#44: Ipê

Bird number: 67
Date: June 2, 2012
Wood: Ipê (Tabebuia)
Source: Friend’s deck

My friend Robbie built a deck, and he had a bunch of small cutoffs left over. Knowing that I’m interested in all kinds of wood, he called to see if I wanted some of his leftovers for carving. So I ended up with a couple dozen 4″ x 4″ cutoffs that are from 2″ to 8″ in length. I talked to some other carvers who said that the Ipê isn’t very interesting wood to carve.

They were wrong.

Tabebuia is a genus of approximately 100 different trees that grow in Central and South America. I don’t know the exact species of this wood that I have. The wood is hard, a bit difficult to cut with a saw, and much harder than I would be comfortable carving with a knife. Even the Foredom had a little trouble with it, although not so much as with the Desert Ironwood.

Looking at the wood before I started working with it, I wasn’t expecting very much. I was pleasantly surprised at how beautifully it finished.

If you look closely, you can see a small surface crack on the breast. Those surface cracks are pretty common with Ipê. These pictures don’t capture the color variations in the grain. There are hints of yellow and green, as well as some red in there along with the dark brown. The wood is smooth and a real pleasure to hold.

Ipê is an important timber tree. It’s widely used for furniture, decking, and other outdoor projects. Indigenous peoples use it for hunting bows, and the bark, leaves, and flowers were and are used for various medicinal purposes. Various species also are used as ornamental trees.

Today, most Ipê wood harvested for decking is from cultivated trees rather than being extracted from the wild.

All told, I enjoyed working with this wood, and I look forward to making other things from it.