American Holly and “Throw-Aways”

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American Holly and “Throw-Aways”

Postby stephanmoll » Sat Mar 12, 2016 1:30 pm

American Holly

Purchased 3 pieces of American Holly (Ilex opaca; image 1) from Mike Smith – wood we had cut during the Nov 2015 wood-sawing workshop in Bailey, NC. The sawing also resulted in a thin left-over throw-away, which I took a along. Really enjoyed working with the holly. I had read that holly wood is white; was keen on seeing how white it would be. It is pale, indeed, when unfinished; wasn’t sure at first whether I should oil the finished product or just leave it in its natural paleness.

Decided to oil two pieces (with Seal-a-Cell) and leave the other pale and just treat it with carnauba wax. The oil turned the wood, as expected, somewhat yellow; and also brought out, as oil does, the colors of the wood in a more intense and contrasting way: the browns, dirty grays and blacks (images 2 and 5). The carnauba wax-treated wood retained its natural pale color (image 3). Two different appearances of the same wood (image 4; left: carnauba wax; right: Seal-a-Cell). Both nice and attractive. I am not sure, which one I like better.

The holly is a soft wood. Very easy to sand. The final product – Seal-a-Cell treated - has a wonderfully smooth feel. The carnauba-waxed finished product has, of course, a more waxy feel. I’d be interested to learn if there is a non-wax colorless oil/finish that seals the wood, yet does not turn it yellow and does not make it feel waxy.


As for “Throw-Aways”: Wow, a nice plate resulted from the “Leftover” holly I took along (image 5). This I had learned a year ago from WGNC member Alan Falk after he had taken home some small, inconspicuous appearing throw-away pieces of the spalted maple log we had been cutting in the 2014 WGNC Bailey workshop, and produced some beautiful little bowls from it: don’t discard small left-over pieces from a beautiful appearing wood. For old-time woodturners surely not a deep revelation; but for me, a relative newcomer, a new and good thing to have learned.

Stephan Moll
Chapel Hill
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Re: American Holly and “Throw-Aways”

Postby normcloutier » Tue Apr 26, 2016 11:52 am

Very nice. I would have bet the oiled pieces were spalted maple and not holly. Usually holly turns black instead of spalting to such color.
I know some folks will use holly for less expensive finals and dye them ebony-black.
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