Osage Orange wood comes from a medium-sized tree with the scientific name of Maclura pomifera. It can grow up to 60 feet with a maximum trunk diameter of 2 feet. This tree is deciduous, meaning it sheds its leaves during autumn. Thus, it is hardwood, for one crucial qualification of hardwood is being a deciduous tree. The crown of the Osage Orange tree is irregular or rounded, with tiny green flowers that blossom during May or June.
Where Does Osage Orange Wood Come From?
Maclura pomifera gets also referred to as Horse Apple, Bois d’arc, Hedge Apple, or Osage Orange. It inhibits the South-central United States. So, if you live in this region, you might be familiar with this wood. Even though it gets referred to as Orange, it has nothing to do with the Orange family of trees. Instead, it belongs to the mulberry family of Moraceae.
Properties and Characteristics of Osage Orange Wood
Osage-orange is a pretty tough and heavy wood. It is very hard and exhibits a high level of resiliency and strength. Because of its remarkable strength, it is not easy to work with. Thus, it will be best to sharpen your cutting tools more often when dealing with this wood. Below are the succinct characteristics of Osage-orange:
Osage Orange, as mentioned above, is quite heavy and strong. Its specific gravity ranges anywhere .76 to .86. Besides, its average dried weight is around 54 lbs/ft³ (855 kg/m³). Its Janka Hardness is 2,620 lbf or 11,640 N. Its crushing strength is 9,380 lbf/in² (64.7 MPa). This wood, of course, is very dense and burns hot and slow because of its high density.
Osage-orange wood is considered one of the most rot-resistant hardwoods in the United States. Working with this wood, however, can be challenging due to its hardness and density. Besides, you might be required to sharpen your cutting tools when working with this wood. Nevertheless, it screws well. It also holds glue nicely. But it is not easy to nail. Furthermore, it also takes stains nicely.
Drying and Shrinkage
Wood usually shrinks radially and tangentially. Yet, it also shrinks or expands longitudinally. The seasoned Osage-orange wood has the following average shrinkage values: 2.5% radially, 5.6% tangentially, and 9.2% volumetrically. Thus, it does not shrink or expand much once it is seasoned.
Appearance and Color
The heartwood of Osage Orange sports a bright yellow to a golden hue. However, it darkens to medium brown over time. This darkening is due to UV exposure.
Moreover, its sapwood is relatively narrow and carries a light-yellow hue.
Grain and Texture
Osage-orange has a straight grain. It also has a medium to fine texture. Besides, this wood is characterized by a natural luster with a ring-porous feature. Its earlywood pores also range in size from large to very large.
Latewood pores, however, come in clusters along with tangential bands. It also showcases distinct rings with medium to narrow rays that you can readily see with your naked eyes.
Wood will indeed shrink or expand depending on the moisture content. Thus, if the moisture content of the Osage-orange wood changes by 7%, you will see a 1% change in the size of this wood across its grain, tangentially to the rings. For every 9% change in moisture content, it will also change by 1% radially. Thus, this wood is stable because of its low shrinkage level.
Rot and Insect Resistance
Osage Orange is quite resistant to decay and rot. It belongs to the most decay-resistant wood in the United States. Besides, it is also fungal and insect resistant. Thus, if you want wood with high resistance to decay, you should go for this wood.
As mentioned above, Osage-orange is incredibly strong and hard. Its bending strength is more than 20,000 psi. Its hardness is 2,620 lbf, almost the same as Bubinga, and way above Oak, Hard Maple, Hickory, and Cypress. It has around 1.8 million psi stiffness, which equals that of Red Oak.
Applications and Uses of Osage Orange Wood
Since the Osage Orange is heavy and robust, it serves many applications. It gets planted as windbreakers to prevent erosion of soil. It was also previously used as natural fencing for deterring cattle from entering an area. This wood got also cut before to serve as railroad ties.
Osage Orange wood can last for 20 years as railroad ties. It was also once used for wagon wheels before. Besides, it was once laid to serve as paving blocks.
At present, however, this wood is quite rare. It gets used as a cutting board when sanded and oiled. It also gets used for making bows, boats, waterfowl game calls, and woodwind instruments. It also gets used by crafters and florists for centerpieces and autumn decorations.
You can also use this wood for tool handles and treenails. Besides, if you need wood with exceptional stability, you should consider this wood.
The Native Americans used Osage Orange wood for making bows. Moreover, this wood produces a yellow-orange dye as an alternative to aniline or fustic dyes.
How To Work with Osage Orange Wood?
As you choose wood for your projects, one of the factors you would often consider is its level of workability. Hence, if you intend to use Osage Orange wood, it will be best likewise to know the following facts about its workability:
After felling an Osage Orange tree, you need to season it. Drying and seasoning of this wood usually hinge on several factors. One factor is how fast it was processed after it got logged. Another factor is the drying method and the level of care taken by those who process the wood.
As a wood, Osage Orange dries and seasons well. It also exhibits a high level of stability. As such, it will not expand or shrink too much over time.
The Osage Orange needs to be dried slowly to prevent checking. Nevertheless, you can dry it without exhibiting warping. It will be best to treat Osage Orange wood the same way you treat Red Oak for optimum results. Shed drying is also best before kiln drying.
The Osage-orange wood also exhibits a five percent shrinkage in drying. This shrinkage level is low, which is perfect for a project requiring a higher level of wood stability.
Machining and Gluing
You will find it easy to glue Osage Orange. Nevertheless, because of its high density, you will find it hard to machine this wood. Of course, you will need enough patience and sharp tools to machine this wood. You must also wear your safety gear when machining this wood to avoid dust inhalation and dermatitis due to its dust.
Osage Orange gets referred to as Bois d’arc because it gets used for making archery bows. Bois d’arc signifies bow wood. The growth rate of Osage Orange is slow. At seven years of age, it can grow to eight feet tall. Thus, it is not a fast-growing tree.
Osage Orange trees also get usually trained to form a hedge around an area. Besides, when you plant it in rows, it can create an effective windbreaker and boundary. Nevertheless, if you are a beginner in woodworking, it is not advisable to work with this wood because of its toughness and strength.
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.