I tell the story sometimes of my Dutch friend, a timber importer in the same area of decorative hardwoods as me, who imported a consignment of ebony from Sri Lanka. He gleefully attacked the crates with his claw hammer and jemmy and discovered that his shipper had substituted the ebony for an equivalent weight of rocks.
A similar thing has happened with the eagerly anticipated consignment of ebony from India. My first inspection of these pieces revealed 800 out of the 1000 pieces were defective. Most of the defects present were the normal nightmarish ones such as heart shake and silica. This shipment introduced a whole new level of inventiveness on the part of the shipper – boot polish – the smell gave it away, a few passes through the drum sander revealed that which you see in the before and after photographs below.
Ebony with a good layer of boot polish...
Ebony without the boot polish!
I offer my apologies to those amongst you that might have been waiting to buy this stock. I now have the delightful and futile task of trying to get some kind of recompense from the shipper.
Lignum Vitae and Lemonwood imminent
Another apology is needed for the lateness of the shipment of Lignum Vitae and Lemonwood from Paraguay. The shipper visited me at the end of December and I have high hopes of an imminent shipment. He also put some photos of the stock on to my computer for me so that I can admire it from afar. I have included some here so that you can admire it too.
Lignum Vitae ready for shipping
Lemonwood awaiting shipment from Paraguay
December and January are normally slow months in this business and that is why many of us take an extended break over this period. Looking back I am pleased with how much activity there has actually been. In particular a lot of good new stock has come in. For your woodworking pleasure please browse through this list:
- Pao Amarello 28mm and 52mm thickness
- Spalted Beech 52mm, 65mm and 80mm thickness, now out of the kiln.
- Hickory 2100 x 110 x 38mm longbow pieces
- Indian grown Cuban specie mahogany sawn squares
- Indian grown Cuban specie mahogany electric guitar one piece body blanks.
- Indian grown Cuban specie mahogany acoustic guitar back and sides sets.
- Indian Rosewood lumber, sawn squares and guitar fingerboards.
- Indian Satinwood lumber and sawn squares.
- Madagascar Satinwood lumber and flitches
- Zebrano 28mm and 52mm – supreme quality boards.
Today a little consignment of Bog oak has come into stock. I cannot overstate how special and hard won this stuff is. This stock has been carbon dated to 3,300 BC so is in excess of 5000 years old.
Producing this wood is like a war of attrition and I am thankful that it is my supplier that does the work and not me. The logs have been sourced from the East Anglian fenland basin where logs are regularly excavated from a sunken forest caused by a rise in sea level that started about 7000 years ago.
The great majority of these logs are too decayed to ever become usable wood. Most of the decay is because the logs were not lost into the anaerobic boggy mire quickly enough. Some logs show a distinct good half and bad half suggesting that the log had only been half submerged when they fell.
Bog Oak digging
The usable logs are milled to quarter sawn lumber and kiln dried using a drying schedule that controls the natural drying process rather than speeding it up. The wood does not dry normally or hold it’s shape easily and even with the greatest care many boards are lost in the drying process. The boards lose about 1/3 of their width and thickness in drying and when dry reach a density that I have measured at 950kg/m3. That’s a staggering weight compared to normal oak and suggests that bog oak does not dry in the normal sense but collapses in on itself like a star does when it becomes a black hole.
Quarter-sawn Bog Oak
The colour of the wood is dense black to very dark brown. The medulary ray gives a subtle underlying silk figure and the texture of the wood is denser and finer than ordinary oak. The black colour results from a chemical reaction between the tannin in the oak and the soluble irons from the subsoil. Working properties are good and it will easily take a good finish.
Bog Oak's medulary rays
This lumber comes from a set of logs all cut from one tree. There were 7 clear logs 12 feet long. This gives us an insight into the majesty of the virgin forests that covered this country 5000 years ago with trees of around 100 feet high before the first branch and maybe 150 feet with the crown included. Today a really good oak tree would have a butt under half that length and would struggle to reach 100 feet high in total. Countless generations of saplings would have struggled to reach a hole in the canopy of the forest, each generation stretching the canopy just a little bit higher, the process continues today and is seen in the enormous trees that can be found in untouched tropical forests.
My bog oak supplier has described this wood as a national treasure. I am inclined to agree.