Anyone who knows please ... what is the hardest damn
wood that exists on the face of this entire planet ... ?
The hardest wood known to man currently and through-
out known history (if that applies of course) ?
My vote would be for Desert Ironwood -- I am turning a large piece on my
lathe at the moment. I have never seen anything so hard and heavy. I just
finished a piece from Lignum Vitae, and it was soft by comparison, and the
oil content made it easy to turn. The Ironwood came from a large section
which I found at a junk dealer and it appears to very, very dry and old.
The color and weight made identification easy, and when I started to turn
it, the density, pattern and color became obvious. I am using HSS lathe
bits to turn it down to a manageable size, and they just barely cut it.
Visit My Workshop: http://home.earthlink.net/~kvaughn65 /
Most sources consider Lignum Vitae (Guaicum officinale), with a specific
gravity of 1.37) to be the hardest. Desert Ironwood (Olney test) comes in
sixth at 1.15 Specific gravity is the relative density of the wood to that
of pure water . . . both of these woods will sink if put in water.
Interesting, but irrelevant, as hardness and density are independent of each
other. (Good example from the world of metallurgy: aluminum is harder than
What's hardest depends also on exactly what property you're measuring. I
happen to have my Wood Handbook right here... a few selected values:
Compression parallel to grain (lb-ft per sq in, at 12% MC):
Lignum Vitae 11,400
Side hardness (lb-ft, at 12% MC):
Lignum Vitae 4,500
Doug Miller (alphageek-at-milmac-dot-com)
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+ + +
You forgot to mention the difference between side hardness and end-grain
hardness. Not to mention which side?
This all goes to show that this is a quite complicated question after
extremes (i.e. after the uncommon).
Hardness, like whether solid or liquid, relies on bond strength
[atomic, not fibres], not amount per unit volume.
I heard of ironwood, lignum vitae, but not the other exotic woods
listed by Doug. Didn't LV used to be used for ball bearings in old
steam paddle boats?
This is a janka hardness table from
The higher the number the harder the wood
Douglas Fir 660
So. Yellow Pine (loblolly & short leaf) 690
So. Yellow Pine (longleaf) 870
Black Cherry 950
Black Walnut 1010
Heart Pine 1225
Yellow Birch 1260
Red Oak (Northern) 1290
American Beech 1300
White Oak 1360
Australian Cypress 1375
Hard Maple 1450
African Pedauk 1725
Santos Mahogany 2200
Brazilian Cherry 2350
Brazilian Ebony 3692
That piece of the corner of my workbench, you know the one, it's the
piece that expands 6 inches after one has reached down to pick up a
fallen screw or other part and interpose itself between one's head and
the path to standing vertical. :-O
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