Olivewood Olea europaea


Botanical Name: Olea europaea

Johnny W. Morlan

Olive Tress have been around for many centuries. Olive is in the Ash {Fraxinus spp} family. They can live for 1500 years or more and usually do not obtain a height of more than 25 feet or diameters in excess of 12 inches. The Holy Bible states that King Solomon's temple had Olivewood decorative art objects in it.

Today Olive tress can be found in northern Africa, the Middle East and southern Europe especially in Italy. There are also small orchards in California, Florida and Arizona. Very large percentages are cultivated for oil and the olives. It is rarely sold or available in lumber and if one is lucky enough to find lumber, it will be small pieces and very expensive.

The most famous and sought after Olivewood is the wood from the trees in and around the Bethlehem Jerusalem Holy Land area. Because the trees are only trimmed once or twice a year, it is extremely difficult to obtain the wood and then only in small pieces. No trees are ever harmed, damaged or destroyed by the trimming.

Bethlehem Olivewood Woodworking Properties & Characteristics

Bethlehem Olivewood lumber is hard, heavy and strong.

The lumber has great movement in service.

It routs, shapes and planes well with carbide tipped cutting tools. Carves well and turns well on a lathe. Drilling and cutting is rather difficult. Most cutting tools seem to dull at an above average rate. Cutting tools should be kept quite sharp. It also does not tool burn easily

If one does not own or have access to a moisture meter, especially with the blocks used for turning, I highly recommend stabilizing {treating} it using PEG 1000 {polyethylene glycol} before making any project from it.

When first worked with tools and sanded, the wood gives off a slight sweet smell.

Pre boring a pilot hole is necessary to nail.

Sands wells, very little gum up.

Glues very well with polyurethane glue.

Polishing will produce an astounding luster especially if sanded down in steps to 1200 grit sandpaper or finer.

If a finish without ultraviolet inhibitors added to it is used, as it ages, it will become darker and richer in color thus making it even more beautiful. It is closed pored.

The lumber with shipping included can cost $60.00 ? $90.00 per board foot {12 inches x 12 inches x 1inch}.

One must be very careful in purchasing Olivewood as some pieces may have high waste {unusable} as much as 66 2/3%. Small pieces this does not pertain to, but the larger the piece the poorer the quality. This is because the trees are small and do not have very much of a trunk.

Copyright Johnny W. Morlan 2003

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