#76: Teak

Bird number: 109
Date: October 9, 2012
Wood: Teak (Tectona grandis)
Source: Reclaimed table

A couple of years ago I was helping my friend Mike clean up around his property. In the process, we threw a rickety old table onto the burn pile. I took a couple of slats from the table top to use in the garage. The idea was to nail them to the top of the rafters, creating some space to store things up off the floor. The next weekend, I cut one to size in preparation for nailing, and discovered that the wood inside wasn’t rotten at all. It was, in fact, quite pretty. I called Mike and told him to take the table off the burn pile.

I’ve made a couple of spoons and a few other little things from the slats, and traded one of the larger pieces to a wood turner for a pen. Unfortunately, the largest piece is about 1.25 inches square, so this is another small bird. But it makes up for size with beauty.

I’ve carved teak with a knife in the past. It’s quite frustrating. The wood is a little bit hard, but the primary problem is that it has a tendency to tear out if you carve against the grain. Carving with the grain is okay, but against the grain is a serious mistake. I carved this figure with the Foredom. The tool didn’t have any trouble with the wood. My only trouble was holding on to the piece while carving it. Next time I carve something that small, I’ll keep it attached to a longer piece of wood while roughing it out. That aggressive bit got just a little close to my fingers for comfort.

Teak is cultivated for its hardwood, which is used in making outdoor furniture, boat decks, and other articles where weather resistance is important. It is considered by many to be the “gold standard” for decay resistance. The wood is also a popular, if very expensive, flooring material, and is used for carving, turning, and other small decorative items.

Teak is native to southeast Asia, where it grows in semi-arid areas as well as in moist jungles. Although the species apparently is not threatened, old growth teak is becoming rare. Most teak used in lumber production is plantation grown in Burma, Indonesia and, increasingly, South America.

It’s pretty stuff, and not too bad to work with. I have lots of small pieces, mostly 1/4 inch thick and about two inches wide, and some 1.25″ x 1.25″ pieces that are several feet long. If I ever get around to carving wooden jewelry, this will come in handy.