If you live in the dry region of North America, you might be familiar with Mesquite. Mesquite, of course, is a common name for many plants under the genus Prosopis. Besides, there are around forty species of trees under this genus. Mesquite, of course, is deciduous, which sheds its leaves during autumn.
Mesquite, of course, is the hardest wood in North America, and if you intend to use this wood for your woodworking projects, it will be best to learn more about its properties and characteristics. So, I am filling you in on the succinct properties and features of this wood species.
Table of Contents
- How Hard is Mesquite Wood?
- Where Does Mesquite Wood Come from?
- Characteristics and Properties of Mesquite
- How to Work with Mesquite Wood
- Applications and Uses of Mesquite Wood
How Hard is Mesquite Wood?
As a deciduous wood species, Mesquite is a hardwood. It is tough and dense with a Janka Hardness rating of 2,340 Jankas, making it harder than many commercial hardwoods. It is slightly harder than Santos Mahogany and Tigerwood. Moreover, it is harder than other popular hardwoods like Merbau, Purple Heart, Hickory, Wenge, Hard Maple, Australian Cypress, and White Oak. Besides, it is around 82% harder than Red Oak.
Mesquite can grow up to fifty feet high. It has deep roots for going deeper into the water reservoir underground and a rounded canopy. You can use its wood for woodworking projects like furniture, fencing, flooring, wood carvings, wood turning, and many more.
As a hardwood, it has remarkable strength and toughness with high density. Plus, it has high bending and crushing strength and is heavy and tough. Moreover, it exhibits medium-level stiffness and offers tolerable steam-bending properties. It is also moderately resistant to shock loads.
Where Does Mesquite Wood Come from?
As mentioned above, Mesquite wood comes from several tree species under the Prosopis genus. Under this genus, you will find around 40 species of trees. Thus, you got a wide array of options for Mesquite wood. You will find Honey Mesquite, Black Mesquite, and many other Mesquite species.
This tree species is native to North America and inhabits the dry regions of that continent. It has long roots that it uses to look for water underground. Mesquite also blooms beginning in spring up to summer. Its height varies depending on the climate and site it inhabits. It also lives long and exhibits low mortality.
Mesquite is considered an invasive species. It impacts the ecosystem to which it gets introduced. Its effects on the ecosystem include hydrological changes, energy changes, and nutrient cycling changes.
Characteristics and Properties of Mesquite
As a meticulous woodworker, you would surely want to know the different properties and characteristics of the wood you would like to use to ensure it is best suited for your projects. Below are the succinct properties and attributes of Mesquite that could help you decide whether it is the wood best for your projects:
Color and Appearance
Mesquite carries a reddish-brown hue that tends to darken over time. This heartwood color is similar to that of the Honduras Mahogany. Its sapwood has a yellow hue that is a bit thin. This thin sapwood layer has a lemon-yellow color which is seldom seen in lumber. Its grain has a medium coarseness that can be fine, wavy, and interlocking at times.
You will see ribbonlike streaks in its interlocking grains at times. Furthermore, you will seldom see large clear pieces of these ribbonlike streaks.
Grain and Texture
Although the grain and texture of Mesquite may vary from one species to another, each species of Mesquite has similarities with the rest of the species. Honey Mesquite, for example, comes with a medium to coarse texture with open pores. It also has a slight natural sheen or luster.
The trunk’s clear portions also have wavy or straight grain. You will also find defects, knots, and other irregularities in this wood grain.
The end grain of Mesquite comes with a diffuse-porous feature. It also exhibits large pores randomly. These pores can be few to slightly numerous, sometimes solitary or radial multiples of two to three. You will also sometimes find amber-colored deposits. Besides, its growth rings are indistinct or distinct because of marginal parenchyma.
You will also notice large to medium rays sans using a lens, and they have regular spacing. Its parenchyma comes with lozenge, vasicentric or confluent features.
Rot Resistance, Stability, and Strength
Mesquite is durable and hard. The Honey Mesquite, for example, has a Janka Hardness rating of 2,340, making it very hard. It is quite resistant to decay and rot. On the other hand, Black Mesquite has a 1940 Janka Hardness rating, which is still remarkably high. This wood also got tagged as very durable to durable relative to decay resistance. It is, however, susceptible to insect attack.
After drying, Mesquite is dimensionally stable. It is even more durable than many hardwoods. It will need around 18% MC to make its dimension change by one percent radially. And 9% MC to make it change tangentially.
Mesquite is solid and hard. It has a Modulus of Rupture above 15,000 psi. Its stiffness is almost 2 million psi. Compared to other hardwoods, Mesquite is more durable and strong.
How to Work with Mesquite Wood
Mesquite takes around thirty days to kiln dry down to 12% MC. The drying method for Mesquite is like that of Red Oak. Mesquite, however, is susceptible to bowing or warping lengthwise. Hence, it will be best to achieve low MC when you kiln-dry it. If you fail to dry it thoroughly, it may bow as it dries completely. But almost all Mesquite wood you can get from sawmills has already dried.
You can use spurred bits when drilling Mesquite and feed the drill slowly. It will be best to clear the bit more often when drilling thick stock to avoid hole-side burnishing. Nailing will lead to splitting the boards. Thus, you need to adjust the angle when nailing, and it will be best to pre-drill the holes when nailing or screwing.
Machining & Sawing Mesquite
Regarding workability, the higher the Janka Hardness rating of wood, the more difficult it is to work with. Mesquite has a very high Janka hardness rating. Hence, you will find it challenging to work using your hand tools. Nevertheless, you can machine this wood because it exhibits exceptional machining properties.
Mesquite is an excellent choice for machining and sawing. You only need to feed it at a slower speed onto the saw blade when you want to rip it. This way, you will allow enough time for the gullets to clear sawdust off themselves.
Mesquite is usually plainsawn. You can sand it smooth with ease. But if this wood gets sawn differently, sanding its rough edges will be challenging. To remedy the difficulty of sanding, you can sand this wood at a 45° angle relative to the grain. Cross-grain sanding can lead to scratches. You can clean up using a cabinet scraper or a random orbit sander at the point where grains meet at a 90° angle. Besides, it will help if you do not skip grits while you sand.
When gluing Mesquite, use glue that allows for longer open time, letting you apply a light glue coat to join wood pieces briefly. Afterward, you can pull the pieces apart to allow the glue to set up before you rejoin them again. Mesquite receives finishes well.
Applications and Uses of Mesquite Wood
Mesquite is an excellent wood that you can use for any woodworking project without worrying about strength, dimensional stability, density, and rot resistance. It is ideal for both outdoor and indoor woodworking projects. You can use it for making outdoor and indoor furniture. You can also use it for industrial and residential projects.
You can use Mesquite for fencing, flooring, carving, wood turning, cabinets, paneling, doors, knife handles, and many other projects.
This wood’s drying method and seasoning usually depend on several factors like the speed at which it got processed after it fell and got logged, the drying method used, and the region where it is dried. The care taken during the drying process will impact its seasoning.
Mesquite, of course, dries well, and it only exhibits slight movement. Once dried, it is very tough and heavy, and its crushing and bending strengths are remarkable. Because it is hard and dense, it is not an ideal wood to start with as a beginner.
Liam is a 37-year-old woodworker and interior designer who loves to make every furniture project an art piece. He is very experienced in furniture design and woodworking project planning.