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Thread: Is Liquid Amber wood any good?

  1. #1

    Is Liquid Amber wood any good?

    They are cutting a biggie down across the street as I type. Should I ask for some or let it go?

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    I think Liquid Amber in lumber form is sold as sweet gum. Sweet gum lumber, in my experience, is kinda like poplar -- a little soft for a hardwood, and not real distinguished in appearance. Considering how much work there is in going from tree to dry wood, I'd pass up on it.

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    If it is a gum tree, check the turning forum. I've heard it turns well and is very pretty.

  4. #4
    If you can find uses for it, then I say go for it. I usually don't pass on free logs close to home when I can get them. I just load them on a trailer and take them to a retired farmer with a bandsaw that only charges 25 cents per foot, then load it in my solar kiln.

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    Sweet Gum, aka, Liquidambar Styraciflua

  6. #6
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    I've never seen it offered commercially but I tried, without success, to find some when I was turning a lot of bowls; Richard Raffan used it quite a bit and liked it, but his wood wasn't from the States.

    I have no idea what it looks like in person but I got the impression that it had a lot more going for it than poplar (maybe in terms of color or natural luster?) Jamie might be right, though, at least about our domestic version.
    Last edited by Frank Drew; 04-15-2009 at 6:54 PM.

  7. #7
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    I have had no success with drying Sweet Gum for furniture projects. My loss rate has easily been over fifty percent. It warps, twists and cracks during air drying, before it even goes to the kiln.

    It's a shame because the wood is beautiful, it mills easily and I can get plenty of logs. I will not cut another Sweet Gum again until someone can show me how to do it properly.

    I'd pass on it.

    Ed

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    This past weekend dropped by a neighbor's place as he was milling down some wood for a cabinet face frame. I failed to identify it. It was liquid amber from the neighborhood (he has a chainsaw mill).

    He said that it was reasonably hard (I would've expected it to be as soft as poplar, as everything about the actual trees just screams "weed"), although it burned pretty easily due to a high sugar content. Don't know if characteristics like this would vary by growing region.

    The color was pretty light/creamy. The grain was pretty unremarkable -- reminded me of the straight-grained regions of alder.

    Not sure how wide of boards you can get out of a tree. The trunks don't get too wide around here.

    Interesting topic; will be interested in seeing others' experiences.

    Matt

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Crawford View Post
    If it is a gum tree, check the turning forum. I've heard it turns well and is very pretty.
    It does turn well. It can be very pretty. And it is very unstable-both in drying and in service. I got my hands on a few pieces a while back, rough turned bowls up to about 18" in diameter. Every one, except the very smallest (5-7") checked beyond repair. Even those, you could watch move as you turned them. I'd like to try it out with some of the newer drying methods such as dishwashing liquid.

  10. #10
    I passed. Looked real white and plain. The guys taking it down were moving pretty fast.

  11. #11
    Join Date
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    Jeff,

    Have you tried coating the entire rough-turned bowl with green wood sealer? As I said above, I've never used liquid amber but did have good results with quite a number of other local hardwoods using this method of seasoning.

  12. #12
    Join Date
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    Tyler, Texas
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    I never heard Sweet Gum called Liquid Amber but it is a pretty wood. I've turned lots of it and while it is really wet when green, it turns well and spalts easily, too.

    The attached pic of a Sweetgum bowl I turned is from a ~15" log that laid on the ground about 5 months before I cut it up into blanks.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Cody


    He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose.

  13. #13
    Do Sweet Gum trees drop their seeds in the form of little "morning stars" / spiked balls? I didn't see any deep browns like Cody's bowl shows.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Shenk View Post
    Do Sweet Gum trees drop their seeds in the form of little "morning stars" / spiked balls? I didn't see any deep browns like Cody's bowl shows.
    Yep. We used to call 'em "Gumball Trees" when I was young.

    I've seen stuff called "Red Gum" or "Sweet Gum" sold commercially here and it was a plain figured creamy tan/pink.

    I'd guess it was the same stuff referred to in this thread (But I'm no expert). I'd also agree that I haven't seen any deep browns in the stuff I've seen 'round here.

    Paul
    Paul Fitzgerald
    Mid-South Woodworker and Turner


  15. #15
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    Red gum sounds like it is a different species or something, but it is actually just the heartwood of the sweet gum tree. Kinda like red birch, which is the heart wood of regular birch. There's lots more sap wood than heart wood, so most of the gum you see in lumberyards is the whitish stuff, not the darker heartwood.

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