Al Ladd Fine Edge Woodworking
I use ash end grain in Amish quilt cutting boards, and sometimes in
the large chopping blocks. It's hard and strong for its weight, hence
its use in baseball bats.
I also use it for the bellows frames in concertinas, and some of the
internal work for them, where its strength to weight characteristics
Birds-eye maple is a genetic freak of Northern hard maple ("rock" maple) that occurs in about one
of every 500 trees. The density and structure of the eyes can vary considerably. Some isn't really
attractive at all, but at its best it is among the most beautiful woods in the world. I use very
high quality birds-eye for Running Pelta box cases and inlay banding coupled with veneered panels on
the birds eye inlay banding boxes.
is a heavy, dense, oily, heavily pigmented tropical wood. It's a great "red" for decorative work.
It clogs abrasives rapidly, and tends to be unstable after re-sawing, and it's hard to glue with
aliphatic resin, so I use epoxy or polyurethane glue for it. I use it for its end grain in box-tops:
Serape, and Weathervane, or for a dark vibrant red in inlay work. It holds it's color well,
unlike some other red woods which either fade or darken.
is the lightest colored of the true rosewoods, and has
been long prized as a decorative wood, having been used in inlay
bandings since the early days of European colonization of the New
World. It's now hard to find Brazilian tulipwood in lengths longer
than 3 feet, or widths greater than 4 inches, but that's not a
problem for the applications I make of it: the central top of eight
book-matched slices in my Brazilian tulipwood jewelry box, and as a
pink accent in the Amish quilt and serape jewelry box tops. It's
also perfect for the tulips in my Dalbergia Garden jewelry box.
, sometimes called African rosewood, is a beautiful, hard,
dense pleasantly fragrant (though not a true rosewood) African
hardwood. Bubinga is often beautifully figured, and is available in
several different cuts of veneer, including an interesting rotary
cut. I use it for my darker collectors boxes and ring boxes, and
make a striking inlay banding box with a mix of solid wood,
shop-sawn and commercial veneers.
is perhaps North America's premier furniture hardwood. It's hard enough and soft
enough to be worked easily and satisfyingly, and takes a beautiful finish. Industry has
trouble coping with the color variations between trees and between the sapwood and heartwood
and so they commit the sin of staining this beautiful wood, totally
ruining it. I use mostly
curly cherry for my boxes, and and
use cherry end-grain in Amish Quilt, Weathervane, Striped Quilt, and Kings Crown cutting boards..
occurs in Northern hard maple, southern "soft maple",
and Western Bigleaf maple, and I use curly soft maple for some of my
collectors boxes and ring boxes, and for the inlay banding around
the tulips in the Dalbergia Garden Jewelry Box. The curl isn't
interesting on the wood's endgrain.
is one of the world's most prized hardwoods and very
expensive. It is extremely hard and takes a spectacular
polish. I bought a load of Gabon ebony billets
(quarter-to- half log sections), allowing me to use the wood
in inlay bandings, and for my drawer pulls in all my jewelry
boxes. I use it for the legs in my Dalbergia Garden
jewelry box and in many of my inlays.
is the famed tool handle woods. It is hard and tough, but not
very dimensionally stable. I use squares of its end-grain in my Amish
quilt cutting boards, and Rosepath cutting boards. The boards are
often mostly sapwood, which is plenty hard, but the heart wood,
visible in the left side of the face grain image, is more
is the whitest wood in the world (say that three times fast!), and
when it is at its whitest, it has no peer as a contrast to just
about everything else. But as the lack of extractives that color
other hardwoods leaves holly vulnerable to fungi stains, it is quite
a trick to dry holly fast enough to keep it white. I've seen 1 1/2
thick holly become permeated with blue stain fungus overnight. I use
it in almost every jewelry box top I make, and I use the veneer as
well in laminations where a thin white line is needed. It has the
look of ivory, particularly on its end-grain. Though some maple may
be very light in value on its face grain, no other wood's end grain
is close to as light and white as holly.
