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Wood Terminology


I often get asked a lot of questions about my wood, so I thought it would be good to share a little of my knowledge, which has been picked up from various sources, including the internet, YouTube videos, club meetings, facebook advice pages etc etc.


Some of the wood I buy is very expensive and hard to source, so I will have to charge more for these items. And for this reason I may not be able to get the same wood again. I buy most of my wood from my local woodturning club,  also a number of internet sites and local suppliers.


Ash The heartwood is a light to medium brown color, though darker streaks can also be seen, which is sometimes sold as Olive Ash. Sapwood can be very wide, and tends to be a beige or light brown; not always clearly or sharply demarcated from heartwood.  European Ash is the European equivalent to White Ash of the United States, and both should be among the least expensive utility hardwoods available domestically, respectively. It should compare similarly to oak in terms of price

Beech, Pale straw color, sometimes with a pink or brown hue. Veneer tends to be slightly darker colored, as slicing the veneer usually requires the wood to be prepared with steam, which gives the wood a more golden tone. European beech is widely available across Europe, and it very economically priced within its natural range

Bocote Has a yellowish brown body with dramatic dark brown to almost black stripes. Color tends to darken with age. Also, the grain patterning can be quite striking, particularly on flatsawn areas. It’s not uncommon to see many “eyes” and other figuring in Bocote: though unlike knots, they do not seem to present any special challenges in machining. Likely to be somewhat expensive, close to other mid-to-high priced exotic hardwoods.

Burl, A burl or burr is a tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner. It is commonly found in the form of a rounded outgrowth on a tree trunk or branch that is filled with small knots from dormant buds. Burl wood is generally more expensive than other types of wood because of its beauty and scarcity. Since burl wood only grows when trees form exterior burls, they are harder to find when compared to other types of wood.

Elm Heartwood is light to medium reddish brown. Paler sapwood is usually well defined. Burls of English Elm are frequently referred to as Carpathian Elm burl..  Should be moderately priced within its natural habitat in Europe, though availability from mature trees has been greatly diminished by Dutch elm disease. Carpathian Elm burl veneer is occasionally available, and is among the most expensive veneers commercially available

Handshaped means that I will have cut or carved the item, which will them have been sanded and finished by hand.

Idigbo, This tropical hardwood is visually identifiable by its pale yellow-brown heartwood with grain textures that are comparable to oak. The grain varies from straight to irregular, or even interlocking, and is texturally medium to coarse. Idigbo is a popular hardwood choice for many as it is an inexpensive and similar looking alternative to oak wood

Kingwood (rosewood) Heartwood is a dark purplish or reddish brown with darker black streaks. Sapwood is pale yellow and sharply demarcated from the heartwood.  Likely to be very expensive, and seldom available as lumber due to the small size of the tree itself. Kingwood is most often seen as smaller turning stock, with its cost being on par with other scarce rosewoods in the Dalbergia genus


Knots are visible imperfections in wood. They are typically circular and darker than the surrounding wood area and when the knot separates from the surrounding wood a knothole form.

Laburnum Heartwood color ranges from an orangish brown to a darker violet brown, darkening with age. Clearly demarcated sapwood is a pale yellow. Laburnum’s dark color make it suitable for use as an ebony substitute, particularly within its natural range in Europe. Wide rays can exhibit ray fleck on quartersawn surfaces. Endgrain slices of Laburnum are sometimes used in making a decorative “oyster veneer” pattern for use in furniture. Because of the tree’s small size, Laburnum is likely to remain available only on a small hobbyist scale. Laburnum is primarily only available within its natural range in Europe.

Lime Pale white to cream color, with only subtle growth rings. The color is mostly uniform throughout the surface of the wood. Tends to age to a yellow or pale brown color over time. Usually available only in Europe, (with Basswood taking its place in the United States), European Lime is fairly inexpensive within its natural range.

Live edge Live-edge defines the unfinished edge of the woodwork. It is the periphery of wood not altered by hand tools or woodworking machinery. As a result, the untouched end of slabs and furniture retains the original characteristics of a tree; its shape, and bark. This design element is referred to as a live-edge.


Macassar Ebony, Heartwood has dramatic striped appearance, somewhat similar to Zebrawood. Yellow to reddish brown body with darker brown or black stripes. Sharply demarcated sapwood is pale gold color. Likely to be extremely expensive, along with most other Ebony members in the Diospyros genus. The tree grows slowly, has a very limited natural habitat, and is highly desired for the wood’s aesthetic appeal and toughness.

Oak  Heartwood is a light to medium brown, commonly with an olive cast, though there can be a fair amount of variation in color. Nearly white to light brown sapwood is not always sharply demarcated from the heartwood. Quartersawn sections display prominent ray fleck patterns. Widely grown and available in Europe, English Oak is not seen nearly as commonly in the United States, and would be considered an imported lumber. Moderately inexpensive if purchased in an area where it grows locally.

