Friday, February 10, 2012
One of the most common questions I get is "why do you offer your planes in Goncalo Alves as an alternative to Beech?". So here's my reasons...
1: It's colour - the timber is an orangey brown when first worked and reminds me a lot of mahogany. Most planks also have some streaks of black through them, giving a striking individual look to each plane. And it darkens with age and exposure to light, giving it a deeper, handsome shade.
2: It's easily available in quartersawn planks. I spend way too much time searching for quality timber and it is especially difficult to find quartered Beech in the UK (which sounds crazy as Beech grows everywhere in these parts). So to be able to get hold of large (12/4) planks of decent quality quartersawn stock is a dream for me - and Goncalo is usually available in this form.
3: The timber is quite waxy. This varies from plank to plank, but I find on the whole Goncalo to be slightly waxy, which is great for a plane. In use I find the sole very quickly achieves a tough, slick patina, which is exactly what you want in a wooden plane.
It has interlocked grain like so many tropical timbers (and Goncalo reminds me of Mahogany a lot) and this varies from plank to plank. Some pieces plane easily, others require a high angle smoother and a fine cut to prevent deep tear-out. But I do enjoy working with it - it takes crisp detail and polishes up a treat.
So to summarise - it's a hard wearing, handsome timber that is perfect for wooden planes. It feels good in the hand, moves slickly over the work and looks good to the eye. What more could you ask for?