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#2: Chechen

Konas

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Ah, gorgeous Chechen. As I write this, it sits in spot number 2 on the list of my favorite woods that we use (#1 is Redheart). Chechen is strong, heavy, displays an amazing variety of colors, and takes a fantastic finish. For the linguists out there, it is pronounced Chuh-Chen with the emphasis on the second syllable, not Cheh- chen like the Republic. Weird warning about this article: There is a disgusting pic below. Not for the faint hearted.

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A close up of the colors of Chechen

General Info

Chechen is grown primarily in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico. It is a very valuable tree and is a wonderful source of lumber for these nations. 

The heartwood of Chechen is incredible, displaying high contrasting stripes of reds, oranges, and golds with alternating grainwork of dark chocolate browns.

On the Janka scale of hardness Chechen measures 2,250, making it one of the hardest woods we offer. The Janka hardness scale measures the resistance of a wood to denting and wear. Technically, in one of the more unique tests we have heard of, it measures the force required to push a small steel ball halfway into the wood. In comparison, Red Oak and White Ash (the wood that professional baseball bats are made of) score right around 1,300 on the Janka scale. Our foreman, Puzz Longbeard has a very hard head. His head scores in the 800s.

The Chechen tree is a small to medium tree with dark black sap. One of the most distinguishing facts about the tree is that is it poisonous, but more on that later.

Amazing looking fresh cut timber.

Incredible looking Chechen timber.

Chechen lumber is also known as Black Poisonwood, Chechem (it’s original Mayan name), Coral Sumac, Cedro Prieto, or Caribbean Rosewood. Don’t be fooled, however, it is not a member of the Rosewood family but has gained that moniker due to its amazing coloration and because every wood secretly yearns to be a Rosewood.

Fort Save vs. Poison (dc25)

If you are travelling through Latin America or the West Indies, be wary of trees with black sap! The Chechen tree emits a toxic sap that can cause some nasty skin reactions. It starts with a redness but will develop into itchy and burning blisters and is, like shaking hands with Puzz Longbeard, very painful. As if that wasn’t enough, the rash won’t start for a few days after contact so you can’t even be sure where you got it or how to treat it. On the bright side, the sap from the Gumbo-Limbo tree acts as a natural antidote to the poison and these trees often grow near Chechen Trees. The Mayans had a wonderful myth about these 2 trees involving 2 brothers that fell for the same beautiful woman. A vicious brawl ensued and both brothers died. While the brothers were chilling in the Underworld, they both prayed to their Gods to be able to look upon the beautiful woman again. The Gods granted their wishes and each of them was reborn as a Chechen and a Gumbo-Limbo tree. Spoiler Alert: the mean brother became the tree with the toxic sap. Rest assured, only the sap is poisonous. The wood, once kiln dried, is safe as is any Dog Might product made with Chechen. Before I forget, I would like to nominate Gumbo-Limbo for coolest tree name ever.

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I warned you.

Thoughts from a Woodworker

After years of going to our lumber mill, they would, on occasion, order rough boards of woods that were more rare. Then, they would try to sell them to us with nearly a 100% success rate. Our first introduction to Chechen was the direct result of these fiendishly good sales tactics. Immediately, after the first planing pass, we were hooked.

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My personal minimalist wooden wallet made from a fine piece of Black Poisonwood

 Now, everyone in our shop loves Chechen. It may not be everyone’s absolute favorite, but all our woodworkers appreciate its beauty. Chechen is incredibly hard but remains relatively easy to work. Because of its density, sanding it can really suck: you just have to know going in that it’s going to be a time-consuming process. Plus, the resulting finish is well worth it. It is because of the hardness of the wood that it has such a gorgeous luster. And the color, oh my, that color. The pics of Chechen products on our site just don’t capture the sheen. The warmer tones in the wood really come alive after varnishing, especially the golden hues. The grain work, often straight, can be interweaving and almost wild at times. Chechen is a near perfect mix of beauty and strength. When I finally go to the great mead hall in the sky, it damn sure better be made of Chechen.

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A Dragon Sheath, made from the only board of Spalted Chechen we have ever seen

 

Sources: A bunch of pages from the innertubes and the only book I will ever read, The Wood Bible.

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It really is a lovely wood, I wish I could find a dinner table made of the stuff (that I could actually afford of course).

Looking forward to more of these, and waging psychological warfare by telling friends about the poison sap after letting them hold one of your products.

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8 minutes ago, Blinkus Maximus said:

It really is a lovely wood, I wish I could find a dinner table made of the stuff (that I could actually afford of course).

Looking forward to more of these, and waging psychological warfare by telling friends about the poison sap after letting them hold one of your products.

Thanks. I will try to keep up the pace of one a week. That's a great idea, you could even keep a small pic of the rash in your wallet and show it to them. Then let them know that it won't start for a few days.

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Wow, another poisonous tree.  And I thought trees only attacked by falling on lumberjacks. They are more creative than I thought. No wander lumberjacks need to master wielding the ax to defend themselves.  

