Acacia is a versatile wood that has numerous woodworking applications. It is widely available and cheap. Although it may not have the best looks, it is extremely durable and makes good furniture and flooring.
Acacia is one of the oldest tree species in the world with over 1,200 species. Although it is believed to originally come from Africa and Australia, you will find these trees growing all over the world. Acacia is an easy wood to work with and also versatile enough to make furniture, flooring, and many other woodworking applications.
Acacia Wood: Background
There are so many species of acacia that you might find it difficult to keep account of. This species is so old that there are even fossilized samples available. They date back to 20 million years.
We also know acacia by other names like wattle and Asian walnut. The work “wattle” alludes to weaving. It is perhaps because people weaved acacia twigs to make baskets and thatched roofs in days of old.
Acacia: History and Habitat
As we mentioned above, acacia has been around for a long time. Genetically, it bears similarity with the charcoal deposits that date back to 20 million years ago.
Evidence points to these trees having existed a very long time ago in fire-prone areas.
You can also find a mention of acacia in the Book of Exodus. It mentions this wood as having been used for constructing the Ark of Covenant and the Tabernacles. It was mostly the indestructible nature of acacia wood that people recognized even way back then.
Acacia grew widespread in North Africa and Australia despite there being no water bodies to nourish them. Nor were there any mountain ranges that could check the growth of the trees.
Acacia is fairly resistant to fire. The forests spread rapidly over vast tracts of land. Today you will find it growing in different terrains from mountainous and grasslands to rainforests, deserts, and even coastal areas.
Types of Acacia Wood
As we mentioned there are several species of acacia which is beyond the scope of this article to mention them all. Here are a few of the commonest species that you can find:
Hawaiian Acacia (Acacia Koa)
Also known as acacia koa, these trees grow up to 100 feet. It is a surprisingly expensive wood and among the more expensive varieties of domestic hardwood. With a Janka hardness of 1,790 lbf. the wood is even harder than maple which has a Janka hardness of 1,450 lbf.
Hawaiian acacia has a coarse grain structure with a wavy pattern. The color is highly appealing. The wood resembles mahogany with deep brown and amber shades with a golden hue.
You may find it difficult to cut due to the interlocking of the grains. But if worked carefully, the results can be highly satisfactory.
Hawaiian koa makes fine furniture and hardwood flooring. The wood grain stands out beautifully on applying a finish. This wood also makes canoes, soft boards, spear handles, and musical instruments like ukuleles.
Australian Blackwood (Acacia Melanoxylon)
Australian blackwood is also called acacia blackwood and Tasmanian blackwood. It grows in Tasmania and the trees grow as high as 100 feet. It serves as a cheaper alternative to Hawaiian koa.
The wood is not dark-colored despite its name. This species shows a fairly color variation but can be reddish-brown to golden-brown. The growth rings are quite accentuated, depending on the way the wood is cut.
It is a rather hardwood with a Janka hardness of lbf. This wood may have a straight or wavy grain pattern. It resists decay adequately but is prone to insect attack. You would need to use a suitable sealer for outdoor use.
The wood is easy to work with and takes stains and finishes well. Australian blackwood makes furniture, cabinets, gunstocks, veneers, and a range of other wooden objects.
Raspberry Jam (Acacia Acuminata)
Also called jam wattle, this wood is native to Western Australia. The trees do not grow very high, up to a maximum of just 23 feet. It gets its name from the strong raspberry jam fragrance that it emits when you cut it.
Raspberry jam’s heartwood is reddish-brown and the sapwood is light yellow sapwood. It is extremely hard with a Janka hardness rating of 3,100 lbf. Although it can be difficult to work with due to its extreme hardness, raspberry jam wood makes good outside structures like fence posts and shelters. This wood also turns quite well.
Earpod Wattle (Acacia Auriculiformis)
This wood also goes by the name of auri, northern black wattle, and earleaf acacia. Earpod wattle grows in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Australia. The trees grow up to 95 feet.
The tree gets its name from its earpod-like shaped fruit. It is a wood of medium strength with a medium hardness with a Janka hardness rating of 1,710 lbf. Earpod wattle is not particularly attractive so you won’t find any fine furniture made from this wood.
However, this wood finishes well and we use it to make small turned items like chessmen, carrom coins, and small wooden toys. Planks from the bigger trees also provide construction material. This wood plays a particularly prominent role as pulpwood in the paper industry.
Hickory Wattle (Acacia Mangium)
Hickory wattle also goes by names like black wattle, mangium, and forest mangrove. This wood grows in Papua, Australia, and the Eastern Maluku Islands. This wood has shimmery, brownish-yellow heartwood.
It has a tight grain and it gets its name from its resemblance to hickory. Hickory wattle has a medium hardness with a Janka hardness rating of 1,110 lbf. It is good for making fine furniture and other fine woodworking.
The wood also exhibits a fair degree of resistance to rot. It is dimensionally stable showing minimal warping and cracking. This wood makes good furniture and flooring.
