Woodturning Resources
Photo of author

Exotic Wood Choices for Unique Woodturning Projects

Woodturning, the art of shaping wood into beautiful objects, is a delightful blend of creativity and craftsmanship. As a woodturner, the choice of wood plays a pivotal role in determining the final outcome of your project. If you’re looking to add a touch of uniqueness and elegance to your woodturning endeavors, exotic woods are the perfect canvas to bring your visions to life.

Exploring the World of Exotic Woods

1. [Mahogany] – The Timeless Classic

Mahogany, with its rich reddish-brown hue, is a cherished favorite among woodturners. It’s known for its workability and stability, making it ideal for a range of turning projects. From bowls to decorative pieces, mahogany exudes timeless beauty.

i. Sustainability and Sourcing

Sustainable sourcing of mahogany is crucial to preserve its beauty for future generations. Look for certified suppliers who follow responsible harvesting practices.

2. [Ebony] – The Ebony Elegance

The deep black color of ebony makes a bold statement in any woodturning project. Renowned for its density and fine texture, ebony turns into strikingly beautiful items like pens, handles, and intricate carvings.

i. Challenges and Tips

Working with ebony requires patience due to its density. Sharp tools and a gentle hand are essential for a smooth turning experience.

3. [Purpleheart] – The Royal Purple Wonder

Purpleheart, as the name suggests, boasts a vibrant purple hue that matures over time. This dense hardwood is perfect for adding a splash of color and personality to your projects, making it a favorite for segmented turning.

i. Seasoning and Stability

Properly seasoned purpleheart wood ensures minimal warping and cracking, ensuring your creations retain their beauty over time.

READ MORE  Sharing Your Work: Online Galleries and Showcase Platforms

4. [Zebrawood] – Nature’s Stripes

Zebrawood, recognized by its distinct zebra-like stripes, adds a unique visual appeal to your turned creations. It’s often used for accents and inlays, giving your projects a touch of the wild.

i. Design Inspiration

The striped pattern of zebrawood lends itself well to projects where a bold and distinctive design is desired.

5. [Bubinga] – The African Beauty

Bubinga is renowned for its attractive figure and reddish-brown tones. Its interlocked grain offers a captivating visual appeal, making it an excellent choice for larger turned items like platters and bowls.

i. Finishing Techniques

Applying a clear finish enhances bubinga’s natural beauty, providing a stunning glossy look that emphasizes its unique grain patterns.

6. [Cocobolo] – The Rosewood Marvel

Cocobolo is prized for its deep orange to dark red-brown color and exquisite fragrance. Ideal for turning small items, this wood is often used for crafting intricate handles and artistic ornaments.

i. Health Considerations

Ensure proper ventilation and respiratory protection when working with cocobolo due to its natural oils, which can cause skin irritation and respiratory issues.

7. [Teak] – The Marine Marvel

Teak, known for its exceptional durability and resistance to moisture, is a great choice for items that may be exposed to the elements. Its golden-brown color and beautiful grain make it a favorite for outdoor woodturning projects.

i. Environmental Impact

Always opt for sustainably sourced teak to ensure you’re contributing to responsible environmental practices.

Choosing the Perfect Exotic Wood for Your Project

When selecting an exotic wood for your woodturning project, consider not only the visual appeal but also the intended use, workability, and the unique properties of the wood. Each exotic wood has its own personality, waiting to be unveiled in your creations.

READ MORE  Woodturning Blanks: Finding and Preparing Quality Materials

1. [Define Your Project Scope] – Understanding Your Needs

Begin by clearly defining your woodturning project. Is it a delicate pen or a robust bowl? Understanding the project’s scope will help you choose a wood that aligns with your design, durability, and aesthetic requirements.

2. [Consider Workability] – Your Skill Level Matters

Assess your woodturning skills and experience. Some exotic woods are more forgiving for beginners, while others require a seasoned hand. Choose a wood that matches your proficiency to ensure a smooth and enjoyable turning process.

3. [Account for Density and Hardness] – Impact on Turning

The density and hardness of exotic woods can significantly impact your turning experience. Dense woods may pose challenges but yield intricate details, while softer ones may be easier to work with but may lack durability.

4. [Evaluate Visual Appeal] – Aesthetics That Speak to You

Exotic woods boast diverse colors, grain patterns, and textures. Take time to appreciate the visual appeal each wood offers. Consider how it complements your project’s intended design and choose a wood that resonates with your artistic vision.

5. [Consider Availability and Sustainability] – Making Responsible Choices

Ensure the exotic wood you choose is readily available and sourced sustainably. Responsible sourcing contributes to the preservation of these remarkable woods for future generations of woodturners and helps protect our environment.

6. [Assess Budget and Cost] – Balancing Quality and Expenses

Exotic woods vary in cost, influenced by factors such as rarity, demand, and sourcing. Determine a budget for your project and choose a wood that aligns with both your financial constraints and desired quality.

READ MORE  Engaging with the Woodturning Community: Online Forums and Groups

7. [Factor in Stability and Seasoning] – Avoiding Warping and Cracking

Understanding how a wood stabilizes over time is crucial. Choose a wood that has been properly seasoned to minimize the risk of warping, cracking, or other structural issues in your finished piece.

8. [Project Purpose and Durability] – Matching Wood to Function

Consider the intended use of your turned item. Different exotic woods have varying levels of durability and resistance to wear. Match the wood’s durability to the purpose of your project to ensure longevity and satisfaction.

9. [Test a Sample] – Hands-On Experience Matters

Before committing to a large piece of exotic wood, obtain a small sample and experiment with it. Test how it turns, finishes, and responds to your tools. This hands-on approach will provide valuable insights before starting your main project.

10. [Seek Expert Guidance] – Leverage Woodturning Communities

Engage with fellow woodturners or seek advice from professionals. Sharing experiences and insights within the woodturning community can offer valuable guidance in selecting the perfect exotic wood for your specific project.


Embarking on a woodturning journey with exotic woods is like exploring a diverse palette of nature’s artistry. Each piece of exotic wood tells its own story, and with the right craftsmanship, you can transform it into a masterpiece. So, let your creativity soar and turn nature’s gifts into timeless treasures with the enchanting world of exotic woods. Happy turning!