Ironwood Uses for Woodworking?

Some years ago, while living in L.A., I rented a mountain cabin one winter weekend. The local “general store” sold firewood. Some of it was black and extremely hard and dense. I was told it was called ironwood, and that it would burn for a long time. Trying to cut these pieces into smaller ones for kindling with a hand axe was nearly impossible. What I want to know is, does ironwood have any use in woodworking? What does it do to the cutting edges of blades and bits? – Eric Schnittker

Tim Inman: I am familiar with a wood we have in the Midwest called ironwood. It has characteristics similar to what you are describing. So, if your ironwood is my ironwood, here is my experience with it: It is extremely hard and abrasive. It will not split. Ironwood will almost grind your cutting tools back while you are trying to cut the wood. The wood pores are almost filled with “sand.” It is a wonderful wood on the lathe, to make ornamental things. It has no real use in the cabinet shop or for veneers. For furniture, it makes nice inlays, but only for small ornamental accent areas. It doesn’t grow very big here, so having ironwood lumber is not a possibility. When I cut it in my timber, you can actually sometimes see sparks from the chainsaw as the bar makes its way through the wood. Burns like coal though — as I’m sure you already know.

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