Working with Ipe (ironwood)

stevebets1February 3, 2007

I have recently completed a deck with ironwood and am considering making a built-in table for my grill (big egg). Has anyone made any type of furniture or similar tables from ironwood. I am concerned on how difficult it will be versus pressure treated. The leftover ironwood is tongue in groove so I would prefer this, however I don't want to turn this into a major project. I already have one set of table plans, but any other ideas would be appreciated.



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I see plans for outdoor furniture all the time and Ipe is usually included in the possible woods for use.

Folks say tools will need sharpening more often but no other gotcha's.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2007 at 12:20PM
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You would probably be better off ripping down the material into slats with eased edges and making the table top "board and batten" style, rather than attempting to glue it up into one board. I think you will really enjoy this wood, the dust from it is less toxic to me than mahogany. Are you going to use a finish or let it weather? I think the color of finished ipe is one of its best qualities. Pressure-treated isn't worth the effort to make furniture out of, IMO.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2007 at 12:40PM
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I have 20' of 1.5" x 9" Ipe, and am sort of scared, to put it bluntly, of trying to work with it. I've heard that it is nearly impossible to cut, burning through carbide tipped saw blades after just a few cuts, using tons of sand paper, wearing out drill bits, etc. etc. Is there anyone out there who has actually worked with it, and can give me some reassurance before I tackle a project?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2007 at 2:15PM
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We did a really large deck with it last Sept. (06) and found that any carbide tools worked it easily. It caused a little premature wear to hss jointer blades. Find some of that red sandpaper, it lasts forever. Go for it, it is a great wood. You just have to pre-drill everything so the nails or screws don't split the wood or break off themselves. It is singularly heavy, hard and dense.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 10:51AM
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Yes, Ipe will wear your cutting tools faster than some other woods, but not fast enough to worry about. I've done decks with fancy trim, and enclosed staircases requiring lots of router work and it's all possible with ipe. I'd counsel that you pace yourself with the cuts, and especially with routers, don't try to push the tool through the work too fast.

With your wider boards (the 9") you want to consider a design that will keep those wide boards from cupping, which ipe likes to do. When I use 12" wide ipe boards for outdoor stair treads I always screw 2 or 3 ipe ribs across the grain on the underside of the tread to keep these wide boards from cupping.

You should be able to easily complete your project in ipe. It's a fun wood that you can either oil once a year to keep its color, or let it age to a teak gray. Don't forget to wax the ends of course to prevent checking and to renew the wax as needed (once a year or every other year depending on your weather)

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 1:35PM
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Guaiacum officinale is one of the species yielding the true lignum vitae, aka ÂironwoodÂ,
It is so heavy it does not even float.

There are a number of others called 'ironwood', but not Bignoniaceae Tabebuia spp., AKA Ipe.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 7:43PM
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I am a martial artist and I like to make my own wooden weapons, bot for myself and as gifts to students and other special people.

Recently I purchased some Ipe. I've never worked with it before and I've heard that it can be difficult and hazzardous to work with.

I am wondering how to work it.
What tools I'll need and what approach I should take.

In the past I've worked with Pine, Ash, Maple, Walnut, and Hickory. By far hickory was the most difficult. I primarily use a hand plane, cabinate scraper and sand paper. For the hickory, a normal plan was just destroying the wood. I ended up buying an adjustable throat Stanely hand plane, and that resolved it.

I have 2 projects in mind for the Ipe.
1. Bo - 6 foot tall round staff (6'x1" typically)
2. Shoto - traditional Japanese short sword (15-20" long with a curve.

The wood I have is
3 pieces of Ipe 6' x 5/8" x 9/8"
3 pieces of Ipe 4' x 5/8" x 9/8"

1. For the Bo, I want to end up with a 6' Bo
the center 1.5' will be 9/8"
Each end 2.25' will taper to 5/8"

To accomplish this I will need to laminate 2 piece of 6'
I was thinking of using Gorrilla Glue. I've had goo results with it in the past, but I've never tried anything this long and narrow.
Then I will use the hand plane to round and taper the wood... finishing up with various sand papers. (BTW - I have found that for my rough sandpaper, 30-45 grit, a piece of belt sander belt , on a sanding block, works great!)

Do you think I'm on the right path?
Or do you think there is a better way?
Are there better tools for this project?
I have a table saw and a hand held belt sander, but I don't like to use them for this stuff... they usually do more harm than good.

2. For the Shoto, I will need to cut one of the 4' in half and then bend it.... or bend it 1st and then cut it (that may be easier)
I have no experience with bending, so I will practice this on scrap 1st.

How do I bend wood?
Will Ipe bend?

Feel free to email me your answers, as well as posting them here.
Thank you.
Rick Liebespach

Here is a link that might be useful: Okinawan Fighting Arts of Brandon Florida

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 3:07PM
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Folks here might not know much about Ipe. If you don't find what you want here try:

1) Garden webs Porches and Decks
There's a guy there named John Hyatt who uses it all the time in his contruction bus. He probably doesn't lam any, but he knows a lot about that wood.

2) Also, try this (subscription is free)

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 5:31PM
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Working the Ipe really is no big deal
Jump in to it you will have no problem!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2007 at 2:10AM
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