#53: Huisache

Bird Number: 84
Date: July 26, 2012
Wood: Huisache (Vachellia farnesiana)
Source: From a friend

A friend from military school responded to my request for wood with an offer of some huisache, which he uses for smoking meat. He gave me two pieces: one freshly cut, and one that was so bug chewed I was afraid I wouldn’t get a large enough piece from which to carve a bird. I did, but just barely. This bird is a little thinner than most of the others.

The name huisache, derived from the Nahuatl language, means “many thorns.” And, boy, does the thing have thorns! People often mistakenly call huisache trees mesquite. They’re in the same family (Fabaceae) and look somewhat similar, but the trees are not closely related. Huisache leaves are much smaller and the branches have many more thorns than do mesquite branches.

Both woods are hard, but I think mesquite is harder. Huisache wood tends towards red in color whereas mesquite tends towards dark brown or black. Huisache sure finishes up nice, though.

I don’t see much information about carving huisache. Specialty suppliers sell blocks of it to wood turners, and an image search will reveal some beautiful turned pieces. But I don’t know of anybody who carves the stuff regularly. I don’t understand why. Plenty of people carve mesquite, and the huisache is similar. The stuff grows all over, although typically a little further south of me. It’s not as common as mesquite around here, but a few hours’ drive south of here it’s plentiful.

My friend Scott will have to wait a while before he gets his bird. That other piece of wood has to dry a while longer before I can cut it up. I’ll have plenty to carve other things from, too.