If nothing else, leopardwood offers you an expressive appearance. In one sense, it beholds the flaming color of a sandstone canyon, but when it’s sawn from the log in just a certain way it delivers an impressive figure that’s only found in a few types of wood.
For the most part, quarter sawing a hardwood log produces lumber with stately straight grain and boards that are the most resistant to warping. And while Leopardwood is a quarter sawn lumber, it comes with another distinct advantage.
Just look at that wicked figure.
So, this is explained more in the video above, but the weirdly beautiful appearance of leopardwood comes from the unusually large medullary rays found in the tree. Medullary rays (or vascular rays) transport water from the center of a tree to the outside, but for reasons unknown to me the rays in this tree are larger than most. When quarter sawn, the boards look downright wild.
In a way, they look like laces weaving in an out of the surface of the wood, and that’s not too far from the truth. The sawmill cut it in such a way that makes those medullary rays perform a little magic on the faces of the boards.
This is not the only species of wood that bears this characteristic, though. Without getting deeper into the botany, Australian silky oak and lacewood are a couple of varieties that also essentially look the same as leopardwood. And, of course, there are the varieties of oak that, also when quartered, reveal a display of cool figure.
In fact, a lot of times the colloquial names are mixed up, changed, and swapped, in large part because, well, who is responsible for going around the world to enforce the names given to various woods, anyway?
So I try not to get too hung up on it.
In a few ways, the wood isn’t exactly a joy to work with. But it’s not awful either.
It’s hard, dense and prone to splintering. But since it’s so hard and dense, it does cut, sand, and finish beautifully. And it takes regular wood glue without protest, so there’s that.
I’d give it a C+ when it comes to working it with hand tools. Many woods are better, many woods are worse. In the video above I glued up a solid panel and planed it and scraped it flat by hand — so it can be done, but oh yeah that was an adventure. Planing wasn’t too bad as far as “energy required.” But the grain just tears a bit, so you gotta skew the angle of attack quite a bit.
Some people do get a rash from the dust (not the solid wood, but the dust, people). So, cover up while you work it, and wash up after.
You can’t go wrong. It takes oil finishes, waterbased finishes, and everything in between. And nothing really stands out as “better” for this wood.
In the video I used a sealer coat of dewaxed shellac because I really enjoy finishing wood projects first with a coat of that stuff. Just preference. But then topped it off with a few coats of General Finishes Arm-R-Seal, and I think you’ll agree that it looks astounding.
Vice President of Operations – Woodworkers Source
We’re a family-owned lumber & woodworking supply retailer with 3 delightful stores in Arizona, and 35 friendly employees.
Mark oversees the company and creates tutorials on wood finishing and woodworking tips for hardwood lumber.
Woodworkers Source is a division of MacBeath Hardwood Co.