Woodworkers have long looked to the tropics for exotic woods that add unique colors and textures to their work. However, today's concerns about rain forest resources have sparked an interest in finding unusual temperate-climate woods. Osage orange, a novel species with a bright yellowish-orange heartwood, is one of the finest examples of an exotic domestic, one that may actually grow in your own backyard. Osage orange was native to a small area of drought-ridden, windswept prairie in Texas and Arkansas. Today its range extends throughout much of the southern United States.
Osage Indians, the wood's namesake, often carried hunting bows and clubs made from this species, which was an excellent choice given its outstanding bending strength and shock resistance. It is more than twice as hard as hard maple, offers better stability than black walnut, and weighs more than hickory and teak. Extreme hardness and density make the wood challenging to machine and glue, but sharp blades and epoxy resin overcome potential problems.
Like tropical exotics, Osage orange is often used for smaller projects and as an accent wood. It exceeds the bending strength and shock resistance of most other species. Settlers found its decay resistance was unequaled, especially as lumber for fence posts.
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