Precious Wood and Other Materials Used in Cabinetmaking

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I’ve chosen “precious wood” term because that’s what I believe it is. It is precious because it is rare, different, scarce, expensive and often it looks more different than other types of wood. You have to use it wisely avoiding waste. Often, this wood widely involves your senses. Here are some examples:

1. Smell: the rare Agar wood, made to use exclusive perfumes;
2. Sound: special spruce used to make violins
3. Sight: like the Snake wood or the marble wood which names describe their figures;
4.  Taste: an Argentinian wood Yacaratià used to make jelly and used by some chef to make desserts;
5. Touch: At first you take a look a the wood and then you touch it. Usually when you touch soft wood it feels warmer than hardwood.

Many wood species has also medical properties (as the aspirin that comes from the willow tree, and many other medicines that come from trees and plants), and many industrial uses (fuel, paper, finishing products, cosmetics, construction, food, chemical, etc).

Some wood or their fruits, or flowers are also poisonous and you have to be  careful about when using it. Working with some tropical wood can also cause allergic reactions, respiratory problems and in rare cases some wood suspects to cause serious illness. All processes made using tropical or rare wood has to be carefully planned. Always avoid any kind of dust, doesn’t matter what type of wood you are using.

Yet, in this article, I will talk about wood, used for design and construction purposes, for created man-made objects.
The reason why we choose precious wood is probably related to its uniqueness and the selfish pleasure that give us having an exclusive object. A special kind of wood requires a person that understand how to use it properly.

There are so many different textures and colors in wood and they never repeat as the same —they are all unique. External and environmental characteristics define the shape and properties in a trunk of the tree. It takes a good knowledge and experience to understand them, and it takes a deep knowledge in the moment when you are going to cut the log. The exposed side of a tree to a river is different than the other side, trees that grow in a shaded side of a hill are different than the ones that grow in the sunny side, trees exposed to one side prevalent wind will develop different internal structure in the wood, and so on. But, to be honest, sometimes is also luck.

In some species the grain pattern is more interesting than others, but I believe that the beauty is already in the wood, and it is up to you to know how to take it out.

It is like to put a bunch of oil colors, some painting brushes and a paper…. together they are not a big thing and their price is relatively low. But when you give them to a master painter, the result is unique. That is the difference, to know how to use it. and this knowledge takes time, practice, experience and a good taste.

It is a rare combination.
Another problem working with precious wood is that often it is pretty difficult to model because of intricate wood grain and, in some cases, the wood itself is so firm that every 15 minutes you have to stop and re-sharpen your tools to get a proper finished surface.

Other materials:
For different reasons cabinetmakers also use other materials than wood in their creations. The use of these materials is always related with some experimentation before they find the proper way to use it.
In many cases, you need to wait for months or even years before you are sure that certain material can be used without risk (I mean a risk of getting broken, due to different materials movement, just to give some examples).

In my case, I am always experimenting with new materials and methods of work. I also experiment with wood, making some structural changes with different chemical treatments. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with some success trying to create spalted wood. This spalted wood is a regular solid wood that is attacked by some kind of fungi and, due to it has changed in the structure and the color of the wood.

Another interesting part of woodworking are inlay and marquetry. This discipline is where you can take out your artistic potential, mixed with wood knowledge, to wonderfully express your creativity. In both cases, what you do is use different types of wood or many other materials to produce a figure, a design or a special pattern.

In inlay or marquetry, you can use as many different materials as you are able to work with. But you need to know how to work with them and mainly you need to know how to put them together so in the future they won’t fall apart.

Some example of materials that can be used:

-Shell in the different forms: abalone, mother of pearl, nacre, clam, paua, etc;

-Metals: as many kinds as the artisan can find or work with, mainly nonferrous metals, due to rust;

-Ivory like materials: synthetic materials, animal bones, tagua nut;

-Stones: as many as the artisan can work with. Mainly used in the “Pietra dura” technique;

-Leather: in some high-level work is used special leather that is inlaid in wood or metal.

-Horn: Water buffalo, cow horn, ram horn, deer horn;

Due to some animal protection laws or just a personal choice many people decide not to use animal related products in their finished goods, choosing materials made of minerals that come from the vegetal kingdom or is just whatever you can use that fits your needs.
All this materials need a good knowledge, regarding how to use them. Many are difficult to use, due to gluing issues, but after some experimentation you can overcome it.

ⒸMario Morigi (picture 1; 2; 3)

ⒸLarry Robinson (picture 13; 14;)

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