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Thread: What is Gum Wood?

  1. #1
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    What is Gum Wood?

    A friend asked me to make a box for him out of gum wood.

    He made something out of this in shop class in Junior High, 35 years ago. He says it was a fairly hard, light color wood with smooth grain and rosey overtones.

    I can't find this anywhere that sells wood. Does it go by another name?
    Veni Vidi Vendi Vente! I came, I saw, I bought a large coffee!

  2. #2
    Somebody correct me if I'm wrong but I think some kitchen cabinets from the 50's and 60's were made of gum wood. They have that "honey" color stain and when machined down they look like poplar and hard to stain. It's very light weight and fairly soft. I haven't seen this wood for sell anywhere I've looked.

  3. #3
    Let's see....

    There's Black Gum, Red Gum, and Sweet Gum.

    The Sweet/Red Gum works very well, takes a fines well. If you are dealing with this wood "fresh cut"? Just be aware that this wood is "very" prone to warping during the drying process. DAMHIKT!!!!!

    I've never worked any Black Gum in lumber form, but most "Gum" species will machine well and finish well. It just likes to warp like the dickens when drying. To help minimize the warping, it needs to be dried very slowly.

    I'm no expert, but just sharing my experiences.
    Thanks & Happy Wood Chips,
    Dennis -
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  4. #4
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    There's Sweet Gum, native to the east coast of the US. There's Black Gum, native to the south. I think it is also called tupelo. In California, there are Blue Gum and Red Gum, which are not native, but have naturalized quite successfully. They are eucalyptus varieties -- from Australia of course. I've seen some Red Gum lumber, and it has some reddish tones to it. The wood is hard and dense, so maybe it is what you're talking about. Unfortunately, I don't know of any commercial source.

  5. #5
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    Sweetgum is very prevalent in the Southeast, where all the sawyers I know consider it a trash tree. I think that is because of its tendancy to warp and twist when drying, as has already been mentioned. On the family farm, we normally cut them down when they are small to allow higher value trees to grow.

    I can tell you this. It makes really sorry firewood. It won't burn, but if you have a really hot fire, you can sort of melt it. It actually absorbs heat rather than giving it off.

  6. #6
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    I have about five sweet gum trees in my yard. They are easy to spot just look down at the ground under the tree it will be full of nasty gum balls.

    On the bright side gum trees are great shade trees and they are almost indestructible. In the fall a gum trees leaves turn beautiful shades of gold. The hurricanes don't even harm them. Since my children are grown I don't even rake up the gum balls anymore just let them lay, the ones my mower doesn't mulch will eventually rot away.

    I was under the impression that Tupelo Gum was a very highly regarded wood for turning. Every now and then I hear someone looking for Tupelo gum but it isn't for sale anywhere I have ever been.

    .

  7. #7
    Sweetgum and Redgum are the same tree but Redgum refers exclusively to its heartwood. The area of heartwood of the Sweetgum is very small in younger trees, often only a few inches in a 20", 30 year old tree. As the tree gets older, the heartwood expands until it is comparable to that of Cherry or Walnut. Unlike the notoriously twisty sapwood that gets it a bad rap today, the heartwood is very stable.

    Redgum was used extensively for millwork in from the 1890s to 1940s as it was abundant in the Mississppi Alluvial Valley which was the predominant source of hardwood in that time period. Sweetgum trees in the virgin Alluvial forest were often 300+ years old and more than 60" in diameter, thus they contained a lot of heart which is a beautiful cream/red/black interlocked grain.

    If you live in a home of this period anywhere in the Midsouth/Midwest, you quite likely have Redgum mouldings.

    Lacking heart, second growth Sweetgum is considered trash by lumbermen, and now it is used mainly for pulp, pallets and RR ties.


    Every once and a while I'm able to get my hands on some older Sweetgum logs and I sure wish I could get more . . .



    This boards are 12' long and 22" wide and almost entirely heart as the log had laid in a yard covered in ivy for several years and 'shrooms and beetles had eaten off most of the sap.

  8. #8
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    I was fortunate to once rent a house that had gum wainscotting throughout the first floor. Beautiful.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Falis View Post
    I was fortunate to once rent a house that had gum wainscotting throughout the first floor. Beautiful.
    When I used to do renovations here in Memphis, we'd often walk into entire houses of painted over gum mouldings.

    Fortunately, the original millwork had often been finished with linseed oil and wax and been rewaxed many times by the original owners.

    Most of the time we could pull down the moulding and twist it back and forth and the paint would pop right off--much nicer than strippers or scraping

  10. #10
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    Since all of your postings have given some different names, I have found a lot of web postings on this kind of lumber. Haven't found a source to buy yet, but I may just call my friend and ask him to go with white oak instead.

    Thank you for all of the interesting info. Seems like the wisdom of sweet gum twisting while drying is pretty universal.
    Veni Vidi Vendi Vente! I came, I saw, I bought a large coffee!

  11. #11
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    A lot of older homes here in the Boston area have interior trimwork made of gumwood. Usually natural or stained or clear-coated in shellac.

    JW

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Kent View Post
    A friend asked me to make a box for him out of gum wood.

    He made something out of this in shop class in Junior High, 35 years ago. He says it was a fairly hard, light color wood with smooth grain and rosey overtones.

    I can't find this anywhere that sells wood. Does it go by another name?

  12. #12
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    I was in Macbeath Hardwood in San Francisco today. They have Redgum 4/4 boards, some nearly 12" wide. I don't think this was the Eucalyptus Red Gum, but rather the Sweetgum heart wood.

  13. #13
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    This is Australian Euc Redgum. eucalyptus camaldulensis

    Very hard and dense timber. Hard work, but second to none results.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  14. #14
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    Brian,

    Since you live near me in SoCal, I will pass on the following info, told to me long, long ago, by an unknown sage. According to him....what we know as a Liquid Amber tree is known elsewhere as sweet gum.

    Don't know if it's true, just know someone told me that.

    Rick Potter

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