wood from mexico/central america
July 16, 2009 9:07 AM   Subscribe

we are looking for any information on wood from the Mexico/Belize/Guatemala area. Local, sustainable, tough wood suitable for furniture making. Is anyone familiar with types; sources; properties; suppliers; or anyone who has worked with wood from the area? Organizations working on these issues? Woodworkers with knowledge? Want to be informed and responsible here; not contribute to the problem.

What about reused/recycled reclaimed wood?
posted by ebesan to Science & Nature (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When in Mexico, I've noticed that the expensive "Spanish Colonial" style furniture sold in high-end shops is always oak, but the common "rustic Mexican" furniture that's EVERYWHERE else (like, I swear there are three guys selling massive armoires on every city block) is either mesquite (traditional, I believe), or knotty pine masquerading as mesquite.

I'm no expert, just a woodworking hacker.
posted by rokusan at 9:22 AM on July 16, 2009

Want to... not contribute to the problem.

Might help to specify which "problem" you don't want to contribute to.
posted by jon1270 at 9:39 AM on July 16, 2009

Response by poster: I am looking mostly from the Yucatan; looking for wood that will survive there; the climate there is brutal.
Not much local wood; and the soft pine is junk.
There may, however, be good sources from other parts of the country. But it would have to be strong enough to last.
posted by ebesan at 9:54 AM on July 16, 2009

Response by poster: problem of deforestation in the yucatan
posted by ebesan at 9:55 AM on July 16, 2009

Mesquite is desert wood, and as such, in sizes useful to woodworkers, is fairly slow growing, and slow to replace. It's a tough wood, hard to work, that takes a long time to air dry, and has a fairly high oil content, which loads up on saws and machine knives. Most commercial sources of mesquite wood for furniture building are from commercial plots planted in Northern Mexico, on the high central plateau. The only project I ever made of mesquite was a combination floor lamp/magazine rack/side table, and I had a lot of trouble with the wood splitting when drilled, or later, around screw holes. Also, I used a clear lacquer finish over a sanding sealer of shellac, and ultimately had some flaking of the finish over end grain, that I attributed to the latent oil content of the wood working out. I wouldn't use mesquite again in a furniture project.

Belize, by way of geographical contrast, is more than half sub-tropical forest (at least in the areas outside the main towns and cities). There are several types of wood available from Belize logging operations suitable for woodworking, but the productive areas of Belize rain forests don't yield exotic hardwoods, and only about 5% of the trees within 1 KM of existing roads are suitable for logging, and allowed to be cut by Belize conservation officials. Belize now tries to manage its remaining forests for sustainable yield, so the selection and types of wood coming to market are driven as much by the needs of the forests that produce it, as they are by market demands. 2 years ago, I bought some precut lacewood from Hibon Hardwood, for a humidor project. I was a little disappointed with the color and grain, but otherwise, it was fine, for the price. Although I thought it was of Belizean origin, I later discovered it was probably plantation grown.
posted by paulsc at 1:05 PM on July 16, 2009

I have purchased wood from this establishment in the past. The owner is very dedicated to conservation and responsible harvesting in central and south America. You could probably contact him directly through the website with your questions.
posted by killy willy at 9:14 AM on July 17, 2009

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