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14 hours ago, RomyCat said:

Wow, another poisonous tree.  And I thought trees only attacked by falling on lumberjacks. They are more creative than I thought. No wander lumberjacks need to master wielding the ax to defend themselves.  

Not many people know that woodworking is actually a form of self defense...

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Bocote next!

 

I will say that these articles are doing a good job of making me appreciate some of the other woods. I considered Chechan for my CoCo, but ended up going with Canarywood and Bocote based on the pictures on the website and on the campaign.

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After reading this installment, I'm even more reassured in my Coco choice of Chechen, and cannot wait to see the finished product. The pictures of the Chechen timber look somewhat similar to the Yew tree I have in my front yard. The outer bark is a bit darker on the Yew, but the inner part of the wood also has that reddish hue. 

Really enjoying these blogs. Also I feel as though I need to own this Wood Bible. I may have to do some looking on Amazon.

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7 hours ago, Adam said:

After reading this installment, I'm even more reassured in my Coco choice of Chechen, and cannot wait to see the finished product. The pictures of the Chechen timber look somewhat similar to the Yew tree I have in my front yard. The outer bark is a bit darker on the Yew, but the inner part of the wood also has that reddish hue. 

Really enjoying these blogs. Also I feel as though I need to own this Wood Bible. I may have to do some looking on Amazon.

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Nice yard!

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1 minute ago, Barb Bliss said:

Nice yard!

Thanks @Barb Bliss. There's a fair amount of different types of Hosta on both sides. Straight back in this picture along the side of the house is pretty heavily Hosta concentrated.

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23 hours ago, Adam said:

Thanks @Barb Bliss. There's a fair amount of different types of Hosta on both sides. Straight back in this picture along the side of the house is pretty heavily Hosta concentrated.

You are speaking my language.  I collect hostas, sedum, and coral bells for my "foliage gardens".  OCD personified.  If there is grass in my yard, it's a weed.  I lost count of how many kinds of hostas I have around the high 60s.  If I had to guess, I'd put it in the 90s.  I even have an "angel garden" (blue angel, guardian angel, morning angel, angel veil, earth angel, etc).  I create collages with all the colors and sizes.  I've had people stop their car, get out, take a picture, and leave.  That never sucks.  :-)  The newest hostas are Red Hot Flash, Spartan Lances and Spartan Arrows.

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@Barb Bliss 90 Hostas! I had no idea there were that many available. Gotta get me some Spartan Lances!

 

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Just now, Konas said:

@Barb Bliss 90 Hostas! I had no idea there were that many available. Gotta get me some Spartan Lances!

 

Arrows and Lances are about the same plant, but lances is bigger.  Lance tip shaped leaves.

Dealing with that many varieties presents challenges though.  You plant them and think you have it perfect, but then a year or two later I feel the need to move things around.  Growth rates are different.  Some areas of my yard get dappled sun; some are morning sun; some are late afternoon sun.  And the real kicker is the growth rate of the hostas that get cast off water from my rock bubblier.  For example, my blue angels are supposed to be smaller than the blue mammoths, but given the strategic sun pattern and the cast off water, they are actually bigger than the mammoths.  The leaf width is around 18"!  So I'm constantly moving hostas around and/or splitting them so I get the tallest in back and cascading forward to the minis in the front.  Though with God as my witness, those mammoths will never  get dug up again!  Last time I moved them, the roots were over 3.5' long (and that was a decade ago).

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@Konas You show the picture of Spalted Chechen and I had search the interwebs for what what spalted wood is exactly. So I learned that it's coloration in wood caused by some kind of fungus. Just wondering, is spalted wood desired because of the unique colorations they produce? Is spalted wood highly sought after?

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3 hours ago, Adam said:

@Konas You show the picture of Spalted Chechen and I had search the interwebs for what what spalted wood is exactly. So I learned that it's coloration in wood caused by some kind of fungus. Just wondering, is spalted wood desired because of the unique colorations they produce? Is spalted wood highly sought after?

It is highly sought after because of its rarity and because of its unique patterning.

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On 10/4/2017 at 8:55 AM, Barb Bliss said:

Arrows and Lances are about the same plant, but lances is bigger.  Lance tip shaped leaves.

Dealing with that many varieties presents challenges though.  You plant them and think you have it perfect, but then a year or two later I feel the need to move things around.  Growth rates are different.  Some areas of my yard get dappled sun; some are morning sun; some are late afternoon sun.  And the real kicker is the growth rate of the hostas that get cast off water from my rock bubblier.  For example, my blue angels are supposed to be smaller than the blue mammoths, but given the strategic sun pattern and the cast off water, they are actually bigger than the mammoths.  The leaf width is around 18"!  So I'm constantly moving hostas around and/or splitting them so I get the tallest in back and cascading forward to the minis in the front.  Though with God as my witness, those mammoths will never  get dug up again!  Last time I moved them, the roots were over 3.5' long (and that was a decade ago).

 

On 10/4/2017 at 8:45 AM, Konas said:

@Barb Bliss 90 Hostas! I had no idea there were that many available. Gotta get me some Spartan Lances!

