Endangered Woods

Afzelia Xylocarpia – This wood, still existing in various areas of Southeast Asia, is stunningly beautiful, with figured lace patterns.  The Vietnam Katori Shinto-ryu group has used this wood to make practice weapons, and speaks very highly of its properties. However, by report, this species is highly endangered.  Unless there are some sustainable resources, other Southeast Asian woods, such as pyinkado, are a better alternative.

  • Maximum Crushing strength – 10,750 psi
  • Janka hardness – 1810

Borneo Ironwood (ulin, belian, Eusideroxylon) -An incredible wood from Indonesia and Sarawak.  It is a yellow-gold to light brown, and ages to a red-brown.  It is very strong – used to make tool handles, metal-working mallets, boats and buffers for dry-docks.  Despite it’s hardness, it is reportedly easy to work.  It does not splinter.  I’ve used a Toda-ha Buko-ryu style naginata.  Oh lord, is it heavy.  There is something about the quality of the wood that makes it feel like you are swinging the leg of a giant piano.  It gives little back to the hands.   This wood is endangered throughout it’s range of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.  Poaching by Malaysia is causing severe tension between it and Indonesia, where the public regards bilian as a national treasure to be protected.  I know of one person marketing weapon (naginata and bokuto), but given that its existence is so threatened, and that most of the wood is either illegally logged or taken without regard to its continued existence, it should not be used.

  • Bending strength -27,194 psi
  • Maximum Crushing strength – 13,205 psi
  • Shearing strength – 2877 psi
  • Janka Hardness Scale – 3010

Casuarina (Sheoak) – a wood of Australia and Polynesia, used by other cultures for spear shafts.  A rich red wood (even the sap “bleeds” red),  it is sometimes nicknamed “beefwood.”  The grain sometimes “explodes” in a fireworks pattern of gold and red.  There are many different varieties of casuarina.  Some are rare, and should not be used.  Even those that are not endangered are uncommon in long planks particularly so.  It is a very unusual wood to locate in Europe or America.    Janka Hardness Scale is extremely varied in various lists –  1900 – 3200

Golden Penda (Xanthostemon chrysanthus) There are a variety of pendas, now rather rare due to over harvesting. They grow in Queensland in Australia and New Guinea, and have been used to make weapons: spears and even wooden swords. The wood is both hard and extremely flexible. Before being listed on the World Heritage Listing in 1988 , it was harvested from the rainforest for the building of local bridges. “The resilience of this tree to cyclones, due to a deep-rooted habit and strong yet pliable wood, was clearly demonstrated by minimal damage and high survival rate of plants seen after cyclones Larry and Yasi.” A very intriguing wood, but not likely to be available.

Koa – A Hawaiian acacia – One of the most beautiful woods in existence – with a wild, figured grain, with red and gold and rust tones – the signature wood of Hawaii. It was allegedly used by Hawaiian warriors to make weapons. At one point, it was used to make fine gunstocks – it does have a high shock resistant. Unlike many other acacias, though,  it’s really not all that hard. It’s also rare.  Making a bokken out of that would be vanity, and a waste of a wonderful wood.

  • Janka hardness – somewhere between 850 – 1220

Merbau AKA Kwila (Intsia bijuga) – Due to extensive logging of the tree, it is endangered in many places in Southeast Asia, and almost extinct in some. The wood was commonly used for war clubs, and a variety of other articles of inter-island trade between Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji

  • Bending strength -21,060 psi
  • Maximum Crushing strength – 10,650 psi
  • Janka hardness – 1840

Pink Ivory (birchemia zeyheri) An incredibly beautiful African wood, once considered the wood of Zulu royalty. The color of the heartwood ranges  a pale brownish pink, to a bright, almost neon pink, to a deep red. Typically the most valuable pieces of Pink Ivory are a vibrant  pink. Pink Ivory can commonly be seen with a curly or fiddleback grain pattern, further enhancing its visual impact. (The color fades over time). Is endangered in many parts of its range and its harvesting is managed in South Africa. The logs must dry from 5 – 10 years and still crack profusely in the process. On top of the rarity of the wood, it is very unusual to get lumber of suitable size for a wooden weapon. Furthermore, sellers unscrupulously sell it still damp and it further cracks once you get it. And truly, do you want a pink weapon?

  • Modulus of Rupture – 20,020 psi
  • Maximum Crushing strength – 11,630 psi
  • Janka Hardness Scale – 3,230