#96: Mopani

Bird number: 129
Date: December 17, 2012
Wood: Mopani (Colophospermum mopane)
Source: Woodcraft

Mopani (also mopane) is one of the heaviest woods found in South Africa. With a specific gravity of 1.23, it’s very hard and durable. Because of its termite resistance, it’s long been used for building houses and fences, as well as for mining timbers and railway sleepers. Outside of Africa, it’s used for outdoor accents, bases for lamps and sculptures, aquarium ornaments (the wood sinks, after all), turned objects, and other small specialty items.

I love the stuff. I bought it mostly because I was intrigued by its hardness, but when I made the first cut with the bandsaw I knew that it would be lovely.

I had to be careful to use a slower speed when carving, so as not to burn the wood, and sanding took a while although it wasn’t especially difficult. When I finished sanding, I spent a day hand rubbing the bird to see if I could get away with an “all natural” finish like I did with the Texas Ebony. The wood is certainly oily enough, and the bird did look good. But it didn’t shine like I wanted it to, so I went ahead with the polyurethane finish.

The result is one of the more beautiful birds. It looks glass-smooth, and the grain appears to have some depth.

I bought a fairly large piece of this, and am looking forward to making a few other things from what’s left. I can’t say what, exactly, I’ll use it for, but you can be sure it that will be a stylized carving that will show off the grain. And I’ll likely buy more of it at some point.

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