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VERAWOOD

Bulnesia arborea and B. sarmientoi

Bulnesia arborea and B. sarmientoi of the family Zygophyllaceae

NOTE: Some vendors like to keep the two species separate, identifing one as verawood and the other as Argentine lignum vitae, BUT ... both species use both names and the characteristics are so similar that I cannot tell them apart, so I treat them as a single wood.

These species are NOT closely related to lignum vitae (Guaiacum spp.) although they are in the same family and do have similar characteristics. Lignum vitae is more rare, more dense, and more expensive wood, so dealers will sometimes sell these woods as lignum vitae, so caveat emptor.

This dense, waxy wood frequently undergoes a significant color change when freshly exposed, starting off as a dusty green to light brown and changing to a dark green. It often has interlocked grain that gives it a herringbone appearance. Extremely difficult to glue because of the waxy resin. I have found it very pleasant to turn on the lathe and most reports agree that it is easy to turn but say it is otherwise hard to work.



my samples:


both sides of a sample plank of verawood / Bulnesia sarmientii [INCORRECT spelling of sarmientoi] --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. The labled side is raw but the 2nd side has been sanded to 240 grit


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above, sanded down enought to show the red/brown of a freshly sanded piece.


this composite pic shows two views of a verawood turning, and each view has 2 pics, taken 9 years apart. Details are shown at the bottom of this page along with enlargements of all views. I just put this here to show color change with ageing.

The first few samples below were in the "mystery wood" section for a while because I bought one piece about 25 years ago and forgot what the wood was. Several correspondents (Carla Kelly, Bill Fink, and Steve Bartocci) and I all came to the conclusion about the same time that it is verawood.

It is a very dusty green when freshly cut but deepens quickly to a more brownish green. It exudes a waxy substance that can take it to an extremly high natural polish.


All of these samples are from the same verawood plank. It is a greenish wood with an attractive interlocked grain and an amazing amount of internal wax. The "waxed" shine you see on the last picture is the result of spinning it on a lathe with a paper towel pressed tightly against the wood. The internal wax heats up and puts a natural wax finish on the wood. That's right, I did not add ANY finishing agent to this piece, although when you see it up close, and particularly when you feel it, you recognize that it is unmistakably waxed. When cut or sanded it gives off a bright green dust. It is quite dense.


end grain closeup of the left-most sample directly above. This side of this piece has been fine sanded and has a waxy exudation on the surface.


end grain closeup from one of the pieces directly above --- color is slightly too dark --- this one does NOT have the waxy buildup


side grain closeup showing herringbone interlocked grain

Bill Fink reports on working with verawood: "As I recall, when the piece was in the lathe, all of the fresh cuts were green. If I took a break and went inside for a while it would have turned brown in just an hour or so. It had a slightly sweet, pleasant smell while it was being worked. I made a night stick with this specimen for a policeman friend. It was so heavy that they had him go Federal guidelines. They were certain that it had been bored and spiked with lead, so part of the process was an xray! He's no longer a cop, but still has the stick. After being carried for years, it still looks like it did the day it came off of the lathe."


a small, thin, verawood sheet and a tiny slab, both contributed by Terrence O'Hearn, whom I thank for the donation. I'm going to sand down one side of The small slab and take a pic while it's raw (it will be a moderately light brown) and then again after it ages for a few months, at which point it will be back to looking like what you see here. He sent it with one side sanded but I waited so long to take the pics that it aged enough that I'm no longer content to consider it "raw" and need to sand it again.


OK, here it is sanded (brown) and then again after being in indirect sunlight for 2 weeks (it didn't take the full 2 weeks to turn green again, I just didn't get around to taking a picture for 2 weeks). I don't know what I was thinking in the paragraph above when I said I'd wait for months. I know it doesn't take long for this wood to change color.


sample plank and end grain sold to me as verawood / Bulnesia arborea --- this piece is freshly sanded, but was not sanded deeply enough to totally remove the green surface, so it's a cross between the normal brown of a freshly surfaced piece and the green of an aged piece.


end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above, sanded down far enough to show the red/brown of a freshly sanded piece.


small plank and end grain, freshly sanded. This piece was green before sanding. Piece contributed by Joe Melton, whom I thank for this and numerous other contributions. Joe had this marked as "blue verawood", but I cannot find that designation in any reference.


end grain closeup of the piece directly above



web pics:


lumber yard pic of numerous verawood planks showing only some of the color variation that one can find in this wood


planks listed as verawood


verawood plank and closeup --- I had this in my files as verawood and then again as Argentine lignum vitae, so I'm not sure which one it should be listed as


verawood plank and closeup


planks and turning stock listed as Argentine lignum vitae / Bulnesia sarmientoi


planks listed as Argentine lignum vitae


plank and closeup listed as Argentine lignum vitae


bowl blank listed as Argentine lignum vitae


bowl blanks listed as Argentine lignum vitae / Bulnesia sarmientoi


verawood planks and a closeup


both sides of a verawood plank and a closeup


both sides of a verawood plank and a closeup --- I'm not sure whether this is sapwood or just an extraordinarily light colored plank (my guess is that it is sapwood)


verawood scales


turning stock listed as verawood


veneer listed as verawood / Bulnesia arborea




all of these were listed as verawood and are from the BogusColorVendor, so I have no idea which, if any, of the colors are true to the wood, but certainly the extreme green colors seem unlikely (although I have now been informed by a correspondant that verawood CAN get this green, especially if left out in sunlight)


both sides of a plank and a closeup


both sides and a closeup of a plank


both sides of a plank and a closeup


both sides of a plank and two closeups


plank and closeup


plank and closeup --- I assume the distance picture bears some resemblance to the true color of the wood and the closeup is the standard BogusColorVendor dishonesty; pretty obviously they can't BOTH be correct colors and the green seems very unlikely to me (although I have now been informed by a correspondant that verawood CAN get this green, especially if left out in sunlight).


planks


two planks and a closeup


both sides of a plank


both sides of a plank


both sides of a plank and a closeup


both sides of a plank and a closeup


bowl blank, waxed


turning stock


turning stock end grain







8" bowl by Steve Earis who had it listed as "Argentine lignum vitae"


verawood sections in one of my bowls. Click for enlargement, or go here to see the full bowl. This is a TERRIFIC pic of interlocked grain, which is why I chose this little section to go in the bowl.


top and side views of a small turning that nicely shows the grain of this wood. This piece had a green tint when it came off the lathe but it sat around for a few days (at least) before I got the pics so it turned to the light brown you see here. I took this piece out just now, 9 years after it was turned. It had not been exposed much to indirect sunlight (and no direct sunlight) over the years (spend many of them inside a box) and the natually waxy finish protects the surface from oxidization but it still turned quite a bit darker as you can see directly below


same turning as above but 9 years later. The finish has degraded slightly because the box that this piece spent most of those years in developed some water damage and subsequent mildew.