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Exotic Woods

In today’s piece, we’re going to talk about exotic woods. Exotics are, true to their name, some of the most visually stunning types of hardwood we have in our inventory. We’re going to discuss:
  • What exotics are
  • The uses of exotic woods
  • How to care for exotic woods

That’s a lot to cover, so let’s jump right into it:

What are exotic woods?

Much like we have domestic and imported beers, there are domestic and exotic woods. Domestic woods are sourced from trees you can find in Canada and the United States - Oak, Maple, Birch, and the like.

Exotic woods, on the other hand, are imported from other places. Purpleheart, White Limba, and Padauk are all exotic woods.

The lines between exotic and domestic woods are sometimes blurred. Mahogany trees, for example, grow in southern Florida, but their wood is still considered exotic. Birch, on the other hand, is often sourced from the Baltics (Baltic Birch is its own type of plywood), but you’ll rarely see Birch listed as exotic.

Exotic hardwoods tend to (but don’t always) have a number of similar traits. They tend to be harder than the hardwoods found in the United States and Canada. They’re also quite beautiful, with grains and colours that are striking - perhaps due to their rarity in North American construction.

What are exotic woods used for?

Listing every woodworking project you could get into with exotic woods would be almost impossible. Like domestic woods, exotic woods of different types will be best-suited to different projects. That said, let’s take a look at a few fairly common uses for exotic woods.

The striking patterns and colours that you can find in exotic woods make them a great choice for eye-catching pieces. They do, however, tend to be more expensive than domestic woods. While some people will use exotic woods for floors or full pieces of furniture, many woodworkers buy exotics to create accent pieces to incorporate into other projects; for example, coaster sets, wooden iPhone cases, or cutting boards. Exotics also make lovely veneers.

To provide our customers with affordable exotics to suit these needs, we offer a number of project boards made of exotic woods. We’ve also created an exotic cutting board package to help you create your own, one-of-a-kind cutting board.

Some exotic woods are prized for their tonal properties - these woods fall under a specific category of lumber we call tonewoods. Mahogany, for example, has been quite popular with luthiers for creating the backs of guitars. Mahogany has become more difficult to source, however, so many luthiers have started to use White Limba for the same purposes. The Flying V guitar from Gibson is a famous example of a traditionally Limba-based guitar.

Do exotic woods need special care?

Most exotics only need special care to the extent that any hardwoods do. They need to be finished appropriately, they should be kept in an area where you can keep the humidity consistent, and you should clean them carefully and regularly.

All woods are prone to changes in colouration when exposed to UV rays. These changes can look particularly drastic on a very colourful exotic like Purpleheart. There are oils and varnishes you can use to protect the wood from UV rays. Depending on the wood, you may be able to intentionally change the colour.

Realistically, no two types of wood are exactly the same, so if you have any questions about our exotics and how to care for them, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.


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KJP Select Hardwoods - January 7, 2022

Hi Joanne – Absolutely! Take a peek at our Project Board section here:

Joanne Smith - January 7, 2022

Hi… Can u source small amts. of exotic woods for special future art/ craft projects such as: teak, ebony… Ghost tree, Rainbow tree etc…

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