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Is Madrona a good wood to use for plank-on-frame models? It is not mentioned in any of my books. It is native to the Pacific Northwest in the US.


I have used it for my art boxes, and it handles and machines very well, having little to no grain to speak of with a nice creamy color. It occurred to me it might make a decent alternative to Pear or Boxwood.

Any advice?

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Ah... Madrone not Madrona.


The problem is it's tough to find straight pieces and it requires a very slow, controlled drying process.  If you can find some good Madrone, go for it.  I had two small pieces I got from a friends tree and it's very nice.

"The shipwright is slow, but the wood is patient." - me

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I have used Pacific madrone (Arbutus menziesii) and it is very nice for carving. No pores, polishes very smooth, and finishes with True Oil (purified linseed oil) in a beautiful color that looks like honey you could dip your finger into. It does have annual growth rings that are quite apparent. It doesn't chip or fuzz when carving it. It has been compared to European pear, and is possibly superior.


However, as said above, it is very difficult to dry. Large pieces split radially along the grain the full length. I have never tried working with long thin strips so I don't know if it is brittle and prone to splitting.


It has a few distinctive features. The bark is very smooth and thin, like deep red paper, and it peels off every year, leaving pale green limbs and trunks that start a new growth of bark every spring. It produces many pale whitish-green flowers at the very top - you usually can't see them from the ground, but from a distance a hillside with many madrones may look white as if it was covered with snow. It also produces a lot of bright red seed pods.


I got my pieces out of clearcuts in nearby forests. Foresters/loggers try to eliminate the madrone because it is a non-commercial "weed" species. Some of it is cut for firewood but most is burned on site or left to rot. Fortunately, the US Forest Service has a practice of trying to maintain a viable population of all native species so it probably won't become extinct. There are a few giant madrones (5 feet/1.5 meters diameter) in some natural reserves near my home, but most of what we have now is 1 foot/0.3 meters or less diameter.


Consequently, there aren't many commercial sources and it is relatively expensive - $30 to $40 per board foot (12x12x1 inch/30.48x30.48x2.54 cm).

Edited by Dr PR
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Madrone, madrona, either is acceptable usage according to Wiki. And then there's the Madrona section of Seattle. 😉


I have a couple of well-dried chunks of the stuff, I need to cut it open and see if the splits have rendered it unusable. 


BTW, Edensaw Woods in Port Townsend WA supplies it in 13/16" billets, S2S1E. 



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Talking about madrone makes me nostalgic for my native Northern California, where it is common in mixed forests with redwoods and Douglas fir. It's a highly-esteemed fuel for homes with wood heating.

Chris Coyle
Greer, South Carolina

When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk.
- Tuco

Current builds: Brigantine Phoenix, Salmson 2, Speeljacht

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I looked into Madrone as a framing wood.  I am on the wrong side of the continent for the cost to be reasonable - the shipping cost is absurd.

I found a source that has solved the drying problem and uses kiln settings that produces usable timber:  Sustainable Northwest Wood

If I lived near Portland OR  I would pay them a visit and pick over their stock for the color and grain.  They have 4x4 and 8x4 by 8' on hand. 

They sell it for flooring and furniture use. 

The Wood Database information for Madrone reads like it would be excellent for hull fabrication.

NRG member 50 years




HMS Ajax 1767 - 74-gun 3rd rate - 1:192 POF exploration - works but too intense -no margin for error

HMS Centurion 1732 - 60-gun 4th rate - POF Navall Timber framing

HMS Beagle 1831 refiit  10-gun brig with a small mizzen - POF Navall (ish) Timber framing

The U.S. Ex. Ex. 1838-1842
Flying Fish 1838  pilot schooner - POF framed - ready for stern timbers
Porpose II  1836  brigantine/brig - POF framed - ready for hawse and stern timbers
Vincennes  1825  Sloop-of-War  - POF timbers assembled, need shaping
Peacock  1828  Sloop-of -War  - POF timbers ready for assembly
Sea Gull  1838  pilot schooner - POF timbers ready for assembly
Relief  1835 packet hull USN ship - POF timbers ready for assembly


Portsmouth  1843  Sloop-of-War  - POF timbers ready for assembly
Le Commerce de Marseilles  1788   118 cannons - POF framed

La Renommee 1744 Frigate - POF framed - ready for hawse and stern timbers


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