#52: Hackberry

Bird Number: 83
Date: July 26, 2012
Wood: Hackberry (Celtis laevigata)
Source: Back yard

There are many different species of hackberry that occur in warm temperate regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. This piece of wood is from what’s commonly called a Sugar Hackberry or Southern Hackberry. It’s by far the most common type of hackberry tree in this area. It’s hard to say whether the tree is considered good or bad. Some people like it because it’s an important food source for migrating birds. Others don’t like the tree because it’s kind of messy. The only one we had on the property died in the drought.

Hackberry is a good lumber tree. The wood is strong and light in color, and is often used for making furniture. It’s also used for sporting goods and plywood. I know of wood turners who like it, but few carvers who work with it. I’ve heard that the dust is very toxic, but I haven’t been able to verify that. Not that it matters much; I always wear the respirator when power carving.

The piece I carved this bird from had some discoloration. I don’t know if that was due to disease or if it’s spalting that occurred after the tree died.

The wood is fairly hard. No problem for the power carver, of course, but it would take some effort to carve this with a knife. The density is about the same as cherry, apple, pear, and similar fruit woods. Having worked with it, I’d say that the wood is under-rated as a carving material. It’s nice looking and should hold detail well. And the stuff is all over this area. A carver who liked hackberry wouldn’t have any trouble getting as much of the stuff as he could carve. I certainly have enough of the stuff to last me quite a while.