Olive Heartwood is a cream or yellowish brown, with darker brown or black contrasting streaks. Color tends to deepen with age. Olive is sometimes figured with curly or wavy grain, burl, or wild grain. Because of the fruit’s economic importance, healthy, cultivated Olive trees (O. europaea) aren’t felled for lumber; availability is generally limited to pruned branches, trimmings, and diseased/storm damaged orchard trees. Short lumber, turning squares, and burls are occasionally available from wild trees, as well as the closely related East African Olive (O. capensis). Prices are very high

Paduak Heartwood color can vary, ranging from a pale pinkish orange to a deep brownish red. Most pieces tend to start reddish orange when freshly cut, darkening substantially over time to a reddish/purplish brown (some lighter pieces age to a grayish brown). Widely imported as lumber in a variety of lengths and thicknesses, as well as turning and craft blanks. Should be moderately priced for an import.

Poplar (Tulipwood) Heartwood is light cream to yellowish brown, with occasional streaks of gray or green. Sapwood is pale yellow to white, not always clearly demarcated from the heartwood. Can also be seen in mineral stained colors ranging from dark purple to red, green, or yellow, sometimes referred to as Rainbow Poplar. Colors tend to darken upon exposure to light. The sapwood is pale yellow or white and can blend seamlessly into the heartwood colours. Among the most economical and inexpensive of all domestic hardwoods. Poplar should be affordably priced, especially in the Eastern United States where it naturally grows

Purpleheart When freshly cut the heartwood of purpleheart can be a  dull grayish/purplish brown. Upon exposure—usually within a few days—the wood becomes a deeper eggplant purple. With further age and exposure to UV light, the wood becomes a dark brown with a hint of purple. This color-shift can be slowed and minimized by using a UV inhibiting finish on the wood. Widely available as lumber in good widths and thicknesses. Prices are in the low to medium range for an imported hardwood.

Resin is simply a form of unprocessed plastic while plastic is the final product for using further. Solid resin has a bit more versatility regarding how it can be formed. It is also supposedly easier to repair. Both of these qualities are not the part of the solid plastic

The types of resin which we will be discussing are as follows, Epoxy Resin, Uv Resin, Polyester Resin and Polyurethane Resin. The majority of resins are made up of two elements, namely the base resin and a catalyst (which is a hardener). 

By its very nature, epoxy is an expensive material to invest in, due to its unique formulation and its properties

Sapele, Heartwood is a golden to dark reddish brown. Color tends to darken with age. Besides the common ribbon pattern seen on quartersawn boards, Sapele is also known for a wide variety of  other figured grain patterns, such as: pommele, quilted, mottled, wavy, beeswing, and fiddleback. Should be moderately priced for regular  plainsawn or quartersawn lumber, though figured lumber and veneer can be extremely expensive, particularly pommele or quilted Sapele.

Spalting is any form of wood coloration caused by fungi. Although primarily found in dead trees, spalting can also occur in living trees under stress. Although spalting can cause weight loss and strength loss in the wood, the unique coloration and patterns of spalted wood are sought by woodworkers.

Thuya - Color is generally an orangish or reddish brown. Color tends to darken with age to a medium to dark reddish brown. Most commonly sold as root burls. Expect prices to be very high, particularly on pieces with premium figuring exhibiting numerous tightly-packed burl eyes.

Turned this means that I have used the lathe to turn the item.

Void basically a hole that he developed in the wood, naturally or through the woodworking process.

Walnut - Heartwood can range from a lighter pale brown to a dark chocolate brown with darker brown streaks. Color can sometimes have a gray, purple, or reddish cast. Sapwood is nearly white. European Walnut can occasionally also be found with figured grain patterns such as: curly, crotch, and burl. Yew is relatively uncommon, and larger tree trunks are usually hollow. Selection and sizes are somewhat limited, especially since most trunks are also full of knots, resulting in a high waste factor for many projects. Though sections of wood can sometimes be obtained for moderate prices, the overall cost of usable wood tends to be high.

Wenge Heartwood is medium brown, sometimes with a reddish or yellowish hue, with nearly black streaks. Upon application of a wood finish (particularly an oil finish) the wood can become nearly black. However, unlike most other dark hardwoods, the heartwood of wenge can lighten (rather than darken) when exposed to sunlight. Available in wide boards and veneer sheets. Prices are high, and are likely to remain so as supplies dwindle.

Yew Sapwood is usually a thin band of pale yellow or tan color, while the heartwood is an orangish brown, sometimes with a darker brown or purplish hue. Color tends to darken with age. Yew is relatively uncommon, and larger tree trunks are usually hollow. Selection and sizes are somewhat limited, especially since most trunks are also full of knots, resulting in a high waste factor for many projects. Though sections of wood can sometimes be obtained for moderate prices, the overall cost of usable wood tends to be high.

Zebrano Heartwood is a light brown or cream color with dark blackish brown streaks vaguely resembling a zebra’s stripes. Depending on whether the wood is flatsawn or quartersawn, the stripes can be either chaotic and wavy (flatsawn), or somewhat uniform (quartersawn). Zebrawood tends to be fairly expensive.

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