Turning Archive 2005

Experiences with "leopardwood"?

GaryG in MD
>I got a small stick of leopardwood in an eBay auction because it looked cool in the photo. This is strange stuff. When I received it and examined it closely, I was surprised to find that it's very rough, ropey, and holey, almost like a very fine-grained "pod", if you will. When viewed closely, a large percentage of the "spots" are badly torn out, leaving significant, irregular voids. At 90 degrees to the spots, the surface is very fibrous with lots of nearly-microscopic, lens-shaped voids.

What bothers me is all the small holes -- which seem to arise from two different phenomena in the two perpendicular orientations. In the "spots" orientation, is this just the way it is, or could it be the result of the tearing of the grain by the saw? Will it cut cleanly on the lathe or should I expect a rough, holey surface in the final product?

Is this character usual for this wood, or do I just have a strange piece? Does this stuff ever finish up anything like smooth, or should I expect to leave it with a very rough surface which shows off that strange cell structure? I feel like filling the grain, as one would with oak, would defeat the purpose of buying this kind of wood in the first place.

Not unexpectedly, the character of the surface depends VERY much on the grain orientation in the finished piece (say, e.g., a bottle stopper). How does this stuff turn? What is the best orientation for the turned piece to show off the pattern (end grain or cross grain)? What is the best way to finish it?

Thoughts and recommendations please... ...Gary

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