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View Full Version : Lignum Vitae? Heaviest/Strongest wood I've seen



Burl Source
10-08-2009, 04:43 PM
I bought this wood on ebay several years ago. I was told it is Lignum Vitae, but the seller was not a wood dealer so who knows. Over the years I have shown it to a number of exotic wood experts. Each one guessed a different type of wood, and then recanted after feeling how heavy it is.

I finally cut the piece. It is hard cutting and the splinters are like steel. The sawdust is so heavy that the dust collector will not pick it up.

Lignum Vitae was used for bearings on sailing ships because the wood was so tough and was self lubricating. I was told that real lignum vitae sinks in water. So I tried. A small cut off piece sank right to the bottom in a jar of water.
http://i901.photobucket.com/albums/ac219/burlsource/l002.jpg

I had 4 blocks that were each 6"x3&3/8"x1&1/8" in size. They each weighed a pound.
http://i901.photobucket.com/albums/ac219/burlsource/lv001.jpg

Next I got curious how strong the wood was. I had cut off a strip that was 1/16" thick with some hairline checks. Then holding one end I stacked the 4 blocks that weighed a total of 4lbs on the other end. The weight barely flexed the strip.
http://i901.photobucket.com/albums/ac219/burlsource/lv002.jpg
http://i901.photobucket.com/albums/ac219/burlsource/lv003.jpg

What do you think?
Pretty tough stuff!

Ken Hurst
10-08-2009, 04:50 PM
In years gone by, they used it to make main bearings in subs. You are right about the weight, it took two equal sized balsa tree to tie it to in order to float it down the river.

Mark Behnke
10-08-2009, 04:57 PM
I've heard it was used for shaft bearings and is slick when wet. Also have heard it is brittle?
But then again I think it was used for mallets. Sometimes brown with yellow?

I think I have some. A large table base. I really thought someone filled it with metal(lead) when I got it it is so heavy.

MBehnke

BossDog
10-08-2009, 05:47 PM
I always thought it was darker. All the pieces I had ever seen were nearly black with some occasional lighter yellow patches.

Burl Source
10-08-2009, 06:09 PM
It is starting to look like it might not be true lignum vitae but something similar. A number of woodworkers are chiming in on another forum with photos. A lot of similarities, but a few minor differences as well.

Here is a photo sent in by Justin Mercier followed by a sanded piece of my wood.
http://www.tharkis.com/images/temp/lignum1.jpg
http://i901.photobucket.com/albums/ac219/burlsource/220.jpg

Burl Source
10-08-2009, 06:56 PM
Looks like we have the wood identified as Ipe or Brazilian Walnut. Here is a link to a photo (http://www.lumberliquidators.com/assets/product_images/650x650/husbw3s38v_650x650.jpg) I found doing a Google image search.

murphda2
10-08-2009, 09:05 PM
I have some pieces with very similar properties that I picked up in Jamaica three years ago. One of the pieces is a rough cut piece of a branch appriximately 4" in diameter and about 10-12" in length. The man I purchased it from told me it was a type of Ironwood. I need to have someone knowledgeable look at it and tell me rather or not I'll be able to use it for anything. Just as your pieces, it's as heavy as a rock and sinks like one too.

Murph

mack1
10-09-2009, 09:46 AM
There are a number of woods called Lignum Vitae.
Most of the stuff I have is Argentinian Lignum. It looks close to what you've posted.
But it could, also, be Verawood, another type of Lignum. But not "True Lignum". Neither is the Argentinian.

Phillipine Lignum is the dark brown stuff.

I am a Lignum freak. I love the way this stuff smells when cutting/sanding it.
I have numerous blocks of it.

Here's my very first (JD) Grind In knife, which had originally been handled in Natural Canvas Micarta.
And, as you can see from the second pic, it can change color with exposure to sunlight.

Burl Source
10-09-2009, 11:06 AM
After a lot of input and checking out photos from the importers it is 90% sure that this wood is Ipe.

The wood is not aromatic. Only very slight oily feel, and matches a lot of photos I found online of Ipe

It seems to have a lot of different names used for it. This is the list I found on one of the importer sites.
Brazilian Walnut / Ipe / Lapacho
Scientific Name:
Canella imbuia / Tabebuia / Tabebuia serratifolia
Other Names and Species:
Amapa
Brazilian Walnut
Cortez
Flor Amarillo
Greenheart
Green Ironwood
Guayacan Polvillo
Hakai
Ipe
Ironwood
Madera Negra
Polvillo
Tabebuia
Tahuari

JAWilliams
10-09-2009, 12:20 PM
Is lignum hard to get? I like the sounds of it. And does it need to be stabilized? What does it look like finished and on a knife handle?

