Will the Real Ironwood Please Stand Up?

Will the Real Ironwood Please Stand Up?

A question in the last issue elicited the answer that “ironwood” is one of those terms that many locales use as a descriptor for one of their local woods. As a consequence, it is too vague to identify any one wood. True to form, one reader responded by insisting that his local entry was the only “real” ironwood. – Editor

“That was a most unsatisfactory answer given to the ironwood question. Yes, there are many incorrectly labeled ironwoods. However, there is one that enjoys a more catholic acceptance as the real thing: Olneya tesota, the desert ironwood of the Sonoran Desert.” – Pierrino Mascarino

The next letter disproved the “one wood” theory by listing a host of “ironwoods” right here in North America. The same is true in other parts of the world. It seems the original answer was right; the term is too widely used to define any one wood. – Editor

“The name ‘ironwood’ is used by the botanical community to describe a small number of shrubs or small trees belonging to the laurel, rose, pea, and witch hazel families. Lyonothamnus floribundis ( a member of the family Rosaceae) occurs on Catalina Island and Santa Cruz. Olneya tesota (desert ironwood) occurs in California and New Mexico as a small tree and is a member of the family Fabaceae (pea family, includes things as varied as Indian rosewood, yellow wood, and black-eyed peas). Two non-native ironwoods occur in the United States and were imported for the landscaping trade. Bornean ironwood (Eusideroxylon lauriflora) is in the laurel family, and Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica) is in the family Hamamelidaceae (witchhazel). In the southeast, the name ironwood is assigned to two different small trees, both of which belong to the birch family (Betulaceae). I grew up in central Mississippi where Eastern Hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) was commonly referred to as ironwood. In north Mississippi, ironwood was used to describe American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), as was the names muscle wood and blue beech.” – Tim Knight

About the Typo Corner

“I always get a big kick out of the typo corner. I am surprised that I have not found some of my typos in that corner.” — D.C. Lance

You sound a bit disappointed. Keep writing. Eventually we’ll find something. — Editor

Typo Corner

Since you mentioned it, here is our ever-popular tribute to our wayward fingers on the keyboard. This question reminded us that sometimes, choosing the right “wood” has more to do with language than trees. — Editor

“Of these two wood finishes, which wood be the better choice?”

Cremation Urns

We ran a thread from one of the woodworking message boards about people making boxes and urns for the ashes of loved ones, and it elicited this letter. – Editor

“I was reading through the most recent Woodworker’s Journal eZine, and the ‘Ashes to Ashes; Dust to Dust’ article hit home for me. I recently lost my father, and my mother needed to decide on an urn for him. Since my father taught me everything I know about woodworking, I thought it was appropriate that I put those skills to work to make the urn. Personally, I can’t think of anything more appropriate than a custom urn made with love by a friend or family member.” – Kristofer Northrup

Juniper Furniture

“We find it fascinating that such beautiful furniture is being made from wood that we always thought was a nuisance. Of course it takes skill and hard work to pick out and bring back the wood that ‘creates itself’ into furniture. We think a person would have to have immense sensitivity and imagination to be so creative. Bruce is a true artisan.” – Harry and Harriette James

More Sound Ideas

A discussion about how to reduce shop noise elicited yet another response. – Editor

“Another option for sound insulation is to take egg cartons, preferably paper ones, and glue or staple them to the walls and ceiling areas. This creates much more sound absorbing surface area.” – Vern Peterson

“Sheets of 3/4″ plywood or OSB as the inside walls would be much more effective for sound reduction. Some heat barrier insulation can be used effectively to reduce reflected sound inside a shop, but this is not what outside-the-shop neighbors will complain about.” – Jim Seelye


“I read the article about Ryobi drill drivers and I have to agree. When I was doing maintenance and handyman work, I used Ryobi battery-powered tools and for the money, they’re the best. You can spend more money and get top of the line tools but if you are on a budget, Ryobi tools are cost effective to use.” – Marshall Hamilton
“Nice to see some positive comments about Ryobi tools. Most stores denigrate the name Ryobi when you mention it saying they are cheap and unreliable and we would not dream of carrying them. Since Home Depot carries them exclusively, perhaps it is a case of ‘sour grapes.’ I have always found Ryobi tools to be very reliable and reasonably priced. I have many of them and will continue to buy them. Many laurel wreaths to you for this article!” – Peter Clarke

“Having used Ryobi tools for a few years, I heartily agree with your comments on durability. I have a collection of saws, drill press, planers, grinders and others, but I have a comment on the ‘One Plus’ battery system. I contacted Ryobi UK and inquired as to the compatibility of the ‘One Plus’ with older tools. I was advised that the batteries were not compatible and if I chose to try this any warranty would be void. I was skeptical. I have since purchased two ‘One Plus’ batteries and have found they do work. After five months I’ve seen no problems. Was the person simply misinformed? Your interviewee seems to be better informed. I know which one I believe! Your magazine, as always, is interesting and useful; but in issues like this it is exceptional. BTW I thought it was was pronounced ‘Ri-Oh-Bee’ too! Thank you indeed.” – Les Sayers

Our tool preview of a new drill press from Ryobi sparked this comment. – Editor

“Hooray! I will be one of the first to purchase this drill press. I have been waiting patiently for it.” – Bill Burton

A different writer, whose letter does not appear here because it was not signed with his full name, wanted to know why we did not compare it to other similar products. We reminded him that this is a spotlight article introducing our readers to a new tool, not a comparison survey. Comparison articles appear frequently in the print version of Woodworker’s Journal, but at present, not here. – Editor

Sealing Cans

“First of all, thank you for such a great eZine! Keep up the good work! Regarding sealing cans, Saran Wrap and inert gas makes sense to me as a barrier to curing liquid finish, but I fail to understand how storing a can upside down is an advantage. If a can is sealed properly, no air enters or exits the container and there is the same amount of air trapped above the liquid whether the can is right-side up or upside down. This air would react with the finish the same either way. What am I missing?” – Jeff Smith

Air in a can will cause some finishes to skin, but if the can is upside down, the skin will be on the bottom, effectively creating a smaller container with a false bottom and useable liquid on top. In addition, an upside down can provides a feedback mechanism to tell you if it is in fact sealed air tight, or at least, liquid tight. In some cases, such as with thick liquids and gels, liquid tight is less rigorous than air tight. – Editor

Posted in: