View Full Version : Osage Orange Thickness

02-22-2016, 04:00 PM
I am building a Soprano Uke all from Osage Orange - poor man's Brazilian Rosewood - fairly hard and dense (kind of like me).

I have never bent it. Can I get some suggestions on top, back, and side thickness? I am thinking .070 top and back and .065 sides.



02-22-2016, 05:49 PM
I am very familiar with this tree (wood) having lived where it grows. It actually held up my house as foundation piers and functioned better than cement. A strange wood for sure. Totally impervious to rot (the piers were sunk into what we called "black gumbo" and never rotted). We called it bodark, an English corruption of the French bois d'arc or bow wood since the Indians used it to make bows. Hard, heavy and elastic. It puts out a strange yellow dye. But strangest of all were the fruit; softball sized things that weighed two or three pounds and when they dropped out of the trees onto your car (or your head), it was not pleasant. They were planted as natural fence posts since you could cut them and they never rotted so that they lined the roads and hit one of these fruit at 60 miles an hour and it would get your attention.


Yes it has been used as instrument wood and to good effect I am told although I have never worked with it that way so can't say. I'll bet it bends like a dream being so elastic. My only thought would be working with that yellow sap dye it puts out. Gonna stain anything it touches and it can be surprisingly liquid.

All in all, a very strange wood and should be fun to work with and will make a great ukulele. Send pictures!

chuck in ny
02-23-2016, 08:42 AM
osage orange/ hedge/ bodark is used a lot for fences and such. machining problems keep it from being commercially popular. it cuts like anything else, and sanding the same. it tends to get chewed up by jointers and planers. what you can't do with saws, do with sanders. i've never tried hand planes on it, or scrapers. it's very dense for a north american hardwood and i've only heard good things about its use for string instruments.

02-23-2016, 09:04 AM
I use the "fruit" as a natural repellent for insects. Really looking forward to updates on your progress.

02-23-2016, 09:32 AM
I built a guitar with it, and its stiffness and low damping properties make it a good tonewood. It is a strong wood, so structurally, you can use whatever thickness you are currently comfortable with. It bends well as was pointed out. I would say its kind of "chippy" and you can get little slivers breaking off when you rout binding channels. Scoring before routing helps. I used hand planes and scrapers to thickness it, and it's chippy character made it a bit more work than rosewood or other dense tonewoods. All things considered, I like it as a tonewood. I didn't experience any of the staining mentioned above. The wood has a beautiful chatoyance and a bright yellow color which turns brown with exposure to sunlight.

02-23-2016, 11:02 AM
I am aware of this wonderful wood. 2 years ago I finished a small OO guitar and enjoyed working with it, and the sound is very interesting. I have seen a few OO guitars, but no OO ukes and thatought it would be fun. Here is the guitar:


Sequoia - check the label

Does anyone have suggestions for top and back thickness and bending thickness for the sides? I had someone else bend the thicker guitar sides for me.

Kevin Waldron
02-23-2016, 02:08 PM
I'd suggest even thinner on the sides....... .055 or .050....... the material is not as flexible when it is kiln dried/correctly air dried as when it is green. The material is prone to split along grain lines. We never built a Ukulele with Osage but have built a number of No. 5 guitars and a number of Dreads and J-200's with the material..... we usually bind the instrument in Osage with a black perplin between the sides and top or back. In our area the trees can reach 3 feet across and are usually considered a trash wood. The tree because of it's density splits fairly easy in storms. You can make some amazing bends if you have a mind to. Sharp tools are necessary and carbide would be preferred.....didn't find that it fussed unless it was not correctly dried.



02-23-2016, 03:06 PM
Here are a couple pics of the one I built. The sides for this guitar are .080, and it bent just fine, but you sure dont need it that thick.

02-23-2016, 04:11 PM
We were talking about this wood the other day. I grew up where the tree flourishes. We made fence posts out of it that outlasted most folks.
I tried cutting some cured logs up for firewood once, ruined the bar and the chain on my saw, and it darn near killed the motor.
We used the fruit as bug repellent too, or to lob at each other when we drank too much ale....
You made some beautiful guitars out of it guys!

02-23-2016, 11:09 PM
Thanks all

I will thin the sides to .055 and the top and back to .065. I started the OO neck and it looks amazing


chuck in ny
02-24-2016, 12:14 PM
straying far enough off the topic. rural people in the central states call osage orange 'hedge' and the fruit 'hedge apples'. insecticides are annoying chemical compounds, to me anyway, and plenty of people would jump at getting some natural insecticide. the apples are large enough and there are plenty of them. this is a business opportunity for someone.
in missouri for example they have eastern red cedar and osage orange both. the most abusive use for wood is fence posts. red cedar posts are good for about 60 years. osage orange, about 125 years. you won't get an angry customer coming back to complain about the purchase.