Dan Pierson
10-09-2009, 01:42 PM
Argentine lignum is pretty widely available. The genuine is endangered and heavily controlled. Both will just sneer at any attempt to stabilize them.

ragingwolf66
10-09-2009, 02:25 PM
I had a BRKT knife in a pass around with Lignum Vitae scales. I really liked it. It is supposed to be the hardes wood around. A little trivia, Lignum Vitae is actually translated (latin) as the wood of Life...

mack1
10-10-2009, 11:13 AM
Is lignum hard to get? I like the sounds of it. And does it need to be stabilized? What does it look like finished and on a knife handle?

Mike & Ann Sheffield have the dark stuff. For Orders Only: 1-800-874-7007 8AM-5PM EST
www.sheffieldsupply.com is their Site, but it's PDF.
Check into it if ya like.

As for the other stuff, do you have a Rocklers Woodworkers Store nearby?

Raymond Richard
10-12-2009, 09:46 PM
I used some for scales shortly after I started making knives. It buffed out and looked like tiger eye. I looked at it the next morning and split all to heck. First and last time I will use it.

Frank Niro
10-13-2009, 11:53 AM
The lignum vitae was also very popular for years becayuse of use in sawmills. It was often used for guides on huge band saw blades.
No, I'm sure it cannot be stabilized, but it doesn't need to be it is filled with wax. For anyone who wanted to use a glue with this wood, foget it, well unless you got some real specialty glue whiac I believe is or was being made by a company called Industrial Formulators. These people by ehe way make some fabulous glues. I found that it's weight on smaller knives often made them handle heavy . Frank

J.Higgins
10-14-2009, 01:41 AM
Does LV check or crack?

mack1
10-14-2009, 09:37 AM
LV can crack or check, just like any other wood that isn't completely dry when used.
But it can be pretty hard to tell when Lignum is dry.
It's not wax inside, it's the natural oil.

Best bet is to get a piece/block/turning stock, whatever, scrape the wax of all sides, but leave it on the ends. Let it sit for several months in yer basement.

As for "gluing", I epoxied those scales on that Grind In knife almost 3 years ago, and there's no sign of them coming off.
As for gluing one piece to another? Ya got me there, I don't know if it can be done, or even if it should be.

I keep this up, people are gonna start calling me the Lignum Man!:eek:
:D

Burl Source
10-14-2009, 03:59 PM
Actually we have been calling you Mr Vitae.

mack1
10-15-2009, 10:18 AM
unsure

:sleeping dog:

Troop
10-16-2009, 07:21 AM
I used some for scales shortly after I started making knives. It buffed out and looked like tiger eye. I looked at it the next morning and split all to heck. First and last time I will use it.

I've heard that a lot about LV scales. I don't think Ray would use wood that was not completely dry.

Megalift
10-16-2009, 07:28 AM
I had a BRKT knife in a pass around with Lignum Vitae scales. I really liked it. It is supposed to be the hardes wood around. A little trivia, Lignum Vitae is actually translated (latin) as the wood of Life...

I recently re-scaled a Nexus Tito with LV (See my Avatar - Edit: Where is my Avatar?? :)), it IS the hardest wood there is - They used to use it for ships bearings. It's also very heavy - Now putting the balance of the knife right back in the hand. Next I'm going to rescale a Spartaco in LV. Frankly, I love it!

Troop
10-16-2009, 08:47 AM
Since I'm at it, don't use Cumaru for scales, either. At least, not cross-grained cuts.

mack1
10-16-2009, 08:54 AM
Well, there's one I haven't heard of!
Now I'm gonna hafta look it up.cool 1

Can it be stabilized?

Troop
10-16-2009, 09:00 AM
Well, there's one I haven't heard of!
Now I'm gonna hafta look it up.cool 1

Can it be stabilized?

AKA "Brazilian Teak".

mack1
10-16-2009, 09:06 AM
Ah!

That I've heard of. Still gonna look into it though. cool 1

Troop
10-16-2009, 09:15 AM
Ah!

That I've heard of. Still gonna look into it though. cool 1

How 'bout looking up at my post with the cracked scales for starters?:)

mack1
10-16-2009, 09:42 AM
I wouldn't be pleased about that either.:mad:

And I wasn't suggesting Ray would use scales/wood that wasn't dry.
As I said, it can be difficult to tell when Lignum is dry.unsure

mack1
10-20-2009, 09:01 AM
Just another couple pics of some Argentine Lignum. A block I have that I planed, then sanded and buffed. 2thumbs
Kinda looks like the stuff pictured above.

John Andrews
10-24-2009, 08:16 AM
Just another couple pics of some Argentine Lignum. A block I have that I planed, then sanded and buffed. 2thumbs
Kinda looks like the stuff pictured above. Nice looking wood, kind of reminds me of Osage Orange.

medit8
10-24-2009, 08:57 AM
Here's 2 pics of some "Lignum Vitae" I got from Woodcrafters in Downingtown PA. They still have a few blocks there right now. I didn't think it was that hard to work with, but I am used to working with desert ironwood. I don't think I'll use it often in the future as I like more figured woods.
Thanks,
Bob
http://www.bobroseknives.com