Do you know your oak?

Do you like curly maple?



Without getting too technical about wood I will talk a little about the woods I use.  Please look through my website for examples of finished pieces.  I will go pretty much in order of most popular.

Walnut:  My favorite wood is California Black Walnut also known as Claro.  It is very stunning due to its variety of colors, from light yellow and gray to bright yellow and red and dark brown.  The grain is also very interesting and varies from very straight to very wild.  Because usually only large trees are harvested the milled wood consists of large slabs and is rough sawn and uneven.  While the end result is always stunning, processing the wood requires a great deal of skill and effort.  Layout and cutting is time consuming since the wood usually has many defects, such as knots, checks, cracks, nails, bullets, bugs, etc.  So be prepared to pay a lot more since the wood itself has become more expensive and hard to find but also because it requires a great deal more time to process.  Highly curly Claro is rare but yields extremely stunning results.

On the other hand, there is Eastern Black Walnut.  This wood tends to be straight grained and of fairly even color with a bit of a greenish tint and has a somewhat formal look.  It usually is finished on three sides at the lumber store and is ready for finish milling. 

Cherry Wood.  This comes from the East Coast and is very well known.  One prevalent characteristic is that it darkens quite a bit with age.  It is less used these days due to decreasing quality.  It is hard to find pieces that don’t  include large streaks of sap wood which is very light in color and does not darken with age.


There is a lot of confusion about maple since there are literally  hundreds of species all over the world and many different names for the same species.  Here I will focus on what I use and what is readily available.

Hard maple. (Also known as rock maple, sugar maple, white maple).  Usually comes from the Eastern United States.

            Unfigured is quite common and inexpensive.

            Bird’s eye figured can be very expensive depending on degree of figure.

            Tiger figured also varies by degree of figure.

Soft maple.  (Also known as Big Leaf Maple, Broad Leaf Maple, Oregon Maple, Pacific Coast Maple, Western Maple).  Usually comes from Oregon and California.

            Unfigured is quite common and inexpensive.

            Curly figured comes in either fiddleback or quilted figure and varies in intensity of figure.  Highly figured wood is rare and very expensive, the best is used in guitars.

Mahagony.  I use mostly African and Philippine Mahagony.  If I am lucky I will find the type called “ribbon” due to the longitudinal stripes that appear luminescend when finished.  Philippine Mahogany tends to be somewhat pale and improves in appearance when given a coat of aniline dye.  These woods are less expensive, soft and light and much easier to process than most others.

Wenge.  This is an African wood that is readily available and is the closest replacement for Ebony.  It is fairly expensive, very hard and heavy.  Since it is brittle, splinters are small and very painful.  Wenge provides a great contrast as a second wood and works with almost any other wood.

Zebra Wood.  Zebra Wood is also from Africa.  It is readily available and goes well with Wenge.

 Jarrah. This is a eucalyptus wood found only in Western Australia.  It is very dense and heavy and difficult to work.  As it ages it darkens into a beautiful reddish brown color.

Bubinga. This wood comes from Equatorial Africa.  It is extremely hard and heavy and requires a great deal of extra time to process.  It’s hard on tools and me but it is quite beautiful.

Leopard Wood.  Readily available and comes from Central and South America.  I use it sparingly only as accent since it’s available only in limited dimensions.  The finished product is very striking.

Jatoba.  Also known as Brazilian Cherry comes from Central America and South Mexico.  Unlike our domestic cherry this wood is very dense and heavy.  It goes really well with Wenge.

Ebony. This wood has become very rare and very expensive and I use it almost exclusively for plugs.  It is very dense and very heavy and the closest to true black.


John Moldovan buys most of his wood within one hour's drive from his home in Sonoma, CA.