 

These aren't the greatest pics, but you get the idea.  One is the entrance to my backyard.  aka my secret garden.  One is the front yard yard.  aka Charleston courtyard.  Too bad the table blocks the garden bed behind it.  That's my dad's memorial garden bed with over 25 species of hostas in it.  The white shutters/trim was from my initial attempt of an English cottage garden.  I'm open for suggestions on a color that fits better with Charleston courtyard.  One is the rock fountain garden.  aka the angel garden.  Note: the rock is 4 feet tall, and the blue angels are the ones with the white blooms to the left of the rock.  The yard looked better before it got pelted by hail twice!  (note: the guy in the photos is my buddy John.  His wife is the photographer)

entrance_to_back.jpg

front_yard.jpg

angel_garden.jpg

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@Barb Bliss Very nice. Is your house an old house, or does it just have that look? The brick looks like it's been there for a bit. My wife and I love old houses with character. Our house was built in 1928. 

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Just now, Adam said:

@Barb Bliss Very nice. Is your house an old house, or does it just have that look? The brick looks like it's been there for a bit. My wife and I love old houses with character. Our house was built in 1928. 

I'd have to look it up, but I think mine was built in 1940.  I know it was the 3rd house built on the block.  The youngest daughter of the cool old lady that lived next door when I moved in said she used to float around in a dingy in my yard when she was a little girl.  That explains the basement issues I discovered when I moved in.  Turns out my house was built on a spring creek.  :-|

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Just now, Barb Bliss said:

I'd have to look it up, but I think mine was built in 1940.  I know it was the 3rd house built on the block.  The youngest daughter of the cool old lady that lived next door when I moved in said she used to float around in a dingy in my yard when she was a little girl.  That explains the basement issues I discovered when I moved in.  Turns out my house was built on a spring creek.  :-|

Yikes! Never want to hear stories about floating around in your front yard! I really like the look of the brick.

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Just now, Adam said:

Yikes! Never want to hear stories about floating around in your front yard! I really like the look of the brick.

Me too, but it's a soft brick.  Last year I had to have a mason come in and fix a few bricks around the window sills that took it on the chin from the freeze/thaw action from Minnesota winters.  He did a real nice job.  I still get a little musty smell in the summer from time to time (even with a dehumidifier running), but the $4000 worth of drain tile has kept the basement "dry".  If I had to do it over again, I would have put in an egress window or two in the basement before I started building up the gardens.  And I would have liked to have raised up the side bed a few feet so I could weed without getting on my knees.  But who has extra money rolling around in your pocket right after you move in and discover the furnace and AC are about to die.

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3 minutes ago, Barb Bliss said:

Me too, but it's a soft brick.  Last year I had to have a mason come in and fix a few bricks around the window sills that took it on the chin from the freeze/thaw action from Minnesota winters.  He did a real nice job.  I still get a little musty smell in the summer from time to time (even with a dehumidifier running), but the $4000 worth of drain tile has kept the basement "dry".  If I had to do it over again, I would have put in an egress window or two in the basement before I started building up the gardens.  And I would have liked to have raised up the side bed a few feet so I could weed without getting on my knees.  But who has extra money rolling around in your pocket right after you move in and discover the furnace and AC are about to die.

This is true. There's usually not that kind of money leftover right after a move in.

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29 minutes ago, Adam said:

Yikes! Never want to hear stories about floating around in your front yard! I really like the look of the brick.

She also told me about 2 house fires in my house!  So far, fingers crossed, 3 hasn't been the charm.

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13 minutes ago, Barb Bliss said:

She also told me about 2 house fires in my house!  So far, fingers crossed, 3 hasn't been the charm.

Wow! It has certainly been through a lot.

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1 minute ago, Adam said:

Wow! It has certainly been through a lot.

Yeah.  But I got an addition out of it :-)

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1 hour ago, Barb Bliss said:

 

These aren't the greatest pics, but you get the idea.  One is the entrance to my backyard.  aka my secret garden.  One is the front yard yard.  aka Charleston courtyard.  Too bad the table blocks the garden bed behind it.  That's my dad's memorial garden bed with over 25 species of hostas in it.  The white shutters/trim was from my initial attempt of an English cottage garden.  I'm open for suggestions on a color that fits better with Charleston courtyard.  One is the rock fountain garden.  aka the angel garden.  Note: the rock is 4 feet tall, and the blue angels are the ones with the white blooms to the left of the rock.  The yard looked better before it got pelted by hail twice!  (note: the guy in the photos is my buddy John.  His wife is the photographer)

entrance_to_back.jpg

front_yard.jpg

angel_garden.jpg

That is a gorgeous walkway! Beautiful.

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4 hours ago, Konas said:

That is a gorgeous walkway! Beautiful.

Every month it looks a little different.  It starts out with waist high tulips.  Apparently they are too tough for the bunnies, squirrels, or deer :-)  

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Of all of my collectors I am ordering, Chechen is the one I am most excited to see!  I even went with the XL because I am certain I am just going to love it.  Thank you for the write up!

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