Hardwood 101 – Holly Lumber

Holly Lumber

Holly Lumber is an exceptional wood for carving.

Holly hardwood lumber (also referred to as Ilex Opaca) comes from North America and is taken from the holly tree. It is commonly 40 to 50 feet in height and has a diameter of 1 to 2 feet, but can reach heights of 80 feet. The holly sapwood is quite wide and much whiter than the heartwood, which ranges from very white to ivory-white in color, with a low luster more closely resembling ivory. Holly features an irregular, very close grain, and an even, very fine texture.

The holly tree has been traditionally connected to Christmas for centuries and its history is important in the traditions of religious and pagan belief systems. It is well known for its red berries and spiny green leaves. Holly is significant to Christmas and is a symbol representing the holiday. It is commonly used in decorative pieces in homes or for uses in festivals. For many, just even thinking about holly brings up the Holidays…and some great cheer!

One unique trait of Holly is how it can spalt (change color from white to a pale grey) when cut down during local rainy seasons or when the ground is moist. How do you prevent holly from spalting? One way is to buy pieces that were cut from logs with minimal sap. It has to be as dry as possible to ensure that it stays white. Any remaining moisture within the log will lead to the wood turning gray.

With a Janka hardness of 1020, Holly lumber is tough, heavy, and a moderately hard wood. It machines very well, with the help of very sharp wood working tools. It also holds screws well and glue adheres without difficulty. Holly finishes very uniformly and is easy to stain to match other wood species. It is sometimes dyed black and used as a substitute for ebony.

Holly is used for carving, engraving, turning, and furniture making. Woodworkers also use this hardwood in inlays because of its white color. Holly lumber is popularly used to make piano, organ, and accordion keys. The ivory white color of the wood is a major reason why it has replaced real ivory. I don’t know about you, but just knowing that this wood is being used for those instruments instead of the tusks of elephants makes me very thankful.

Check out our website to learn more about Holly lumber.

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