View Full Version : Calling all wood experts...

Patrick Gunning
Feb-22-2004, 2:28am
Hey all you wood experts. A while ago while fishing around under the workbench for a block of maple (for making bridges), I stumbled across 2 big chunks of this stuff. Being curious, I cut a couple of quartersawn blanks out of the lumber and made a one-piece, solid-foot bridge for my 1919 Gibson A. I have tried using Red's bridge designs as well as solid-foot and plain-arched bridges out of ebony and maple, but all of these designs, though powerful and loud, took away from the richness and woody tones of the A (with its 85 year old ebony bridge). But when I put this new bridge on... wow... The volume went way up, and it not only retained its woody vintage tone but it seemed to improve as well. The only problem is I haven't the slightest idea what I'm working with here. The only clue I have is that this wood was used as dunnage for a steel shipment from the Philippines about 15 or so years ago (my dad used to have a huge pile of the stuff). Take a look at the pics below and see if you can help me out by identifying the stuff (disregard the fuzziness and burns from my bad table saw).



Patrick Gunning
Feb-22-2004, 2:29am
bridge made from the stuff

Patrick Gunning
Feb-22-2004, 2:31am
bah poor scan quality
*socks old scanner in arm*

Feb-22-2004, 3:51am
I am no wood expert, but I do deal a lot with steel shipments, since i work at a machine shop. And most of the wood used for steel shipping (to my experience here) is oak.
The pic kinda looks like oak also I think.

Patrick Gunning
Feb-22-2004, 4:01am
trying to add a better pic (upped the DPI's, took a non-fuzzy, non-burnt section)

yay - success! hope that helps you guys to ID it.

Feb-22-2004, 4:38am
I would hazard a guess that it is apitong. It is often used for crates and truck beds.

Patrick Gunning
Feb-22-2004, 4:46am
yes I know I am being a caffiene-high night owl, but i figured some stuff to add. This wood is really heavy and dense, and about twice as hard to saw and sand as any hard maple or ebony - god knows I practically burned off a layer of a sanding drum for my drill press trying to round off about a 1/4 inch of extra wood on the bridge. It also has one of those really loud "tink" or ring sounds you hear from a good piece of wood. Thanks again for the input everyone.

Feb-22-2004, 5:13am
I am not a wood expert by any stretch of the imagination but I am going to venture a guess between one of two woods. #I think it is either Bloodwood or a wood called Redheart. #The Bloodwood (brosimum paraense)comes from South America and the Redheart (Erythroxylon spp) from Central America. #Again I gave it my best shot. #
I have used both before. #The Redheart has a tendency to burn even with a sharp blade. #Both have straight tight
(I just get up early)


Feb-22-2004, 8:56am
There are thousands of similar woods in the tropics. I might have a couple of guesses, but I'd probably misspell them anyway. If you really want to know, send a small sample to:

Regis Miller
Forest Products Lab
1 Gifford Pinchot Dr.
Madison Wi. 53705-2398

Thats how I found out what that "Brazillian Rosewood" I bought at the auction really is!
(It's OK. It was cheap enough to take the chance)

Bob DeVellis
Feb-22-2004, 9:11am

Jim Hilburn
Feb-22-2004, 9:35am
maybe it's teak.

Feb-22-2004, 10:22am
teak was also my first guess. A dead give-away with teak is the sweetish smell it produces when cut. It also looks a tad like paduk which is almost for sure misspelled but is a really dense hard wood. What ever it is it looks to have made a fine bridge. If it had a positive effect on the sound its good wood!

Feb-22-2004, 1:12pm
I know zilch about tropical woods, but it sure looks like the wood that is sold as Luan or Philippine Mahogany....

Feb-22-2004, 1:30pm
That looks exactly like a few boards of a type of wood I recieved from a friend who made a deck out of it for his house. I made a fret leveling and smoothing "tool" from it and have been watching it for the past two years for stability. An eighteen inch long 2/3 weighs just under four pounds and it is still as flat as the day it was milled. The name - escapes me at the moment but ... I'll call the carpenter on monday to see if he can spell it for me.

It supposedly came from south east Asia and won't float. The idea of making a bridge out of it is a neat idea but - burning up a bunch of carbon steel or tungsten cutters is probably a reality. Oh yeah - the carpenter had been warned about wearing a mask when you cut it. The chips and sawdust are really annoying and potenitally dangerous. He needed to use hardened drill bits to assemble the deck.

Feb-22-2004, 1:54pm
My Grandfather did a whole house full of cabinetry with Phillipine mahogany and it looks just like this. However. I don't think it was that dense.

