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Best woods for ornamental turning

Joined
Aug 14, 2022
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Location
Port Hope, ON
Good day,
I was hoping to get some input on the best woods to use for ornamental turning. From what I understand a lot of hardwoods that work great for standard turning aren't suitable for use on a rose engine, the woods need to be very hard to take a clean cut.
I see a lot of African blackwood,
cocobolo/rosewoods as well as fruit tree woods being used on higher end pieces. I look forward to using these woods once I'm more confident in the use a rose engine.
Until then are there any more common and less expensive hardwoods one can use for practice pieces? Most of the work I have in mind is one the small side, a maximum of 4" diameter and 6" in length. I was hoping there might be a domestic hardwood that
cuts somewhat cleanly without tearing, something one could test patterns with a lot of fine detail on. If there aren't any suitable domestic woods are there any abundant species that don't come from the rainforests?
I'm going to start collecting a variety of woods while I'm in the design and build phase of my rose engine. I'd really appreciate any guidance you can give to help steer me in the right direction.
Thank you,
Jeff
 
Joined
Aug 22, 2022
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Location
Chattanooga, TN
I’m certain you’re going to get an overwhelming variety of suggestions. I imagine anything with tight closed grain will work. On top of that, it might be nice to have grain that isn’t too contrasty, so the intricate patterns come through clearly. Keeping the list small, I would suggest the following: black cherry heartwood, pecan, sourwood, or hophornbeam.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Aug 14, 2007
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Eugene, OR
Well, lots of possibilities. Boxwood would probably work. Pear, though generally bland in color could be nice. Dogwood. Mountain Mahogany, if you can find any.

robo hippy
 
Joined
Aug 14, 2022
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Location
Port Hope, ON
I really appreciate all the suggestions. I'm looking forward to tying them all out eventually. Sugar maple is a very common tree in my part of Canada and readily available, that's good news!
Boxwood is another one that's available to me locally in many sizes at very reasonable prices, even if performs moderately well I would be happy. I'll have to check on the type of Mahogany they carry, I have a feeling it isn't mountain though. Between sugar maple and boxwood I could practice as much as I needed to without breaking the bank. I haven't come across a lot of fruit tree wood except cherry, occasionally apple.
There's another place somewhat local that specializes in wood for turners, they carry everything from locally sourced to rain forest exotics. They have a great selection of domestic and exotic woods. A lot the wood mentioned here is stuff I've never looked into before but I'm hopeful they'll have at least a few in stock. It's obvious I need to do a lot more research, perhaps I'll find an article or two in the OTI news letter
Thank you for the input fella's. It's all going down in my notebook for future reference.
Jeff
 
Joined
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The Mountain Mahogany is not a mahogany, but is called that because of the color. It likes high and dry in the western states. I got a bunch some years back that was growing at 8500 feet outside of Las Vegas. 80 to 100 growth rings per inch, and none of the trees were over 15 foot high. At lower elevations, the juniper is the dominant species.

robo hippy
 
Joined
Aug 14, 2022
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Location
Port Hope, ON
Maple baseball bat blanks are a great idea. I've saw them at one of the wood suppliers near me awhile back and they were reasonably priced compared to other woods I liked in similar
sizes. I had to look up mountain mahogany and itgave me a good laugh. They stated that harvesting of the wood was mainly done by very determined hobbyists because of the elevation
they are found at and the semi desert environment. The information on mountain mahogany varied from site to site to site, not everyone agrees on it's classification. Some sites refereed to it as ironwood
which I am familiar with and like very much, some sites had them listed as two completely different woods. It's very interesting regardless and one I'll definitely try out.

I would not have guessed osage orange was suitable for OT work, it looks like it has a large open "grain". It made me think it would be one the softer side and gummy for some reason. You'll have to forgive my choice of words describing it, I don't really know the proper terms to use. I have a couple good sized blocks of it but hadn't found a project for it yet. I'll be sure to save them for the rose engine now. Pink
ivory is another one I've only seen online before, it's a favorite though. . Judging by the prices for larger pieces of nicely figured pink ivory it's a wood that will have to wait until I've got a bit of experience with the rose engine. Your work is beautiful Ed, very impressive. The osage orange one may be more complex but the pink ivory one is my favorite. It's a wood that seems made for OT work, they go so well together. I went to see what kind of work everyone that replied was doing, after the third attempt and losing my partially completed reply each time I decided to wait until I had this finished.

Thank you for taking the time to help me out, it's much appreciated. All I need to do is build the rose engine now!
 
Joined
Aug 14, 2022
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Location
Port Hope, ON
I had a feeling the mountain mahogany wasn't the ironwood I'd seen before. It also explains why the "iron wood" looks so different when you do a search to see what it looks like.
I still have a lot to learn about wood, the more I read the less I realize I know. It's made all the more confusing by the number of names a wood can have. It's all good, that's why I'm taking notes.
Thanks.
 
Joined
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The mountain mahogany I got was from a thinning project up in the hills. The forest service had to thin so fire trucks would be able to get through in case of a fire. There were some really fancy homes up there, and probably only occupied for a month or so every year. The forest service was going to sell it for firewood. A crime if you ask me. You are not allowed to harvest it, other than the tiny ones that are just starting. It is an important browse food in the winter for the animals. I think it is an evergreen as well. Harder than woodpecker's lips! On the Janka hardness scale, it is the same as the desert iron wood common in the SW. Only 'green' wood I ever turned where I needed the dust mask on when turning green bowls.

robo hippy
 
Joined
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Ponsford, MN
I am betting that buckthorn would work well as it is very hard, has a unique color and it seams to have invaded the entire country so it should't cost anything but you time and labor.
 
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