#87: Redheart

Bird number: 120
Date: December 1, 2012
Wood: Redheart (species unclear)
Source: Woodcraft store

The most important thing to know about Redheart is that it’s beautiful when finished. The next thing to know is that it smells bad. The Wood Database entry says that it “can have a distinct, rubber-like smell when being worked depending on species.” I suppose I could characterize the smell as “rubber-like.” Say, like an old tractor tire that sat on top of a manure pile for several years of sun and rain before being washed off and stored in a hot barn for the summer.

Other than the smell, it’s fine to work with: medium-hard, straight, close grain, and no tendency to split or tear. Sanding was no problem, and it really did finish up nice.

This is probably Erythroxylum mexicanum, although I can’t say for sure. That is the most common species sold as “Redheart,” and it has the characteristic rubber-like smell, but apparently there are other members of the genus that look and smell the same.

The Erythroxylum genus also includes the the two species from which cocaine is extracted, but I don’t know if they have bad smelling red wood. I consider it very unlikely that I carved a cocaine tree.

Turned objects from Redheart are quite common. Turners love the stuff because it is beautiful and easy to work with. It’s a little on the expensive side as far as exotic woods go, but the color can bring a premium for turned objects. I don’t see many people carving it, though. Carvers are less apt to buy expensive carving wood, probably because the market for high-end carvings is much smaller than the market for turned objects.

I have enough to do a couple more small pieces, but I don’t expect to be working with it after that. The wood’s too pricey for me to go out and buy more. Plus … that smell!