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CATALPA

Catalpa spp.

Catalpa spp. of the family Bignoniaceae. Includes at least Catalpa bignonioides and Catalpa speciosa and that is for the species in the USA. Worldwide, there are numerous other Catalpa species.

Catalpas that are native to the USA are ring porous. Some of the other catalpas, for example Cuban catalpa / Catalpa punctata and Haitian catalpa / Catalpa longissima which are both shown on this page, are diffuse porous.

This of course raises the question of how the species that are ring porous and those that are diffuse porous got lumped into the same genus but I have no doubt at all that the answer has to do with the external botanical characteristics of the tree and zero to do with the actual wood produced by the tree because that, sadly for us woodworkers, is how botanical classification works.



my samples: --- colors are accurate throughout





both sides and both ends of a sample piece --- the color in these pics is slightly more yellow/green than the wood, which is a light tan with a tiny hint of red


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE of the piece directly above. Note the hexagonal pith shape. There is some discussion of this with a sample further down the page.


sample plank and end grain listed as Southern catalpa / Catalpa bignonioides


end grain closeup of the piece direct above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a small plank of southern catalpa / Catalpa bignonioides --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by Mark Peet whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


sample plank and end grain listed as Northern catalpa / Catalpa speciosa


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE of the piece directly above


both sides of a sample plank of Northern catalpa / Catalpa speciosa --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of Northern catalpa / Catalpa speciosa --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of Haitian catalpa / Catalpa longissima --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. I note that although this was not listed as curly it does have a light curl. This is one of the diffuse porous catalpas


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above. I note that the growth rings are very thin and vague compared to all the other catalpa samples I have.


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of Haitian catalpa / Catalpa longissima --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. I note that although this was not listed as curly it does have a light curl. This is one of the diffuse porous catalpas.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


a section cut from a headboard made from curly Haitian catalpa / Catalpa longissima --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by Mark Peet whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. The curl is extremely obvious in the wood and shows up reasonably clearly in these pics. This is one of the diffuse porous catalpas


face grain closeup and the end grain of the piece directly above


end grain closeup of the piece directly above. Because of the size of the piece, I did not do an end grain update on this one.


both sides of a sample plank of Cuban catalpa / Catalpa punctata --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. This is one of the diffuse porous catalpas mentioned in the notes at the top of the page.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


first face and the end grain of a sample of catalpa. This part of a collection which is discussed here: COLLECTION B.


the second face, before and after slicing off 1/8" showing how the patina from aging is only surface deep.


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above. Note the hexagonal pith area. I believe that this is common in catalpa but have not been able to substantiate that through research. Hoadley has an example of exactly this (Identifying Wood, p. 58) but when he comments specifically on pith shape of various woods he only mentions the SIZE of the catalpa pith and does not comment on the shape. Similarly, I have found various information on pith shape in different woods but none with any mention of catalpa. I also note that the first sample at the top of this page also has the hexagonal pith.


turning stock --- end grain is sealed with Anchorseal, but the enlargements do a good job of showing the grain. Color is very accurate


turning stock and end grain closeup --- this is the smaller of the two pieces directly above but cleaned up and sanded


both sides of a slab of catalpa. The first side has a patina and the second side is freshly sanded. HUGE enlargements are present


both ends of the piece


end grain and END GRAIN UPDATE of one end of the piece directly above




This section has pieces all from the same tree.


This is the batch. This pic has a bit too much yellow and all of the following pics should have a bit MORE yellow.


I was using a not-very-sharp saw to cut these and you can see how readily the end grain is crushed on this very light and grainy wood.


face grain shots


two surfaces of one of the pieces


side grain shot of a piece from right at the outside of the tree showing the transition from heartwood to sapwood to bark


face and side of a particularly swirly piece.


three surfaces of the piece directly above


side grain shots of several pieces


face grain closeups


end grain closeups --- the pores would be much more prominent if I had used a razor-cut instead of sanding these surfaces.


END GRAIN UPDATE from one of the pieces above


The Wood Book pics


flat cut, quartersawn, end grain
catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides, aka bean tree and cigar tree) from The Wood Book --- both levels of enlargement are available for all 3 views

Seems to be another case where the wood samples that these images were take from had darkened quite a bit over time and I don't know for sure but I'd guess that the purple color is more an effect of the photography than it is true wood color.



web pics:


slabs


planks


turning square and closeup


bowl blanks and end grain


bowl blanks and end grain


curly catalpa bowl blanks


pen blanks made from crotch wood


bowl turning blank


Northern catalpa bowl blank


turning stock from a moderately dishonest vendor who makes all of her wood pics far more red than the wood really is.


interesting crotch area --- this is where a branch was cut-off or broke off and then smaller branches grew out in and around the area. These pics were contributed by William Bachtel whom I thank.


table top with really beautiful grained catalpa


slab bench and closeup


bowls


catalpa bowls turned and photographed by Tom Pleatman, whom I thank for these pics and other contributions to the site. Big enlargements are present.


shaped bowl with highly unlikely color


platter


mug (with a maple handle)