Above photo by Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6129520
Seeing as I’m constantly fascinated with different trees, not just from a woodworking perspective but with the amazing abilities they have and what they provide to the world, I thought I would start a series to improve my knowledge on them and write what I find. The A-Z of Trees will be about trees from all over the world, starting with the Acacia tree.
The Acacia is a genus of trees with over a 1,000 different species world wide spread over sub tropical regions. Over half of the species grow in Australia, they also grow in Africa, Central America, Hawaii, South Western US and Mexico.
The flowers of the Acacia are usually yellow though they are sometimes white, they’re shaped like little pom poms. Most species of the Acacia tree have fern like leaves, opposite each other along a thing stem.
Above photo by Melburnian – Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1801492
One of the more usable trees, the Acacia Senegal, is found in the Northern Sahara and is the main source of Gum Arabic. Sweets, medicines, paints and watercolours are all made with Gum Arabic and it is also used in the production of paper, silk and cosmetics.
There is some controversy over this substance however, the troubled nation of Sudan supplies around 70-80% of the worlds Gum Arabic. It is used as a stabiliser in soft drinks to bind the sugar to the drink, preventing it from crystallising. When The Sudan had sanctions brought upon it by the US government in 1997 for the former giving refuge to Islamic terrorists, the only product exempt from an export band was Gum Arabic, such is its value to the US economy. According to an article on TheGuardian.com, Coca Cola and Pepsi are still vague as to its usage within their beverages.
Now what we really want to know, what are the properties of Acacia wood and what can it be used for?
Acacia wood is strong and solid, hard to scratch and is also water resistant. These properties make it ideal for:
- Outdoor furniture
- Hard wearing furniture and items
- Ideal for shelving, can take a lot of weight
- Cutting boards
Of course these are just a few examples, I’m sure your mind can come up with all kinds of ideas for this rugged and durable wood. Many species of Acacia have a deep brown colour when cut, the Acacia Koa pictured above being one of those.
Above photo by Júlio Reis (User:Tintazul) – Original File, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=637594
A fast growing species called Acacia Melanoxylon (also known as Australian Blackwood, pictured above) is sought after for furniture building due to its rapid growth and strength. Its said to be able to easily gain 90cm (3ft) in height per year. It is also used for inlays, bent work and it has good acoustic qualities which make it ideal for guitar building.
I hope you enjoyed the first entry into the A – Z of trees, next in the series can be found here The A – Z of Trees : African Mahogany (Khaya genus) [Series].