Feb-22-2004, 2:04pm
Here's a pic of the wood--all varnished.

Feb-22-2004, 2:25pm
I have a couple of chunks of Eki wood. It is from South Africa. It is bulletproof. We use it for bridge decks where I work. It looks very similar to yours.
I just weighed a peice of it- 9 X 4 1/2 X 1 3/8 weighs 2.5 lbs.
Quite a few years ago we couldn't get it from South Africa due to a trade embargo because of Apartheid, so we got some from South America somewhere. It was not as good.
This stuff is so hard that you have to drill it before spiking it down and one cut of a plank wrecks a chainsaw blade. More like burning it rather than cutting it. Also the dust is a health hazard.
We re-decked a local bridge on a heavily used highway about 11 years ago. The Eki is still holding up fine even through the heavy traffic and snowplowing. Tough stuff.
I was thinking of making a bridge out of it (mandolin bridge, not the type you drive over) but the chunks that I have, have lots of checking and splitting so I am keeping my eye out for some better peices, but wood bridges are becoming a thing of the past so it is hard to come by. I have to wait till we tear one down to salvage some of it.
Just thought I would throw this in as a possibility.

Feb-22-2004, 4:38pm
I think the wood you are talking about is ipe. I would guess ipe or teak. Both are heavy woods, high silica count and heavy grain.

Feb-22-2004, 5:42pm
Ipe or palopia (sp. same as Ipe) would have been one of my guesses. The other would be Andaroba (sp). I've heard these names pronounced but don't know how to spell them.

Gunning, if you find out what this stuff is let us know!
Anyone up for a pool http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif?

Patrick Gunning
Feb-22-2004, 6:18pm
thanks for all the input.

-checked out apitong? Might be it. It's from the philippines and it's pretty sturdy - couldn't find any close-up pics on the net though.
-might be Philippine mahogany but again, lack of up close pics hurting the investigation
-will look into ipe and teak as well
-don't think it's Eki or any of the other chainsaw-proof woods - my scroll saw can get through it, it's just sloooow going, but it still floats. I may have exaggerated the density of the wood a bit.

Still thinking and looking (though I have more than enough for my purposes now).

Sunburst - How would I go about getting the wood tested by that guy? What would it cost?

Thanks again guys

Feb-22-2004, 6:22pm
This is great!!! #What do we give the winner??


Feb-22-2004, 6:24pm
Gunning, It doesn't cost anything. It's the US forest products lab. Our tax dollars at work.
Just put a little piece in a package and send it with a note saying you want to know what it is, and you'll get a note back with genus and species and probably at least one common name.

Feb-22-2004, 6:35pm
Pools are great, but I wouldn't trust the USFPL for your definitive answer...
I've fooled them a few times now...

They would know a whole lot more than I do about what species of wood it is, however, and the price is sure right....

The big clue here is that the shipping crates came from the Philippines...
There's no way in the world they would import wood to make crates there, for a variety of reasons....
I once visited a wood monger near Pinituba (sp?) volcano, and the myriad of woods that even they didn't have names for was stunning.
I remember some ebony-looking stuff and some other mahagony-type wood that reminded me of the Cuban stuff I've seen...

If the Philippines is anything like the US, they'll use just about anything in pallets.
Pallets are my major source for violin block material, which is difficult to buy commercially....
Available all day long in the light-weight pallets at the local Safeway...

Feb-22-2004, 6:45pm
I thought you were going to offer the prise for the winner!http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/cool.gif

Patrick Gunning
Feb-22-2004, 6:52pm
The wood wasn't used as crates - it was used originally as long 4x6's and 4x8's, placed in between the steel beams to keep them from crashing into eachother while on the freighter at sea (shipment was from philippines to seattle), so that was the need for the high density. Just a little clarification.

Ah, the government doing work for me, now that I can live with. Now, to cut a little slab piece to send in...

I'll send it in soon and see if we get a winner back.

Maybe the winner will get a bridge blank... I dunno...

Feb-22-2004, 7:08pm

I saw your mention of Cuban mahagony. #I saw reference to Cuban mahagony on a website of a guitar maker who says Cuban to other is like silk to burlap. #I've never seen it myself. #Would you agree with his assessment? #Is it that radically better?

Bob DeVellis
Feb-22-2004, 8:56pm
Here's why I suspect paldao: From Edlin's "What Wood is That?"

