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choices other than boxwood or swiss pear?

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I have recently begun to mill my own lumber.  I find that boxwood and Swiss pear, while most popular, are expensive and often difficult to obtain. So I began to look for more readily available, and less expensive wood. Wood that would have fine grain and other attributes required for modelling.


I have listed below some of the varieties of one online retailer that is available various, thin stocks, some stock as thin as 1/8". So I wondered which of those you all would use and for what.


Again this list is only from the stock of one, major, U.S. retailer and are readily available.





white ash


Purple Heart


red heart's

Bolivian Rosewood

east Indian Rosewood



African mahogany



I was going to do this as a survey but really looked forward to the comments.



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From your list, my favorites are also the least expensive:

Rock Maple (Acer saccharum)

Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)


Both hard, tight grain with low contrast, closed pore.


See if there are any hardwood saw mills in your area.


If you can harvest your own, look for


Bradford Pear

Other fruit wood - Crab Apple, Pear, Plum


Washington Hawthorn


Holly is good, but very tricky - harvest in Winter and kiln dry quickly - otherwise Blue Mold will ruin it.


I do not think Peach is any good

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Don't forget the universal Yankee favorite, Apple!


There's also a often planted tree here in FLA called Loquat. Many people cut them down, because they don't want to pick up the fruit. It can be identified by grey bark with clusters of yellow grape sized fruit. It is apple/pear colored and has a very small, tight grain, yet is easily bendable.

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I used yellow heart, bloodwood, rosewood, cherry, holly, African blackwood and some maple on my AVS.  All relatively tight grained with minimal pores.  If you get some nice rosewood, you'll never use walnut again on a model!  Check my thread  in the kit log forum:http://modelshipworld.com/index.php/topic/6998-armed-virginia-sloop-by-docblake/



Edited by DocBlake
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Loquat: not sure of all the areas but when I grew up in California we had that tree in Stockton so it will grow in states that get a cold winter temp the same as central ca valley  frost on the ground but not deep long freezing.

Small world - my grandparents lived in Stockton and had a loquat tree in their yard.  I would think that in Georgia one could keep an eye out for old orchards being rotated out.

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Madrone and African Pear are very similar to Swiss Pear and are available through Woodworker's Source.


Castello and Pau Marfim (also called Guatambu) are very similar to Boxwood.


All of these woods are hard, have tight grain, and will mill very nicely.


I also have found some Poplar that is almost pure white and is a nice wood to work with. Similar to basswood but harder.



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I appreciate all your responses. 


 The retailer I mentioned has cherry and maple.  Would these be similar to rock maple and black cherry?


Doc Blake,

The retailer has Bolivian rosewood, Indian Rosewood, Yellow Heart, cherry and maple.  Sometimes they have holly.

and blood wood. I have already ordered yellow heart and cherry from them, and will experiment with these and will order the others you recommended next time they have a free shipping offer..



I will check out the woodworkers source.  Hopefully they have a website.



I am afraid that harvesting my own is not in the picture for me which is why I am checking what is available that is square and in thin thickness.






Thanks to all


Edited by rtropp
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Yes.   The species I posted are the ones traditionally used for furniture.


Cherry is almost always Black Cherry.   

Maple -  Hard = Sugar = Rock  all are names for the same species.


Both are a joy to work with.  They are hard and will work your cutting tools, but you are also less likely to overdo  a cut.


What you want is the choice that specialty wood workers are not after-  clear straight grained.


Unless you are doing a stunt or are making a base - you do not want Tiger, Bird's Eye, Spalted, Burl.

These are grain effects (or a fungus infection) - they have no relationship to what timber scaled down 1:50 / 1:100 would look like.


Soft Maple is being sold in some places - unless you are familiar with it and know you want it for some purpose, do not get it.


Too bad you cannot harvest your own.

Of all wood, Apple is my favorite.

I harvested the wood from a neighbor's fruit cherry tree that had blown down in return for cutting the rest up for curbside pickup.  It is hard and the grain is low contrast, but the color is yellow with a greenish tinge.

Edited by Jaager
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Black walnut is an excellent wood to work with.  As Jaager mentioned the pieces you want are the plain ones.  Loquat is also good but it will develope a fungus stain if it is not dried properly.  Microwaving small pieces is a good way to kill the spores.  I don't know if star fruit will grow up in Georgia but if you can find some pieces it is very nice to work with.

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I recently picked up some Anigre and Makore - the Anigre is a great substitute for Costello Box and the Makore will be a substitute for Pear - it is still a bit pricy, about $8 a BF but a lot less than the Box and Pear. I got it at our local Macbeath Hardwoods dealer and you can see some pics of the Anigre in my Granado cross section build log....     http://modelshipworld.com/index.php/topic/8949-bomb-vessel-granado-1742-cross-section-138-scale-by-asat/ 

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Cherry is a favorite of mine. It is good for framing and planking. I have even made belaying pins out of it at 1/48 scale. It cuts well, is workable with hand tools, holds a nice edge, sands well, and takes paint and stain well. It can be gotten from various online suppliers down to 1/32" sheet or strip. Or you can buy it from a local furniture shop and mill it yourself.


Any fruit wood is going to have good characteristics for scale modeling. That said, while I used walnut in some projects, it has a coarse, open grain and requires a lot of work to get a smooth finish. I keep some around the shop, but it is not high on my list.


I have also had good results with birch, western alder, and basswood. Birch is softer and lighter than cherry, but it is good for planking. Western Alder is nice for spars and decking. It is usually straight grained and is easy to work with hand tools. Basswood is a good wood, but it takes care in cutting and sanding. It is soft and soaks up stain unevenly so it needs some pretreatment if you are going to stain it.


Maple is good too. I have some hard maple and it makes good decking, framing etc. So long as you take care in the selection, it should be fine.



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One wood that often seems to be overlooked is beech. It looks, to me, like oak at a miniature scale. I've used it on several models.  Also, if you are painting your model, poplar is a readily available and inexpensive wood that is easy to work but harder than basswood. It takes paint very well.

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Lime wood, or bass wood, seems to be the ideal wood for carving. It is soft and free of knots and blemishes.


I don't carve myself, but I can pretty much guarantee that basswood is not the ideal wood for carving, precisely because it is too soft.  It makes great boomerangs, though.

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