Earth Day Brings Awareness of the Woods We Use
Earth Day is a day to celebrate our beautiful, amazing, yet fragile planet. It’s also a day to contribute to Earth’s survival and healing as much as we can.
As a member of the Helena Woodworkers Guild, and co-owner of a little gallery that exhibits woodworking, I have been thinking about how our use of wood impacts the environment. How many of us use exotic hardwoods in our woodworking, or have furniture in our homes made of these trees?
I’m sure you have thought about using fewer of the endangered or threatened tree species in your woodworking. As woodworkers or consumers of wood items, this is one way we can make an impact on environmental health that isn’t really inconvenient at all. We just need to educate ourselves about which woods are threatened, and which are not. How about starting a conversation in the comments below this post — or at our guild meetings — about this topic? For example, do you have alternatives to dark — almost black — endangered accent woods such as Ebony or Wenge? What do you use?
So in the spirit of Earth Day, I hope this post inspires you, both educationally and visually. If you haven’t already done so, how about making a change in the types of woods you use in your shop?
Wenge is a popular woodworker’s species I’ll use as an example. The wood is absolutely gorgeous! It’s deep brown color becomes almost totally black when finished. Wenge is trendy in contemporary cabinetry and furniture and makes beautiful accents. Yet it is an endangered exotic tree species. Wenge’s scientific (botanical) name is Millettia laurentii. Woodworkers could cut way back on using Wenge and it wouldn’t be the least bit inconvenient. In fact, Wenge is notoriously difficult to work with: it splinters, sands unevenly and blunts tools.
I am in awe of the complex designs and utter artistry of Nature. Take a look at these micro-images of wenge below (and the featured photo at top.) Aren’t these fabulous designs? I can imagine textiles, paintings, ceramic glazes, collage and patterns inspired by the naturally occurring “internal” designs of these trees.
Note the huge pores in the top photo. This is why wenge is splintery and hard to sand.
- Guidelines for Avoiding Wood from Endangered Forests (a useful pdf file)
- Restricted and Endangered Wood Species
- Ebony: Dark Outlook for Dark Woods (about Ebony and other dark woods such as Wenge)
- List from CITES of the critically endangered tree species that are typically used for lumber. Interesting that cocobolo, rosewood and certain species of mahogany are on the list.
- The Wood Database looks like a really useful website. Check out their list of articles about woods, including wood allergies, and gluing up oily woods.
- Source of micro-images used in this post: Richter, H.G., and Dallwitz, M.J. “Commercial timbers: descriptions, illustrations, identification, and information retrieval.”