There are dark woods, redwoods, vivid orange woods, and plenty of plain old brown woods in between. However, there is one wood color that many seek, but few find. When it comes to white woods to use for your woodworking business, which takes the cake?
The whitest natural wood available is holly. Such a simple name and well-known presence almost make it seem impossible, but holly is known worldwide as the whitest wood available. There are over 200 species of holly growing worldwide, making it easily accessible for most buyers.
Holly stands alone when it comes to the vivid white that the wood can produce. Although many look at different types of wood and want to stain it immediately, holly is often an exception to this perceived concept, as many individuals admire its flawlessness and bright tone.
It is one of a kind, but even with its beauty, just like any wood, it has its flaws. Let’s take a closer look at what Holly looks like and a few key facts to remember when working with it to create legacy furniture and impressive masterpieces.
What Does Holly Look Like?
Have you ever come across a wood so naturally beautiful, so flawless, so smooth in texture that it nearly stopped you dead in your tracks? Only me? Ok, so maybe my love for the wood is a bit more over-the-top than yours.
Many wood varieties in their natural state are difficult to appreciate before they have undergone a bit of sanding and staining – the result is a bit difficult to realize right then and there, but how about holly?
Holly is not only noticeably beautiful when you immediately notice its exterior, but it has a striking white color that can shock those looking to use natural wood with a bright finish. Its texture is almost as pure in that it has practically no grain pattern- making it the perfect blank, white slate for your next woodworking creation.
From the outside, a holly tree is something breathtaking before you even get to its center. From a small bush to a towering tree, holly is covered in deep green leaves that are petite and sturdy.
Amid these leaves, you will find the most vivid red berries adorning every branch, adding the most delicious pop of color to the tree’s deep hues. It is a striking species when considered only outwardly, but you are in for something grand when it comes to its interior.
Holly is one of those woods that is beautiful from the moment it is harvested. It is known worldwide as the caviar of wood when it comes to its color and even overall texture.
Holly is a vivid white, striking against any deep cherrywood or brilliant standing alone as a beautifully constructed piece itself. The white color that this wood can produce is something that many refuse to change and hold in great esteem.
To maintain its pristine white color, holly is typically cut in the winter months and rapidly harvested to avoid discoloring.
If you are looking to harvest your own wood, keep this in mind as the wrong method of cutting at the wrong temperature can result in a nasty blue-gray stain rendering your once flawless white holly piece useless.
Outside of its color, it is also quite beautiful texturally. Many woodworkers have to be conscientious of the grain pattern in the type of wood they use for any given project. This can be a pain for nailing down consistency, but holly stands above the rest in this area.
The grain pattern of the whitest natural wood in the world (Holly) is truly impressive. Holly has virtually no grain pattern – that is right, I said it.
It is like the wood version of ivory (but legal, ethical, etc.) and makes for a flawless surface of wood perfection. You will be thrilled to see the projects that can come about when using a practically grain-free natural wood- especially one that is as bright as Holly.
Is Holly a Good Natural Wood to Work With?
Holly may be beautiful, but beauty can only go so far. Although this type of wood does have a few redeeming qualities, there are some components of holly that you should consider before working with it or before purchasing a piece made of it.
Holly is a beautiful white natural wood that stains beautifully, but it can be difficult to work with for various reasons. Plus, it is known to decay more easily, making it frustrating for woodworkers who dedicate hours of their time, energy, and resources to craft the perfect piece.
Let’s take a closer look at why Holly might be a bit of a stretch for some woodworkers to consider working with.
Holly Stains Beautifully
If you are not one who wants to keep the white of holly on full display, then you may be looking to stain it. Although some may scoff at this decision, I get it!
Sometimes white is not your flow, and you need something with a little more color to really light your woodworking fires (ok, no literal fires though, that could end very badly). If a stain is what you are leaning towards, holly is your absolute go-to for an absolutely flawless job.
The reason this wood stains so well is because of its texture, as I mentioned previously. Because it does not have any noticeable grain pattern, few areas in which the stain can unevenly deepen or not take due to the wood’s grain.
This is going to give you an extremely consistent stain and one that looks just about as flawless as the raw wood itself if you apply it in a way that is also consistent.
Holly Can be Difficult to Work With
As I said, holly is not all rainbows and sunshine when it comes to woodworking. Yes, it is stunningly beautiful in all its white glory, but it has a few quirks that make it a little more difficult to deal with than other hardwoods that are not quite fussy.
Do not be deterred, though. Just because something may offer you a harder time than other options does not mean it is not worth the time and effort, nor does it mean you are not capable of handling it.
Unlike many hardwoods, holly is a bit more sensitive when being worked on by power tools rather than regular old hand tools. This means that you have to be very attentive to every cut to ensure you are not trashing any of your pieces.
When you are using any saw, be sure to avoid a feed rate that is too slow. If you have the rate at too low of a feed, you risk the change of scorching or even burning the wood.
When it comes to drilling, stop fairly often to clean dust from the holes you are working on to ensure burning does not occur in those areas. You also have to work around all knots that often occur holly, making for some creative operation methods.
Holly Easily Decays
Holly is beautiful, but it is not as durable as one might think. Holly is as fine a treat as any when it comes to insects, and they can flock in droves to it. They like to make their way into this wood and feast like it is Christmas day.
Although there are measures you can take to avoid this from happening, over time, holly tends to age at a rate that can be faster than their hardwood counterparts, which can result in decay and insect encroachment.
It is also important to note that this wood is not one that is considered to be durable. It is often used in projects where it is made to be the interior of something or used as an accent against the sturdier wood.
Because of its weak structure, it is not often used for larger pieces on its own but does do well when used as small pieces in engraving or carving.