Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Have I Mentioned that I Like Working Olive Wood?

As a plane maker I have the pleasure to work some very unique woods. Many of these woods are quite challenging due to their dense nature. I have to say that Macassar Ebony is some of the hardest material that I've yet to plane. It makes a piece of Osage Orange seem like a walk in the park. Of course the rosewoods are very interesting as well given the way they seem to change color daily, starting as mauve and yellow streaks that change within a couple of days to reddish dark brown and amber stripes. The rosewoods also have the added issue in that they have to be handled a bit carefully as they are not the most pleasant materials to process. Nothing like a wood that tries to kill you as you coerce it to the desired shape, it's almost like it's fighting back.

I have to say that the wood I enjoy working most is Olive. I like everything about this wood. I like the way it works, I like the way it looks, I like the way it smells, I like the way it finishes and I like the way it ages. In fact I like everything about this wood except for the fact that it's hard to come by in the sizes needed for plane making.

Olive has a wonderful smell. If you like cooking with olive oil you'll also enjoy the smell that emerges from this wood as you turn, plane or sand this material. It seems our diet includes different varieties of Italian dishes when I'm making a plane using this wood. Maybe there's a connection, like a subliminal messages from the wood that says "go make pasta." I finished up the Olive wood plane on Friday and we made lasagna on Saturday. That seems like more than a coincidence.

Olive has a very unique look and it can vary widely in color from one piece to the next which makes it a bit hard to match up pieces from different blanks. It's always best to make every part of a plane from the same piece. It has very nice contrasting lines that are highlighted by a background of tan to yellow color. It is very interesting in this regard especially from an end grain perspective.

The way Olive wood ages is more gradual than the rosewoods in that it occurs over a wide period of time but ultimately the effects are dramatic. In the picture below the plane on the right is the one I completed this past Friday and the one on the left is a plane that I completed about 18 months ago. There is quite a contrast but I think the effects are most appealing. The other thing you will notice in this picture is how the knob shape has evolved since the making of the earlier plane.

I shot some video of the shaping of the rear tote on the recently completed plane. Once again the detail is a lot better if you opt for the 720p version and watch it full screen.



  1. Great video Ron. I'd like to know the names of some of the rasps and files, particularly the black one in the beginning and the last one.

  2. Tico the first rasp has the name "Plumb" on the tang. It cuts fast, yet leaves a very nice finish. I've not found a rasp that works quite like it. I obtained the "Plumb" rasp and the finer rasp from Slav at the first WIA event in Berea Kentucky. The rasp that I'm using inside the hand hole is the Gramercy saw makers rasp.