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I Forge Iron

Handle Materials


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Last fall we had a garage sale.  I showed a guy a knife I had made for Jackie.  He asked what the handle was made from and I said Desert Ironwood.  He said I have a piece of that and I told him I would buy it from him.  The next day he showed up with a hunk that was almost a foot square and tapered from 2 to 3 inches thick.  When I asked what he wanted for it, he said you can have it.  I kissed his boots all the way back to his car.  :) There was another guy there at the time and he said he had some wood pieces I could have.  He came back with a piece of Bubinga that will make 4 or 5 handles, a piece of Ebony that will make 6 to 8 and a big hunk of Walnut and a small piece of Purple Heartwood.  A few days ago I saw this post on a yard sale page about some beautiful slabs of Elm.  A local tree service guy takes the trees he cuts and makes them into slabs about 2 inches thick and sells the lumber instead of just taking it to the dump to be made into chips.  I asked if he had any small pieces with knots or good figure and he told me he had a bunch to come over and take a look.  I think he means anything shorter than 10 feet when he says small.  He gave me several real small pieces with nice grain and figure and a couple of first cut slabs with the bark on one side.  The are 6 foot and 8 foot long and taper from paper thin at one end to 2 inches at the other.  He said he also gets olive wood and other stuff and he will call me if he comes across something that he thinks I will be interested in.  I think I will have to make 2 knives a day and live forever to use up all this stuff.  It sure has been my lucky season.  I may turn some of that Elm into a butcher  block table top. 

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3 hours ago, Charles R. Stevens said:

Grew up north of Phoenix AZ. Iron wood trees are not pretty but the hardwood is certainly hard and dark. Don't recomend hand tools...

I've heard that stuff is tough on power tools too. According to one story I came across a circular saw was throwing sparks trying to cut the stuff. Not sure myself how believable that was, but he claimed it was ironwood and not a hunk of petrified stump he came across...

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There is something called the "Janka hardness test" for woods---they press a steel ball into it and measure the force required.  Here is a list of many woods and their Janka hardness rating.  Ironwood comes in at 2200.  The hardest I remember cutting is black locust which comes in at 1700 and it definitely was causing some sparks off the saw chain.  Saw-chain life was awful when I had to cut up that tree and the stuff was a back-breaker to move. Took a loooong time to burn out the stump, even after it had dried for a year.

Those guys deforesting the really hard stuff in South America must really be earning their pay.



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