Diamond wood might sound like something out of a fantasy novel, but it’s a very real wood type sought after by carpenters and furniture makers in many parts of the world.
However, diamond wood is a little more complex in terms of its origins than most types of wood available on the market today.
Diamond wood, in short, is the wood of one of several willow species that has been structurally impacted by fungal activity. The result is a patterned wood that can be incorporated into a variety of woodworking projects with appealing results.
In today’s article, we’re going to define what diamond wood is, how it is formed, and what it can be used for.
What is Diamond Wood?
Diamond wood is wood from a Diamond willow tree. The Diamond willow is not, as you might expect, one particular species of willow tree. Rather, it is a willow tree that is susceptible to a phenomenon known as ‘diamonding’.
The term ‘diamonding’ refers to a pattern that emerges in the wood of one of the several Diamond willow trees prone to this type of marking.
Diamond wood typically comes from one of 6 species of willow tree: Salix bebbiana, Salix discolor, Salix alaxensis, Salix pseudomonticola, Salix scouleriana, and Salix arbusculoides.
What differentiates diamond wood from other types of willow wood is the diamond pattern that can sometimes be found etched into the wood.
In our next section, we will be discussing how diamond wood is formed in the first place.
How is Diamond Wood Formed?
We’ve established that diamond wood is wood from a species of willow tree that forms a diamond pattern. But how does this diamonding happen?
Scientists believe that diamonding in willow wood is caused by a fungal attack. The fungus assumed to be responsible is Valsa sordida, although it’s possible that other fungi may cause the same effect.
Mainly, Valsa sordida attacks willow branches at the crotch between a larger branch and a smaller one. When this happens, it seems that the wood essentially grows away from the fungal attack. In smaller branches that can’t sustain deep diamonding, the wood dies.
However, if the branch is robust enough, it continues to grow inwards until a diamond shape is formed.
The most sought-after diamond wood is the kind where the diamond cankers are close enough together that they seem to almost run into one another. These pieces of wood are typically those that have been attacked the most by the fungus.
The reason the diamonds in Diamond willow wood contrast so clearly with the rest of the unaffected bark is because the affected bark becomes darker as well as rougher in terms of texture.
While all of this may sound alarming, the result is not actually damaging to the wood from an aesthetic perspective. In fact, the cankers caused by the fungus create an appealing diamond pattern which actually increases the aesthetic value of the wood.
What can Diamond Wood be Used For?
There are many uses for diamond wood in the woodworking world.
Carpenters and furniture makers often incorporate diamond wood into furniture and household construction such as benches, banisters, and bed frames.
Ornaments both inside and outside the home can also be made more striking and visually appealing by making them with diamond wood instead of other commonly used hardwoods.
Candle holders, bird tables, coasters, and fire pokers are all popular diamond willow woodworking projects.
Diamond wood is also frequently used in woodworking projects outside of furniture and homeware. One particularly common use of diamond wood is in cane construction. Diamond wood can be used to create beautiful, decorative, yet functional hardwood canes.
Where to Source Diamond Wood
Finding the ideal diamond wood for your next project will involve figuring out where to source the wood for the best quality.
The most popular location for sourcing diamond wood is the Copper River, Alaska. This area is home to a large family of Diamond willow trees from which diamond wood can be sourced.
Alternatively, Diamond willows can also be found throughout Alaska, particularly in forested areas. Alaskan Diamond willows are widely considered to be the best sources of diamond wood because many of these trees are 150 years old or more.
The older the tree, the thicker the diameter of the branches, which makes the wood more suitable for larger construction projects.
Slow-growing Alaskan willows are usually the best to source diamond wood from in terms of the quality of diamonding.
However, you don’t need to limit your search for diamond wood to the Alaskan forests. Another great location from which to source diamond wood is the Missouri River Valley. Diamond willows can also be found in other areas across the United States and Canada.
Of course, the presence of diamond willows in these areas does not necessarily mean that you will be able to source the wood yourself. Many of these trees may be protected, so you should do your research beforehand and source from a reputable harvester if possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Diamond willow a hardwood?
Yes. Diamond willow has a relatively slow growth rate, which classifies the tree as a hardwood.
Is Diamond willow good for carving?
Despite being a hardwood, the bark of the Diamond willow is soft, which makes it easy to carve and whittle.
To summarize what we’ve covered in today’s article, diamond wood is wood harvested from one of approximately six Diamond willow species that grow across the United States (especially Alaska) and Canada.
Diamond wood is formed when the wood is attacked by a fungus (usually Valsa sordida). When the fungus attacks the wood, the wood grows into itself, resulting in diamond shapes at the site of infestation.
Diamond wood is used for a variety of purposes in woodworking, from creating large pieces of furniture such as bed frames to sculpting wooden ornaments like candle holders and bird tables. It is also commonly used in the construction of walking sticks and canes.