View Full Version : Natural Hardwood from The Tree of Life

Burl Source
04-23-2013, 07:12 PM
This is my first time seeing this type of wood in person.
Lignum Vitae is Latin and translates as The Tree of Life.
Super heavy and hard wood. Looks pretty cool too.
I got a handful of pieces of this wood from an old knife maker's estate.
This is the 1st piece I have sanded for a closer look.


04-23-2013, 07:56 PM
Nice block! I just picked up a bunch of lignum vitae myself , it's quickly becoming one of my favorite woods. If you let it sit in the sun you can almost watch it get darker in front of your eyes.

Burl Source
04-23-2013, 08:00 PM
As I was cutting there was a lot of waxy amber colored sawdust.
Now when I go back to the saw it is green and brown.

Marko Tsourkan
04-23-2013, 10:44 PM
That stuff clogs your belts like crazy, but finishes nicely and over time obtains a green tone.

04-24-2013, 02:34 AM
That stuff clogs your belts like crazy, but finishes nicely and over time obtains a green tone.

Extremely hard wood. Very high up on the janka scale and nice smell too....

Will there be a need to get it stabilized?

" Lignum vitae is hard and durable, and is also the densest wood traded (density: 1.23 g/cm3 [3]); it will easily sink in water. On the Janka Scale of Hardness, which measures hardness of woods, lignum vitae ranks highest of the trade woods, with a Janka hardness of 4500 lbf (compared with African Blackwood at 2940 lbf, Hickory at 1820 lbf, red oak at 1290 lbf, Yellow Pine at 690 lbf, and Balsa at 325 lbf)."

"For the same reason it was widely used in water-lubricated shaft bearings for ships and hydro-electric power plants, and in the stern-tube bearings of ship propellers [4] until the 1960s saw the introduction of sealed white metal bearings. According to the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association website, the shaft bearings on the WWII submarine USS Pampanito (SS-383) were made of this wood.[5] The aft main shaft strut bearings for USS Nautilus (SSN-571), the world's first nuclear powered submarine, were composed of this wood. Also, the bearings in the original 1920s turbines of the Conowingo hydroelectric plant on the lower Susquehanna River were made from lignum vitae."

So if you use it for a handle.. it will really last with a little bit of care...

04-24-2013, 02:49 AM
Have a few handles made from it and some blocks waiting to be used. It's a very plain straight grain, but very hard and heavy and takes a great polish.
Agree with Marko about it clogging any abrasive it touches

Dream Burls
04-24-2013, 09:41 AM
Will there be a need to get it stabilized?
No way. This is as hard and dense as Ironwood.

04-24-2013, 11:35 AM
No way. This is as hard and dense as Ironwood.

Ironwood is a very general term for hard wood and their hardness varies for Janka hardness table, this may be useful... IN my hunt for chinese furniture, alot of times this term ironwood is used to describe a dense and thus wood. The sawmill and small workshops that I visited for slabs , the owners were complaining about how certain hardwood ruins their saws adn extra time required just to cut the raw piece.

For janka hardness table

INteresting read about genuine Lignum vitae adn teh Argentine Lignum Vitae. anyway both are trade restricted.

" According to a document at [link:www.suncrestsupply.com/Suncrest_Janka_Scale.doc|this link], Desert Ironwood has a Janka Hardness of 2890. I didn't know the cocobolo grew in S. Cal. According to that same document, cocobolo is only 1136. Maybe a case where density does not necessarily relate to hardness. "

So there may be some cost savings as there is no need to stabilize it...

I also believe that macassar ebony has a hardness of above 4000+ of which I have a big slab . I noticed that some custom knife makers are using them.. excellent choice.. in my eyes at least.. simple, elegant and understated.. but top of the charts in janka scale ...only for those who know.

have fun....

Dream Burls
04-24-2013, 01:07 PM
You are correct in stating that Ironwood is a general term for hardwoods. In fact, it covers 30 or more species of wood that are know for their hardness. In this forum, the term Ironwood is typically associated with Desert Ironwood or Arizona Desert Ironwood, which is quite specific. Its species is Olneya tesota and it is only indigenous in the Sonoran Desert which covers areas of Arizona, California and Mexico.