It comes mostly from the great timber states of Delaware and
is a little-used, but beautiful hardwood. It has only
some of the excellent rot-resistant qualities of the better known
(at least here in New England) black locust, but it is much easier
to work, and it's color is more subdued and richer. I use its
endgrain in Kings Crown and Striped Quilt cutting boards, and I used
the face grain to make the "leaves" in the inlay banding around the
Dalbergia Garden tulip panel.
, also known as Brazilian cherry,( although the wood really
has nothing to do with cherry; it doesn't even look like cherry), is
a dense, hard and very attractive Brazilian hardwood, that is
readily available in the US these days, even often finding it's way
into flooring. I use it in cutting boards for a reddish color in
Amish quilt, weathervane, and small rail fence.
is a wood that grows only in Hawaii, at high elevation. It's
considered by many (myself among them) to be the most beautiful wood
in the world. Reflecting the soil and climatic diversity of its
origins, koa is very different from tree to tree, ranging from light
golden pink to chocolaty brown, and from as light as cedar to
as dense as
rosewood, but always with a chatoyance (light reflecting brilliance)
that makes it a visual treat. Tremendous efforts have gone into
replanting koa that should yield results in coming decades,
but at present it is in very short supply, and it's desirability for
guitars and furniture price it towards the top of the worlds
(endgrain on right).This wood, often known as Australian lacewood,
or Australian silky oak has unusually thick medullary rays, visible
as the lighter stripes on the endgrain, and depending upon how the
face is exposed relative to the rays, as a fish-scale like pattern
on the face grain. This wood is a bit on the soft side, so for most
box applications I prefer the visually similar leopardwood. My
lacewood banding box uses them both.
wood is visually a darker version of the better known lacewood, from
Australia, but this is a Brazilian wood, very dense and heavy. It's
extremely hard to work with hand tools, and about as splintery as
any other wood. I think it's also very beautiful, and it works well
for arts-and-crafts style construction, where it's reminiscent of
fumed oak. I use it it my Arts-and-Crafts style jewelry box, and for
legs and stretchers on my square inlay banding jewelry boxes. When
quarter-sawn it has huge ray flecks, and this is the preferred way
of using it for most applications. It's very hard to dry, and often
thicker stock will have wetter cores that can be a problem. The end
grain is cool too, and I use it in my Amish quilt jewelry box tops.
-This is one of the world's most prized and expensive hardwoods. It
is extremely hard and takes a spectacular polish. I use it for sky
in all my landscape laminations, for legs in the Dalbergia garden
jewelry box, and occasionally make beautiful custom boxes or even
cabinets from a mix if solid lumber and veneer.
is a flashy African hardwood that is brilliant orange-red
when first milled, but darkens over the months following to a nearly
black burgundy. I use it for corners in Railfence cutting boards.
It's hard and a bit brittle, but cuts cleanly, and is fun to work
with sharp hand tools. It's very oily with a sweetish scent, and
causes skin allergy in some people.
wood is a natural for my work; it stars its endgrain,(on the right).
I use it for the ovals in the Hawaiian Bouquet jewelry box. It's
hard, heavy, and expensive, from places like Bali, and I'm told it's
a nightmare to turn. But what endgrain! Like lizard-skin.
-This is a strikingly pink wood from the South Africa
region, with much romance about it. It's often said to have been
historically a sort of royal, semi-sacred wood, reserved in use only
for chief's staffs. Now it's used in high-end billiard-cues. I use
it in my heart ring box, where it's end grain's color and density
transform the box from folksy to elegant. It is as hard and dense as
ebony, and some pieces have a curl that make working with many tools
impossible. Pink ivorywood is so expensive, its use in jewelry boxes
is really limited to small bits of inlays, and its color is so
electric, that's really all that one needs (or wants...).
is a very heavy and dense Brazilian wood, also known as
amaranth. It is relatively inexpensive, and usually machines
cleanly. It also glues well, unlike many other tropical species.
