive ash  for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Some trees have a dark streaky heartwood known as Olive Ash. A rippled effect can be seen in some logs.


Beech
Fagus sylvatica
beech for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Varies from very pale brown when cut to reddish-brown on exposure. Beech is commonly steamed which produces a uniform deep reddish-brown.

spalted beech for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Spalted beech has been attacked by fungus which produces fine black and brown irregular stripes.


Cherry
prunus avium
european cherry for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Normally pale pinkish-brown


Elm
nulmus spp
european elm for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Normally a dull brown colour.


Holly
ilex spp
holly for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Normally white sapwood colour, with a heartwood varying in colour from orange-brown to dark purplish-brown, the lighter-coloured wood often contains darker streaks.


Lime
tilia spp
lime for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Normally a pale yellowish-white when freshly cut, turning to pale brown when dried.


Oak
quercus robur
european oak for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Normally yellowish-brown.

european oak quarter for fine boxes and decorative boxes Quarter-sawn surfaces show a silver-grain figure due to the broad rays.
brown oak for fine boxes and decorative boxes Brown Oak is the result of fungus attack in the growing tree. The fungus causes the wood first to assume a yellow colour, then a richer brown or reddish-brown.
pippy oak for fine boxes and decorative boxes Pippy Oak describes oak that contains small clusters of knots that appear sporadically in the growth of the tree.
fumed oak for fine boxes and decorative boxes Fumed Oak has been darkened by the traditional application of ammonia fumes.
bog oak for fine boxes and decorative boxes Bog Oak has been buried in peat bogs and preserved for centuries. Normally stained brown by tannins dissolved in the acidic water.

Pear
pyrus communis
pear for fine boxes and decorative boxes Normally pinkish-brown.

Plane
platanus acerifolia
planetree for fine boxes and decorative boxes Normally light reddish-brown.
london plane lacewood for fine boxes and decorative boxes Quarter-sawn surfaces show an attractive fleck figure called lacewood. There are other species around the world also known as lacewood.

Sweet Chestnut
castanea sativa
sweet chestnut for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Normally yellowish-brown. Sweet Chestnut closely resembles oak in appearance but lacks the silver-grain figure.


Sycamore
acer pseudoplatanus
sycamore for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Normally white, or yellowish-white when freshly cut, with a natural lustre noticeable on quarter-sawn surfaces.

rippled sycamore for fine boxes and decorative boxes Rippled (fiddleback) has a wavy or ripple grain running at right angles to the grain of the wood.  This can normally be seen on the back of violins.

Walnut
juglans regia
european walnut for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Normally greyish or greyish-brown, but with a darker-coloured streaky figure to the wood. The darker streaks are usually of a smokey-brown or reddish-brown colour, the decorative appeal often being accentuated by natural wavy grain.


Yew
taxus baccata
yew for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Varies in colour from orange-brown to dark purplish-brown, the lighter-coloured wood often contains darker streaks.

 

American Hardwoods


Black Cherry
prunus serotina
american black cherry for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Varies in colour from reddish-brown to rich red.


Black Walnut
juglans nigra
american black walnut for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Varies in colour from rich chocolate-brown to a purplish-black. 

Burrs display an attractive swirl or knot pattern. See veneers.


Cedar
cedrela odorata
spanish cedar for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Varies in colour from pinkish to reddish-brown when freshly cut, becoming red or dark reddish-brown, occasionally with a purplish tinge, after exposure. Has an odour similar to that of coniferous cedar.


Cocobolo
dalbergia retusa
cocobolo for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Varies in colour from light yellow to rich red with other coloured streaks and zones maturing to a superb collection of rich red browns.


Hard Maple
acer saccharum
hard maple for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Normally light reddish-brown with deeper-coloured late-wood bands.

birdseye maple for fine boxes and decorative boxes Birdseye Maple has a distinctive pattern resembling tiny, swirling eyes that disrupt the grain.

Pau Amarello
euxylophora paraensis
pau amarello for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Normally a lemon yellow when freshly cut, turning to a rich golden yellow on exposure.


Purpleheart
peltogyne spp
purpleheart for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Normally a greyish-purple when freshly cut. later becoming a violet purple to deep purple through an oxidation process. In due time. the purplish colour is lost and the wood turns an attractive dark brown.


Red Oak
quercus rubra
american red oak for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Varies in colour from pink to pale reddish-brown, there is usually a reddish cast to the wood although sometimes it approaches white oak in colour.


White Oak
quercus alber
american white oak for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Varies in colour from pale yellow-brown to pale reddish-brown, often with a pinkish tint. Resembles european oak.

 

African Hardwoods


Bubinga
guibourtia demeusei
bubinga for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Normally medium red-brown with lighter red to purple veining.


Cedar of Lebanon cedrus libani
cedar of lebanon for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Normally light brown. The wood has a pungent cedar odour.


Ebony
diospyros spp
ebony for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Normally black and very dense with a tight fine grain.

macassar ebony for fine boxes and decorative boxes Other types of ebony produce handsome black and brown striped varieties such as Macassar.

Obeche
triplochiton scleroxylon
obeche for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Varies in colour from creamy-white to pale yellow.


Padauk
pterocarpus soyauxii
padauk for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Varies in colour from blood red to dark brown with red streaks.


Sapele
entandrophragma cylindricum
sapele for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Normally pinkish when freshly cut, darkening to typical mahogany colour of reddish-brown. Sapele is characterised by a marked and regular stripe, particularly pronounced on quarter-sawn surfaces.


Utile
entandrophragma utile
utile for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Normally pale pink when freshly cut, darkening on exposure to reddish-brown.


Wenge
millettia laurentii
wenge for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Normally dark brown with fine, close blackish veining, giving the wood a handsome appearance.


Zebrano
microberlinia brazzavillensis
zebrano for fine boxes and decorative boxes

Normally a pale golden yellow or pale brown, with narrow streaks of dark brown to black.

 

 
 

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