What the woodworking world needs, to borrow a phrase, is not a good five-cent cigar, but rather an exotic South American hardwood that is plentiful, beautiful, reasonably priced, dense, has excellent working properties, and perhaps most importantly, is more ecologically “green” than other exotics. If that’s what you have been waiting for, it’s time you met Lyptus®, the hardwood from timber giant Weyerhaeuser that has its own trademark.
“Lyuptus is a registered brand name for a proprietary process that Weyerhaeuser uses to make a high-end eucalyptus wood,” explained Weyerhaeuser marketing manager Eric Anderson. “When we came on the scene, our partner, who is a cellulose fiber producer, was already using the local eucalyptus for pulp. We simply found other uses for it.
“There are many eucalyptus species, the most common of which is Eucalyptus grandis. Lyptus is a hybrid of Eucalyptus grandisand Eucalyptus urophylla. The hybrid is harder than the common grandis and is relatively easy to work. It’s very similar to hickory or hard maple, stains remarkably well and evenly, and takes any sort of finish very well.
“The wood’s natural color ranges from light to dark pink, somewhat similar to cherry, but it has a more pronounced semi-ring porous grain pattern similar to mahogany. We sort the logs by color into three groups. Thus, a unit of lumber we offer will have a color label, either light, medium or dark pink. We find that most lumberyards do not buy all three colors because it is more confusing to customers. Instead, they tend to stock only one of the three tones, depending on what is popular in that area. Chances are, unless you go out of your way to find someone who sells a range of colors, you will get wood that is in the same color range.
“As far as environmental issues go, Lyptus is sustainable, certified exotic wood. Sustainable means that we are not logging part of an existing forest, but rather cutting down trees that we planted and grew, more like a crop than cutting forest. Certified means that the plantations are certified by the Brazilian National Sustainable Forestry Standard (Cerflor). The certification is done by independent third parties. In other words, this is a green product with certification that proves what we are saying. By green, of course, we mean environmentally positive, not wet wood.
“Lyptus represents a new concept in forest management. The trees are grown on highly productive plantations interspersed with reintroduced indigenous trees to preserve native ecosystems. The plantations are nestled within areas of native forest that will not be cut down, forming a sort of forest mosaic. That strategy helps create and maintain biodiversity.
“The plantations are on patches of the Brazilian rainforest that had already been deforested for agriculture some 50 to 100 years ago. In a sense, we are reclaiming land back to forest by integrating Lyptus alongside other indigenous trees. Because the wood is produced in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner, our customers can feel good about using it and also be assured of continuous supplies throughout the foreseeable future.
“These plantation trees grow very fast. We are able to harvest the wood in about 15 years after planting. By comparison, a similar white oak tree would take closer to 100 years to harvest. As a result, Lyptus forests produce 30 times the volume of lumber per hectare per year compared to an unmanaged temperate forest.
“We don’t own the forest where Lyptus is grown; our partner Aracruz does, but we jointly own the mill where it is processed. Just like the Weyerhaeuser mills in the United States, the Aracruz mill uses virtually every portion of the log, converting it to lumber and other usable byproducts. Any residuals are used as bio-energy for the kiln drying operations. In 2008, for the third year in a row, Aracruz was included in the NYSE Dow Jones Sustainability Index that highlights the best corporate sustainability practices in the world.
“We first started selling Lyptus about six or seven years ago in the form of plywood, veneer, flooring and lumber. The bulk of the lumber goes to industrial manufacturers who make doors, cabinets and fixtures. However, it is also finding its way into the hands of hobby woodworkers and furniture makers. Because it looks a bit different than the standard hardwoods you may be used to, it is popular with customers. As a result, it is developing quite a following.
“Odds are good that your local hardwood supplier carries Lyptus, and even better that you will find it at your local Rockler store. We also sell veneer through Hook Hardwood Veneers and laid-up plywood that is available through just about any plywood supplier. That means you can use a combination of plywood, veneer and solid wood and still get a great match.”
I’ve played with some Lyptus, and as far as working properties, I’m happy to confirm everything Eric said about it. On top of that, I found it quite beautiful in its natural state. It has the good properties of some of my favorite exotics without the onus so often associated with them. I suppose what I am trying to say is “Thank you, Lyptus. It’s about time.”