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Timber in jewelry

Hi Guys,

Timber in jewellery? Well not just any timber, but timber with
properties, such as burls, will add an extra dimension to your work.

These woods are beautiful, and full of character. In fact I won an
opal jewellery competition, by not only using a nice pair of opals,
but by incorporating a red Mallee burl within the piece.

Just a little bit of background to burl timber. A burl is figured
wood with an intricate pattern within the grain of the timber. It is
usually very dense. Very few trees have burls in them, and those
trees contain only 10% burl wood, the rest is plain timber. It is
also becoming hard to get. A burl cannot be forced, it just has to be

The above are some examples of Australian burls, both images are of
the same pieces of wood, however in one image the wood has been
rotated 90 degrees. There is quite a lot of variation in the timber.

Maybe burls aren’t your cup of tea, Americans are very fortunate in
that they are close to managed plantations in Brazil that can provide
some extremely beautiful timbers. Purple heart, black heart, stripe
wood (pink stripes in a cream coloured wood), and blood wood are my
favorite Brazilian timbers. All have very distinctive colours, and
most are hard woods.

There are many other materials that can be used in jewellery, wood
is just one.

Regards Charles A.
P. S. I regularly trade timber with some of my American friends :wink:


I would be interested in this being a continuing segment…
If you would be so kind!


Christopher Lund
Neurascenic - Industrial Design


I have a whale’s tooth handle from an antique steel (knife

I have an old round ebony ruler. I want to cut a blade out of this
to set into the

whales tooth handle. To make a letter opener (ok who gets letters
these days?)

What is the best way to cut the ebony? This stuff is old dry and
very very hard.

I think this is a job for a professional wood worker.

Once I have the blade with tang it is not a problem to set in the


Hi Richard,

Ebony contains a risk that a lot of people don’t consider. The
sawdust from ebony can hurt you (potentially kill you), you need to
wear very good breathing protection. I saw an ebony worker once that
looked like he was wearing a space helmet.

I would recommend a professional wood worker that’s set up to carve

Regards Charles A.


Can you show some of your work with the wood, please? I have
purchased some pen blanks of exotic woods and began a piece with
ebony, It is hard to saw and carve! Can you make some suggestions?
thx, brenda

Hi Brenda,

Can you show some of your work with the wood, please? I have
purchased some pen blanks of exotic woods and began a piece with
ebony, It is hard to saw and carve! Can you make some suggestions? 

Happy to oblige :slight_smile:

Here’s another example of how intense the colour variations can be
in exotic woods, the following is a brown mallee burl.

Just for interest here’s the rest of the image, it’s an early work
so it’s a little rough :wink:

This is an example of how wood can be used in a piece. The process
of making the piece was very challenging and I got a lot our of it.

Carving ebony by hand. you can do it, but your arms wont thank you,
and you need to secure the wood. Because ebony is so hard you can
slip over the surface of the wood and stab yourself, so you have to
watch out.

I would suggest that you use a hammer and very sharp chisels to
carve your ebony. Secure it in a vice and chip away. Your tools will
blunt very quickly, same as with coolibar, or any extremely hard wood
for that matter, so you will need to stop and sharpen your tools
quite regularly.

The serious problem with ebony is the saw dust is very nasty if gets
in your lungs, it can also irritate your eyes, so protection when it
comes to sanding is very important (or get someone else to sand it).

Regards Charles

P. S. I used to sand hard wood with a machine, without a mask. big
mistake, coughing up thick globs of sawdust isn’t pleasant. Stay
safe everyone.

Both my late father and I worked with ebony. Traditional wood
working tools are often too soft to use on Ebony.

Back in the 1920s my father had to go buy a set of stone carvers
chisels to work with ebony. It just laughed at his wood chisels. He
used to go down to the docks in NYC and buy logs of it right off the
ship. When I’ve worked with it I’ve used my metal tools to work it. I
also used a stone cutters tool to turn it on a lathe. As with any
dusty operation a mask is always a good thing.

I just love the look of silver and ebony and used to use it a lot
when I was a holloware silversmith. It also makes a lovely inlay in
rings and will out wear the silver it’s inlaid into.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer

Beautiful pieces Charles! For those of you that might not be
familiar with Charles Lolloma, take time to google his name. He was
my main source of inspiration for many years, and I happened to
notice a second hand (one owner) bracelet, that went for 10,100.00
dollars on eBay a few days ago. The “stones” consisted of almost
exclusively rosewood, walrus ivory, with just a few accents of Blue
Gem turquoise, and some red coral. The bracelet was made from
sterling (no gold), and while the quality of the workmanship was
superior, as with most of his pieces, in the end if you or I were to
make the same piece now, there would be very little cost in
materials. I was very pleased to see Charles open this thread, and I
think with research and experimentation, you will find wood much
easier to work with than cutting and polishing stone. Take the advice
about toxicity in wood, and wood mold spores very seriously. But all
in all, a very satisfying medium to work with and many of the
extremely hard woods require no finish, other than attention to
detail that we all seem to thrive on. There are many catalogs out
there that can be had for an 800# phone call that will start you on
your way, and lots of books at the library. Boise de Rose, and
African black wood, will polish beautifully with a hand sanding to
about 800 grit. If you absolutely have to have a shine, finish off
with butchers wax, and a very brisk rub. I envy all who succeed at
discovering this “new” material. Thomas III

Here are some rotary tools that will breeze thru ebony:

Mountain Laurel is an easily obtained native wood.

Toxic seeds- I expect breathing it is a no no.

A number of options for a flexshaft can be found. Avoiding a Dremel
is oK/me.

James at Brontotheroocity