View Full Version : Turpentine wood (syncarpia glomulifera) suitability for cabinet making.

3rd October 2015, 07:46 PM
I have about fifty mature turpentine trees on my property. I have read a bit on the timber, but generally little is said other than it is "suitable" for outdoor furniture, is durable, blunts tools and has interlocking grain. I am considering planking some of the trees that are showing die-back. Has anyone used the timber for cabinet making? Please give me any guidance on the timber.


Durham Lad
3rd October 2015, 08:10 PM
Hi Grumpy, What I understand about the wood is that it is mainly used for timber piles in jetties and other structures in rivers and wharves. It is as hard as the hobs of hell to work with so I don't think cabinet makers would be lining up for it. By the way Grumpy is the name my Grand-daughters christened me with. Cheers Brian.

3rd October 2015, 08:21 PM
Turpentine * sighs*

turps when it's good is a truely spectacular wood... Heavily interlocked, pinkish orange through to red brown with ripple figure to match any wood in the world. Class 1 above ground ( durability 40 years +), hard wearing, fine grained and takes a polish well : hence its other name of Red Lustre. A good turpentine floor is a Thing of beauty to behold.

probably a bit heavy for cabinetry, but not impossibly so.

That was a good part. Now for the rest....

Prone to high silica levels, sometimes to the point of being practicly unmillable. Only way to find out is start cutting and see because that'll depend on your soil type. I'm in a good stand of it now and it's cutting like butter, but based on my experience that's pretty uncommon.

high shrinkage rate - 13% tangential, 6.5% radial, and prone to collapse during drying. Degree of collapse ranges from collapsed to really collapsed. Ideally you need to steam recondition it, which solves the collapse issue and also brings the shrinkage back to workable levels.

needs to be quarter sawn because of the above.

ill dress some and get you some pictures next week.

3rd October 2015, 08:31 PM
Thanks for the reply. Grumpy is my nickname - can't imagine why..... Taking John G's advice obviously based on experience, I'm keen to give it a try and see what silica content I've got.

3rd October 2015, 08:37 PM
Thanks John.G - exactly what I was hoping to get. Advice from someone who has experienced working with it. Sound like it will be a challenging wood to work, but from the photos I've seen of floors, truly is a beautiful wood. Worth the effort and trying. I will air dry after planing using an attachment to my chainsaw. Intend to cut slabs with the CS attachment and then re-saw on my band saw before stacking and leaving for at least a year. What is your comment on this plan?


6th October 2015, 07:44 PM
Durham Lad tells it true - Turpentine is regarded as one of the worlds best timbers for marine pilings - the high silica content as well as oleoresins in the bark and sapwood are resistant to marine borers. It also gets used a fair bit in pole housing construction. Anything so as not to have to saw it!!! I've run a mill blade from sharp to blunt in just a few cuts - practically unmillable when it gets like that.

But if you've got stuff with less silica it can be sawn, and I've never seen a flat grained piece of quartersawn Turps yet. In terms of sawing you'll find out quick enough if you can cut it or not. It's never easy cutting - not hard but the silica blunts blades and tools fast. In terms of drying you'll need to be careful. Allow for that shrinkage rate, but you want it to dry as slowly as possible to reduce degrade. Dont worry about rot - the slower it dries the less collapse occurs. We saw it, strip it out, stick it where its getting very limited airflow... then wrap the packs in hessian/burlap and keep wetting them daily for the first few months... it might get a bit of mould on the outside sometimes but that dresses off.

I grabbed these at random from a couple of packs of flooring stock this afternoon and put them through - planer was very blunt so there was a bit of tearout but... you can see what it is. My $0.02 worth is that its about the best flooring timber out there - good colour, never boring, strong and wear resistant... everything a floorboard should be. The 100mm board on the inside is what I'd consider about average for figure, the wider board is getting "too figured"ie its a PITA to dress in volumes because of the tear out issues.