There are literally hundreds of wood species used to make pens, bowls, works of art, and just about any product that can be turned on a lathe. On this page I have listed many (but not all) of the types of wood that I have used to make pens, including a description of the wood as well as a photo of a pen and/or pen blank of that wood.
Lots of character in this wood from Africa. Heartwood is reddish brown after exposure; the sapwood is pale straw to whitish and well defined. Texture is moderate to coarse, the grain is straight to interlocked. Works to a smooth finish.
Amboyna Burls are from the Curly Narra or Red Narra tree from the East Indies. The heartwood varies from light yellow, through golden brown to brick red in color and has a characteristic sweet smell when turned. The grain in Amboyna is wavy, interlocked or crossed and these irregularities give rise to mottle, fiddleback, ripple and curly effects of figure. The more red the Amboyna wood, the heavier it is. Straightforward to work with hand or machine tools with only a slight dulling effect on cutters on straight grained material. Amboyna Burl can be nailed, screwed, glued and stained satisfactorily and takes an excellent polish. It is a very durable and highly decorative wood. Amboyna is one of the premier woods used in pen making.
Ancient Bog Oak
Avodire is also referred to as Blond mahogany. It is a rare wood that has many of the same tonal qualities and workability of mahogany. Avodire is credited as being one of the most beautiful of all blonde woods, even the less decorative boards. The light-colored heartwood will darken to a golden color when cut. There is not much difference in color between sapwood and heartwood. It is often highly mottle figured. The wood sands, glues and finishes easily. When polished it has a lustrous surface, also reminiscent of mahogany. Works well with both hand and machine tools.
Bethlehem Carob From the Holy Land! This is a beautiful wood with a wide range of colors from a creamy white to a beautiful pink. A very solid wood that turns and finishes nicely.
Black Palm is an exotic wood from Southeast Asia that is hard and dense, with stringy type grain. Somewhat difficult to machine, needs sharp tools, distinctive end grain.
Bocote is an exotic wood native to Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies. It features a wide range of grain patterns from straight to wild, with curved lines and swirls. The color ranges from golden brown to tan to golden yellow. It is a hard, heavy, and dense wood, strong and stiff, with a medium texture. Mainly used for custom pool cues, cabinetry, veneer, furniture, inlays, knife handles, and pens. It polishes well with wax or polyurethane, and will take a moderately high natural gloss.
Cocobolo is an exotic wood native to Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, and is favored for custom pool cues, fine furniture and cabinetry, inlays, and musical instruments. The wood is very durable and strong, with a fine texture. It is extremely beautiful, ranging in color from dark red to reddish brown, with an irregular grain pattern. Cocobolo has fantastic working characteristics, making it a favorite for turning and carving, and finishes very smoothly.
Ancient Kauri is excavated from fields in New Zealand. While Kauri still grows there, these ancient logs buried for millennia beneath the surface have been radio carbon dated back to a minimum of 30,000 to 50,000 years. It should be noted that this is the maximum age range of radiocarbon dating so it is assumed that much of the wood is actually quite a bit older. Kauri is a rich tan wood that is of a moderate to light density and has excellent working properties.
Leopardwood or Lacewood
Leopardwood is also known as Lacewood. Leopardwood is pale pinkish brown to medium brown with flaky, speckled figure with dark flecks, varying from a small lacelike pattern to a larger "splashy" figure. The texture of Leopardwood is fairly coarse. It is moderately hard and works easy and takes a lustrous finish. Fairly scarce.
Osage Orange (Argentine) is an exotic wood from South America that is very dense. It is popular for turnery, handles, musical instruments and custom bows. Osage Orange is also known as Mora. Argentine Osage Orange is much larger and higher quality than American Osage Orange. Rich Yellow in color, it is very stable, durable, and strong.
Padauk is an exotic wood from central Africa that is a bright orange or almost crimson wood when freshly cut, but oxidizes to a darker, rich purple-brown over time - although it stays redder than Indian Rosewood. Slightly harder and heavier than Indian Rosewood it is a good wood in all respects - stable, and easy to work with. It often grows in small groups and is reported to be common in dense equatorial rain forests.
Tulipwood is an exotic wood native to the tropical region of South America, mainly Brazil. It is a hard and heavy wood, with a rather fine texture. The sapwood is a solid yellow color, while the heartwood color ranges from a pink to a darker red, with a straw colored background. Tulipwood is excellent for wood turning, as well as knife handles, furniture, and cabinets. It is a lustrous wood, has excellent polishing qualities, and glues well.