#12: Crape Myrtle

Bird Number: 33
Date: January 19, 2012
Wood: Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia)
Source: Austin, TX

Crape Mrytle (or Crepe Myrtle) is a common landscape plant here in the Austin area. It’s beautiful when it’s blooming, but otherwise I find it rather dull. We have several of them on one side of the driveway that struggle. They don’t do well in the summer heat unless we water them. I don’t like having to water the trees. If Debra didn’t do it, the things would be dead.

This piece of wood came from a large (about 8″) crape myrtle trunk that I picked up in Austin about three years ago. Landscapers were cutting out some crape myrtles, and I stopped to ask if I could have some pieces. They looked at me funny and said, “take all you want.” I put it up to dry in the garage rafters, and left it there until last month.

Unfortunately, the wood cracked rather badly up there in the rafters. It cracked so badly, in fact, that about all I could salvage was enough for one bird. And it cracked after I’d cut it out. The wood was pretty wet even after almost three years up in the rafters. I let this blank dry another month or so, carved the bird, and then filled the large crack with epoxy.

I was hesitant to carve the wood because it looked very bland when I cut it out. The grain and color just weren’t interesting. It turned out pretty, though. The grain isn’t as pronounced as in many of the other woods I’ve been working with, but there is some figuring and the color is pleasing. Definitely a nice addition to the collection.

As with many of the woods I’m working with, there’s not a lot of information about carving crape myrtle. Some people like to use it for canes and walking sticks because the wood is fairly strong and the limbs grow relatively straight. People also use it for spoons, although I wouldn’t recommend it. The wood has a very unpleasant smell when it’s wet. Perhaps a good waterproof finish would eliminate that.