Paldao Dracontomelum dao
Family: Mango (Anacardiaceae)
Source: Philippine Islands

"Paldao wood shows a wonderfully varigated pattern with grey as its main color. An amazing irregular mottling of greenish brown, dark brown, dark grey or black streaks runs over a yellowish-grey or pinkish-grey ground. No two surfaces are alike, and this lively figure makes paldao a favorite timber for the veneered finish of cabinets, radios, and occasional tables....
"A clearly two-colored wood, paldao grows in tropical rain forests, where there is no idstinction of seasons, so its annual rings are obscure. The pores are large and diffuse, giving vessel lines that appear as coarse scratches on longitudinal surfaces. Paldao is hard and remarkably strong....
"In the Philippines paldao is used extensively for house building and furniture...."

Close-up scan:

Feb-22-2004, 11:56pm
I am confident it isn't ipe. I've worked with it and ipe tends much more to the brown side, rather than the red. I stand by my call of apitong, which looks alot like Honduran mahogany only denser and heavier.

Feb-23-2004, 12:33am
Contact a man named Fabs Corte who owns an exotic woods company called Cormark International.He stocks over thirty species of exotic woods.If you send him a pic and description he will probably know. EMAIL: cormarkint@aol.com
Jim http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Feb-23-2004, 11:38am
"I saw your mention of Cuban mahagony. #Is it that radically better? "

I have limited experience with most tropicals, but the Cuban mahagony I ran into looked "richer" in color and texture than the Honduras wood I'm used to working with...
It's probably also a case of wanting what you can't have...
From what I've heard, the stuff is pretty rare...
...and growing in a country that's illegal to do business with if you're a U.S. citizen....

Speaking of mahagony, I recently got a call from someone who mills logs that he finds on the beaches of Oregon. #He is milling a "mahagony" log right now, although something tells me ID'ing this wood (which probably floated over from SE Asia) might be as difficult as ID'ing the wood in question on this thread.....

Feb-23-2004, 11:59am
Speaking of mahogany. If anyone is interested, I have collected a ton of info over the years on mahogany for use in boat building/restoration. If anyone is interested in learning more about mahogany, I would be more than happy to pass it along. It is a 40 page word document that has general and technical information about various species, plus photos. There are also articles on history of use, sustainable timbering, importation etc. etc. There are also web links of suppliers, various timber organizations etc. Probably more info than you would ever want, but at least you could pare it down to be able to identify the various species for color and grain. The document is split into four sections; mahogany, teak, marine plywood and miscellaneous. You can pull out what you want. Email me and I will email it to you. It is in Microsoft Word format.

Feb-23-2004, 12:18pm
Found this pic of apitong in "The Encyclopedia of Wood". I not sure how well this scan will come out.

Darryl Wolfe
Feb-23-2004, 12:30pm
looks kinda like Macucausa or andiroba to me. My dad got a bunch from a shipping pallet that came from overseas

here's the macuca

Feb-24-2004, 12:17am
It looks like what we call iron wood it's used here {NW} for bumpers on boats crats etc.. Is it real dense? Dose the end grain put out a resin?


Patrick Gunning
Feb-24-2004, 1:29am
Here's some end grain - hopefully this will eliminate a few from the running.

Patrick Gunning
Feb-24-2004, 1:30am
that turned out way bigger than I thought - ah well

Feb-24-2004, 10:35am
It could be Padauk.

Feb-25-2004, 11:09am
From your last post, it may not have anything to do with where the cargo originated, but where the ship was registered - not limiting it to a Phillipine species. Looks too reddish to be teak, plus with the cost of teak it's doubtful it would have been used for the purpose you mention. The grain in your pic looks too open for Ipe. The color COULD qualify as Ipe, but Ipe's sawdust color is nothing like the wood color. If you didn't notice a fairly bright yellow color sawdust, it's probably not Ipe. Ipe is also VERY hard and dense (some folks incorrectly refer to it as Ironwood which is something from the southwest U.S.). If you can pound a nail into it without bending or drive a screw into it without drilling a pilot hole, it's NOT Ipe.
Don't have any experience with apitong. My guess would be one of the numerous species that sold under the label of Phillipines Mahogany. Some of the better websites for hardwood suppliers have pics of all the species they sell. That may help put you in the ballpark too.
One I can think of is:

Mar-02-2004, 2:31am
if that mystery wood gives such good volume for your old Gibson, I'd get a chunk of it and start carving a new bridge for my old Gibson A tomorrow! so we are all waiting to see what that wood is. my guess would be teak, from the description of how tough it is on your saws, and the oily pattern. I have some wood woorking books with color paltes of various woods and the teak certainly looked the closest to what you have. of course, you can also tell if it's teak by smelling the wood, so if you can figure out how to let us all have a smell of that new bridge ... if there is a Woodcrafter Supply store any where near you, you can take a piece there. these Woodcrafter guys have huge books of references for figuring out custom stains on wood , and they might be able to help you out with what it is. Let us know ! -- and maybe Gibson will want to buy the rest of that wood and swap ya a Master Model for it !

