#51: Orange

Bird Number: 74
Date: June 17, 2012
Wood: Orange (Citrus sinensis)
Source: Friend in Florida

An old college friend contacted me recently, offering to send some branches from an orange tree. He sent three good chunks of wood from which I carved three birds. He’s getting one in return, and he has to give one to the person who gave him the tree branch.

I’d long wondered what citrus wood was like. Now I know. I carved this with the Foredom, so it’s a bit difficult to judge the hardness. It felt similar to pear or apple, and worked just as nicely. The wood looked very bland when I was working with it, and I was worried that the finished product would be uninteresting. Not to worry. All three branches had some dark streaks, and even without the dark streaks the grain has some subtle variations that are quite beautiful.

I got lucky on this one, with that bit of darker color just above the neck.

I thought I’d try a different kind of finish on these birds. Rather than the oil and wax mixture, I used Watco Natural Danish Oil. The result is a finish that looks drier than the oil/wax mixture, and doesn’t feel at all greasy. The product penetrates the wood and hardens, whereas with the oil and wax, the oil penetrates but doesn’t dry, and the wax coats the wood. The Danish Oil finish seals the wood but doesn’t add any color. Some people will put a polyurethane finish over the Danish Oil to give a glossy finish.

I find it interesting that few people work with citrus wood. You’d think that, with all the citrus orchards that are continually removing and replanting, there would be an abundance of citrus wood for carving, lumber, and other uses. Not so. Almost all orchards either burn or mulch the trees that they remove. I’ve seen a few companies that are making furniture from citrus (search for [orange tree furniture]), but that’s about it. A shame, really. The wood is very beautiful.

There aren’t any citrus orchards near me, although there are in South Texas. I might have to drop by the next time I’m down there and see if I can get more of this. In the meantime, I think I’ll check out the nearby olive orchard to see if they have some cutoffs.