It's very popular for craft items, but its flashy color requires
care in use to avoid being gaudy. I only use a little bit in my
jewelry boxes, in the tops of the Amish quilt and serape jewelry
boxes. It's a natural for cutting boards, because of its hardness,
and I use it in most of my cutting boards. With care, one can
achieve nice complimentary color effects with Brazilian satinwood.
Surprisingly, I've never seen any tendency for its color to bleed
into adjacent woods, and it's color changes over time, but remains
is a genetic freak of bigleaf maple, from the Pacific Northwest.
It's one of the the world's most beautiful figured woods, and
commands a high price, especially since the explosion in luthiery
lately. It's a medium hard wood with some very obnoxious working
qualities. Although not very hard, its easily subject to burning,
and often takes a fuzzy surface off of cutting tools. But its worth
the effort. My quilted maple inlay banding jewelry box is one of my
most popular pieces.
(end grain on right)is what most people mean when they
say "oak", although white oak is preferred for some specialty uses,
usually involving prolonged contact with water. This is a common
furniture wood, although most woodworkers consider it a bit course
for really fine work. It's a very pleasant wood to work, machining
cleanly, yet soft enough to work by hand. I don't really use it in
jewelry boxes, except for some squares in Amish quilt tops, but it's
distinctive end grain makes a wonderful border for Amish Quilt
cutting boards, and I also use it in Rail Fence and Weathervane
- This refers to a variety of yellow hued species
from around the tropics. The queens of these are from Sri Lanka
(often referred to as Ceylon satinwood), rarely available, and a
West Indian satinwood that's even more rare and precious. A more
readily obtained Brazilian satinwood, known as yellowheart or
pau amarello is a bit on the electric side, but great for contrast
in some cases. I have a stash of some beautiful wood sold to
me as West Indian satinwood, but I have my doubts. It has just a
hint of green in its golden-yellow, very nice curl, and
it's a bit lighter in weight than W. Indian satinwood should
be, but it's very beautiful.
is maple that , after dying, has started to undergo fungus
decay. The black lines are the front of the fungal assault. After
drying the assault is arrested, and we're left with this often
beautifully altered material. It's particularly beautiful on
its endgrain (right), where the different zones of more and less
decayed wood often look like islands on ancient maps. I use
bookmatched medallions of spalted maple in my ever popular
Crafts jewelry box.
is, along with cherry, the quintessential American furniture
wood. Its hard, but not too hard, attractive without being showy,
and works great with both hand and power tools. It has a mild,
pleasant walnut fragrance when being worked as well. I use it
extensively in cutting boards. I also use a couple variants in box
work. First is Peruvian walnut, or nogal, slightly lighter in
weight, but on its end grain, more uniformly dark than American
walnut, so an affordable substitute for a really dark contrast to
light wood in end grain use. Next is claro walnut from the walnut orchards and shade
trees in the Pacific Northwest, down through California. This can be
among the word's most beautiful dark woods, with remarkable figure,
including heavy curl, variegated colors, and burls. I use it
for special custom pieces and silverware chests.
is a hard dense African wood with very coarse grain, yet it takes a
beautiful polish. It's end grain (right) is especially nice, with
fine bands of black and brown. It sometimes is brown until it
oxidizes or is exposed to light. It was inexpensive 20 years ago,
but has become quite costly. I use it extensively for its end grain,
and have made boxes from it.It has an interesting almost chocaltey
aroma(maybe this is just association through color...) and produces
the nastiest, most aboundant slivers of any wood I've handled. A
cheaper inferior substitute is panga panga, a bit lighter in color,
subject to chalk deposits.
is another showy African hardwood, once inexpensive, but now very
costly after being decimated by volcanic activity, and popularity in
the west. It smells like garbage. I use it occasionally for