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Uses of box wood

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mccpe

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Here in France we have about an acre of mixed woodland on the edge of our garden. There's quite a few box trees that have now succumbed to the boxwood moth and we are going to have to start clearing the dead trees out. The trees are mostly about 4" to 6" in diameter, so not massive.

Rather than turn it into firewood, I'd like to find out if the wood is good for anything else. Does it carve or turn well? Any ideas welcome.
 

Sgian Dubh

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Traditional uses include tool handles, particularly but not exclusively, chisels, so it's good for turning and detailed carving. Also it's used for stringing and inlay lines and marquetry (veneer forms). It's come in useful over centuries for anything expected to cope with shock, e.g., mallet heads, skittles, and the like. Artists and printers have used it extensively for engraving after it's carved. The stuff has a very even and fine texture, is hard, and it's quite heavy at about 55 - 60 lb/ft³, but it rarely comes in large pieces because the tree is quite small anyway, and it's frequently kept artificially small in gardens as hedges and so on. Slainte.
 

stuckinthemud

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Box is fairly valuable but a very difficult wood to season because it is very dense and so is prone to splitting as it dries. It is prized by carvers, especially carvers of miniatures as it takes a phenomenal level of detail. Bowyers also like it as it makes a decent longbow
 

JohnPW

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Used for small parts in musical instruments, eg pegs.

Small wooden planes.

Wooden plane boxing.

And of course old folding rulers.
 
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akirk

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Often used for the ‘white’ pieces for chess sets...
 

MusicMan

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It was the major material for making woodwind instruments such as clarinets, flutes and oboes in the period 1700 - 1850 approx, until tropical hardwoods became more available. This is because of its density, diffuse, even porosity and stability. Rare for larger instruments such as bassoons and bass clarinets as it usually does not come in large enough pieces. There is quite an industry in making reproduction period instruments these days. If you can get it back to Cambridge I know of one of these makers, who even runs classes on it (Cambridge Woodwind Makers, Daniel Bangham).

It is very good indeed for turning though has some difficulties. It's best to finish a complex spindle turning in one day, because if you leave it overnight, the stress will have relaxed and it will have moved. Unusually for a hardwood it has tension reaction wood, not compression. For sale to a woodwind maker (the best prices) you need a straight trunk that has grown vertically. 4 - 6" diameter is fine. Sloping trunks and branches have too much reaction wood and will quickly warp in larger/longer lengths, but they are fine for turning small items, yes e.g. chess sets.

There is little enough of this left in Europe now, please do not burn it, if it is 2" diameter or more!
 

stuckinthemud

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In the past I've paid a fiver for a kiln-dried block 6inch, by 2 inch by 1 inch. It can be worth dicing up poor grade branch wood for e-bay sales. In the very distant past, some master carvers would work a maquette in box (admittedly some carvers would use carving wax) for their team to carve the full size work from, or for clients to be able to visualise what their commission would look like.
 

bobblezard

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And of course it was used for boxes, including turned threaded boxes as it takes a fine thread well.
 

Iain Allen

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As previously mentioned its used a lot for woodwind instruments.
I have a flute made from the stuff plus Uilleann pipes, Scottish smallpipes, border pipes and Northumbrian smallpipes, great tonal qualities.
Its also used for decorative parts on instruments.
 

Lons

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I won't add to any of the above accept to also say please don't burn it. I'm lucky as I have a stash tucked away for turning and carving. Box is by far my favourite carving wood.
 

Keith 66

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Stunning wood, we had three good ones in our garden, plus a number of small ones. One medium tree one had to go when we built an extension & another got box moth, strangely the largest tree seems to have resisted them so far. We have gotten rid of the little ones as they were riddled with it.
Anything over 1" in diameter is usable, I have made tool handles & much more.
 

mccpe

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Thanks for all the great replies. I guess I should have thought of box handles, but chess pieces wouldn’t have occurred to me.

I don’t think we’ll be burning it now, but I’ll see if I can find a place to store it once felled. what should I do with the logs? Leave them whole? Most of it is standing dead wood, probably for around two years.
 

mccpe

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If you can get it back to Cambridge I know of one of these makers, who even runs classes on it (Cambridge Woodwind Makers, Daniel Bangham).
I’ll be bringing an empty van back to Cambridge a few times this year, so that shouldn’t be too difficult to arrange. Assuming no customs issues.

I’ll message you later in the year when we are cutting it and you can let me know what we should be looking for.
 

MusicMan

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I’ll be bringing an empty van back to Cambridge a few times this year, so that shouldn’t be too difficult to arrange. Assuming no customs issues.

I’ll message you later in the year when we are cutting it and you can let me know what we should be looking for.
Excellent. When you are ready, send me your email and I'll put you in touch with the likely customer.
best wishes
Keith
 
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