A Tale of Three Wood Species from Knysna, South Africa
My wife’s Uncle lives in town, but like many of the relatives on my wife’s side of the family, he is originally from Capetown, South Africa. Along with his family, he brought his woodworking equipment (still wired for 220 volts), and a small cache of lumber indigenous to South Africa. The majority of it he purchased over 30 years ago from a small town 4 hours East of Capetown called Knysna. The original shipping label is picture above as it appeared on one of several piles.
I’ve written about Knysna in a previous post (I was fortunate enough to visit about a year and a half ago in December) because it had two of my favorite things: a town that was built upon and still supports a thriving logging industry and close proximity to the Indian Ocean and some of the most beautiful eco-tourist places you can imagine. The logging industry (now a sustainable program), supports a wide range of woodworkers and local craftsmen. The furniture business, and even shops along the road selling 800 year old slabs cut from fallen old growth Yellow Wood and Stinkwood show the town’s strong connection to the wood growing in the mountainous region in the higher elevations of the town. The entire region along the Southeastern cape is called the Knysna-Amatole mountain forests which covers approximately 1,200 square miles.
I was fortunate enough to be given a few pieces to try out in my workshop, thanks to my wife’s Uncle. The pile I came home with included three different species of wood I had never even heard of, let alone actually try, but are all a part of the standard fare Knysna has to offer. The first was African Red Alder (Cunonia capensis) or in the native Afrikanns “Rooiels”, tight grained, slightly softer of the three species and occurring naturally red in color. The second was false horsewood (Hippobromus pauciflorus) or in Afrikanns “Baster-perdepis = False horse urine”. The lighter of the three with a density that rivals hard maple and a color that is similar to some of the more pale yellow colors you’d find in Poplar. The last we can’t quite figure out. It resembles either Cape Beech or Cape Holly, slightly more golden in color, and incredibly dense like beech found in North America.
After milling the pieces up, I decided to cut a small piece from each and hone my turning skills. I had a set of three countersink bits that came with a single orange plastic handle, so I decided to upgrade each as it’s own dedicated tool. Far from perfect and uniform, but a satisfying way to spend a Saturday afternoon.