#92: Olive

Bird number: 125
Date: December 4, 2012
Wood: Olive (Olea europaea)
Source: Woodcraft

I’m a little disappointed that I ended up having to buy Olive wood, considering there are several olive orchards in the area who undoubtedly have suitable wood available on a regular basis. They have to do something with the dead trees and pruning trash. But I couldn’t get anybody at those places to return my calls. Having now carved Olive and seen how nice it is to work with and how beautiful the finished product can be, I think I’ll spend a little more time trying to get a bunch from the orchards. I really enjoyed working with this wood.

It carves nice and it smells good! When cut, it smells like olive oil. Sanding the bird made me want to take a trip to Olive Garden.

With all the different types of olives available at the grocery store, I expected to say here that I have no idea what type of tree this wood came from. Other than it’s some type of Olive, that is. Turns out, though, that all olive trees are the same species. There are six subspecies and thousands of cultivars, but the trees are essentially the same. Minor genetic differences make up the differences in the size, shape, and taste of the fruits that they produce.

Olives are among the most widely cultivated trees in the world, and their history is ancient. Historians estimate that it’s been cultivated in the Mediterranean for over 7,000 years. Several living trees have been verified at over 2,000 years old. The olive is one of the first plants mentioned in the Bible, and easily the most often mentioned. It also plays a large part in the Jewish and Islamic religions.

The wood is about average hardness for fruit woods, with tight close grain. It’s not often available in lumber form, but bowl turning blanks are fairly common. It’s used for high end furniture, veneer, turned objects, and small specialty wood items. I’ve seen olive wood spoons and other kitchen utensils, and from time to time some very nice carved pieces.