Mar-02-2004, 2:33am
if that mystery wood gives such good volume for your old Gibson, I'd get a chunk of it and start carving a new bridge for my old Gibson A tomorrow! so we are all waiting to see what that wood is. my guess would be teak, from the description of how tough it is on your saws, and the oily pattern. if there is a Woodcrafter Supply store any where near you, you can take a piece there. these Woodcrafter guys have huge books of references for figuring out custom stains on wood , and they might be able to help you out with what it is. Let us know ! -- and maybe Gibson will want to buy the rest of that wood and swap ya a Master Model for it !

Mar-02-2004, 2:34am
if that mystery wood gives such good volume for your old Gibson, I'd get a chunk of it and start carving a new bridge for my old Gibson A tomorrow! so we are all waiting to see what that wood is. my guess would be teak, from the description of how tough it is on your saws, and the oily pattern. if there is a Woodcrafter Supply store any where near you, you can take a piece there. these Woodcrafter guys have huge books of references for figuring out custom stains on wood , and they might be able to help you out with what it is. Let us know !

Apr-25-2007, 10:15pm
It's Babinga

Apr-26-2007, 12:16pm
Is there any way to ID this stuff using specific densitiy? Weight a small sample, figure out the exact cubic inches and cross reference with the suggested species specific densities.

Great topic, cause I have a similair issue. I just bought an older house that is chock full of shelving and scrap wood the guy called "Spruce" (previous homeowner). It has a very nice tap tone, and is dimensioned well to make mando tops with - if it is in fact spruce! I'm guessing it's either Picea Abies - looks like spurce and weighs out, but now I know where to send it to find out for sure. Thanks John!

Apr-26-2007, 5:34pm
Send it to Bruce Harvie. He'll probably know more about Spruce than the lab.

Apr-26-2007, 5:40pm
This looks exactly like some stuff I've got in my shop right now, that came from a local cabinet maker. It's called Lyptus, and is a rapidly growing hybrid between two different forms of Eucalyptus. See the following:


It's extremely dense, tight-grained, and heavy, and, although I've done little with it, it seems to machine nicely.


Paul Hostetter
Apr-26-2007, 6:45pm
Gunning -

Do you know the smell of butyric acid? Does this wood smell like that when you work it?

Mail me a dab and I could tell a lot more than by the photos, good as they are.

Apr-26-2007, 7:18pm
My guess is bubinga, too.

Generally a very cheap hardwood. It could be some variant of mahogany, (Shorea Negrosensis?) although the latter is not very dense.

Michael Lewis
Apr-27-2007, 12:25am
Apitong has been used extansively for flooring in box cars due to it's hardness and abrasion resistance. It looks like very dense mahogany and will dull tools very quickly. It is often used to make shipping crates and pallets. Lots of silica within the wood, so if you are going to use it be prepared to do a lot of sharpening.

Bill Snyder
Apr-27-2007, 6:51am
Ya'll do realize that the first page of posts in this thread are all over 3 years old?

Apr-27-2007, 10:15am
Now we do!?! #Sorry to kick a dead horse...

...but since I'm kicking it, would Bruce Harvie be willing to ID my "spruce" as mentioned above? #I'd love to use it if it actually is spruce, but I guess it depends more on how it sounds than what genus or species it is... #I'm betting Bruce isn't on government salary so would I owe him for his time on this witch hunt? #Email me direct if you like Bruce: #mweir@kukurin.com

Thanks for the suggestion Bill.

Paul Hostetter
Apr-27-2007, 10:28am
Snookered again. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mad.gif

Jim Nollman
Apr-27-2007, 4:39pm
i used to use a wood called Iroko a lot when i was building drums 20 years ago. I thought your photo looked like iroko when i first saw your posting. But when other people piped in, I thought that working luthiers ought to know better about wood than me.

Now seeing the end grain, makes me want to add my two cents. The iroko i used to use, had that same wide open end grain in exactly the same color scheme. #i've also heard iroko referred to as african mahogany, although it never looked or worked much like mahogany to me. I vaguely recall #that iroko had a kind of acrid smell when sanded. I'm sure others probably know it by some other name.