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Cardwellia sublimis

Cardwellia sublimis of the family Proteaceae. This wood is native to Northern Australia where it is called silky oak, but in the USA it is called lacewood or Australian lacewood. In Australia it is often called not just silky oak, but Northern silky oak or Queensland silky oak, as opposed to Southern silky oak which is the name most commonly used for Grevillea robusta (see below).

This wood is subject to a lot of confusion, both because it is widely called both lacewood and silky oak AND because it sometimes looks more like one and some times more like the other. It was overharvested in Autralia and is now not much available. I have it anecdotally that when this wood was first imported into the USA many years ago, it was called lacewood and there was no confusion because at that time, Brazilian lacewood (which is NOW what is mean in the USA by the name lacewood) was not yet being imported, nor was silky oak. When sources of Cardwellia sublimis from Australia dried up, importers started getting Roupala brasiliense from South America and just kept the name lacewood. Then, silky oak (Grevillea robusta) started being imported to the USA but sometimes called lacewood and all the confusion REALLY got going.

I have seen comments to the effect that, while you will sometimes see wood sold as Australian lacewood, what you get will more likely be Roupala brasiliense. I also believe that some of the wood sold as Cardwellia sublimis may well be Grevillea robusta, but I am less certain about that. In short, I think that regardless of naming conventions, Cardwellia sublimis is not much (if at all) sold in the USA today and many of the pics of Australian lacewood on this page are from Australia, not the USA. I have only one formal sample of this wood and I am unsure if it is correctly identified. For more discussion about all the name confusions, see the link directly below.

An illustrated discussion on the confusion among the names
lacewood, leopardwood, planetree, sycamore, silky oak and others

my samples:

3 views of a turning, each with 2 pics, the lower set 9 years older than the upper. Details and enlargements are at the bottom of this page; this composite is just here to show the change in color with aging.

both sides of a sample plank of Australian lacewood / Cardwellia sublimis --- HUGE enlargements are present

end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above

END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above

web pics:

planks listed as Australian lacewood / Cardwellia sublimis

planks and a closeup listed as Australian lacewood / Cardwellia sublimis

slabs and closeups all cut by an Australian sawyer and listed as Northern silky oak / Cardwellia sublimis

plank listed as leopardwood / Cardwellia sublimis but it actually looks like leopardwood / Panopsis rubellens

plank listed as Queensland silky oak / Cardwellia sublimis

planks listed as northern silky oak / Cardwellia sublimis

plank listed as silky oak / Cardwellia sublimis

planks listed as australian lacewood with no botanical designation

planks listed only as lacewood, and I THINK they are Australian

veneer with wet and dry sections

veneer (identified as australian lacewood with no botanical designation)

veneer, all from the same vendor (identified as australian lacewood with no botanical designation)

veneer with both enlargements present (identified as australian lacewood with no botanical designation)

veneer listed as silky oak / Cardwellia sublimis

Two views of a bowl by Bryan Nelson who tells me this is definitely Australian lacewood, from old stock.

A single turning sample showing various facets of lacewood grain. This was sold to me as Australian lacewood with no botanical designation. No color correction was used and the color is just slightly more red than the wood. The more yellowish tinge in the last shot, compared to the other two, is accurate --- the color changes noticably as the grain pattern reflects light differently. The polyurethane finish (several coats) really serves to bring out the color and the grain contrast in this very interesting wood. As in many woods with prominent rays, if you give it a high gloss finish then the grain contrast shifts dramatically as you move the wood --- the parts that are light become dark and the parts that are dark become light. The technical name for this is chatoyancy. The grain pattern viewed in the first shot makes the piece look very much like lace sheoak. I took this piece out again recently and as you can see below it has darkened noticibly over the 9 years since it was turned even though it was in a closed box for most of those years and even when outside the box had little exposure to even indirect sunlight.

same piece as above but 9 years later, showing darkening of the wood