Bailey’s Acacia (Acacia Baileyana)
Also called Cootamundra wattle, this wood is native to the New South Wales and Victoria territories of Australia. The tree grows up to 30 feet and is mostly used for ornamental purposes being a small tree.
Bailey’ acacia appears as an invasive species in Australia. It has a slightly higher hardness of 1,710 lbf. Once upon a time, it was widely used in roadbuilding and the mining industries. The Australian Aborigines used to make shields and spears with this wood. The bark of this tree is useful for tannins.
Stinking Wattle (Acacia Cambagei)
We also call this wood purple gidgee. The trees grow up to 40 feet. The heartwood can range from medium to dark reddish-brown with dark reddish streaks rather like walnut wood. The sapwood and heartwood show a distinct contrast.
This wood is extremely hard with a Janka hardness rating of 4,270 lbf. The grain is interlocked and curled. The irregular patterns in the wood grain cause interesting patterns that we call “ringed gidgee.”
This wood is rather resistant to decay, moisture, and insects. So, it is very useful for making fence posts and other outdoor applications. Due to its extremely high density, this wood burns well and gives off good heat. Therefore it makes good wood for burning as fuel.
Waddywood (Acacia Peuce)
Also known as waddi, these trees grow in Central Australia and grow up to 59 feet. The heartwood is a purplish brown and has dark streaks in the wood grain. It distinguishes itself from the light yellow sapwood. The grain is straight and tight with a medium texture.
Waddywood is extremely hard at 4,630 lbf. Janka hardness. It is difficult to cut but highly durable. It may not be a popular choice among woodworkers but the finished products are much appreciated by the end-users.
This wood makes fence posts, turned objects, and other small wooden objects. It gets its name from the clubs that the Aborigine Australians make from this wood called “waddi.”
Silver Wattle (Acacia Dealbata)
Silver wattle is an award-winning wood. This tree has won the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. The trees are tall and grow up to 100 feet. You will see them growing in Australia and Tasmania.
The wood is of medium density and easy to cut, saw, and drill. You can add nails and screws without fear of splitting the wood.
Furniture designers like silver wattle because it is so versatile. It bends easily and takes finish and glue well. It takes on a pleasant appearance when polished. We use silver wattle for interior furniture and art pieces. We also use it for framing and in the construction industry.
Umbrella Thorn Acacia (Acacia Tortilis)
Umbrella thorn acacia is native to Savannah and various parts of Africa like Sudan and Somalia. The trees grow up to 69 feet. The wood gets its name from its umbrella-like profile.
This is the species of wood that is mentioned in The Bible for making the Ark of the Covenant and The Tabernacles in the Old Testament. It was chosen due to its indestructible nature.
Umbrella thorn acacia makes indoor furniture, cages, pens, fences, and wagon wheels. You may also see it used for firewood and charcoal.
Small Leaf Acacia (Acacia Confusa)
Small leaf acacia grows in Southeast Asia. We also call it acacia petit feuille, formosa acacia, and small Philippine acacia. The trees grow to a maximum height of 49 feet.
It is a medium-hard wood with a Janka hardness rating of 1,460 lbf. In the early days, it played a major role as fuel. It also makes musical instruments. Due to its high water resistance, it was used to make bathtubs in the early days. It also makes good furniture.
Acacia: Pros and Cons
As there is a downside to all good things, acacia also has its ups and downs. So, let us discuss the pros and cons of this versatile wood:
Wide Color Range
Acacia has a wide color range so you have a lot to choose from. You can make some great color combinations while making furniture.
Attractive Wood Grain Patterns
Some people like a smooth, plain surface for a floor – others go for variation in patterns with knots and curls. Such people appreciate the different patterns in acacia flooring like birdseye and tiger stripes.
Acacia flooring comes in solid wood, laminate, and engineered wood. Therefore you get a wide range of options when you go for acacia flooring.
Acacia is harder than most hardwoods including oak and maple. If you use acacia for flooring it will last for a long time.
Easy to Maintain
Acacia polishes well and with a bit of refinishing you can make the wood look fresh and new all the time.
The added advantage is that by using acacia you use a sustainable species of wood. Acacia is a quick-growing and robust species. Therefore, you reduce your carbon footprint by using acacia.
Acacia is a denser and harder wood, so weighs more.
May Not Be Attractive
Some species of acacia do not have the smart looks of other hardwood species like teak, cherry, walnut, mahogany, and maple.
Difficult to Work With
Most species of acacia are harder than many other hardwoods, making it considerably difficult to work with.
In retrospect, acacia is a highly versatile and durable type of wood that you can use for your various woodworking projects with satisfactory results. You will also find it easy to maintain.
Acacia is a pleasant wood to look at (with a few exceptions). An important thing to note about acacia is that it comes at a reasonable price and you can procure it easily.
Using acacia always brings in the added value of using such an ancient wood making a good centerpiece for discussion in your gathering and parties.
With so much going for acacia, why not try using some of it in your next woodworking project?