Handmade from Bali: 4 types of wood commonly used in Indonesian furniture and wood art

Handmade from Bali: 4 types of wood commonly used in Indonesian furniture and wood art

When an artist decides to create a new work, one of the first decisions they make is what material will they use? We see intricate designs and patterns woven and cut into wood and stone. Bali, as the main source of wood carvings, makes a lot of shavings. They tirelessly cut away a block of wood to create the beautiful creations we have today. One of the first items they need to get is materials. More often they use materials that are cheap. Usually trees, as they are abundant on the Island. Which trees are they reaching for? What trees do they use to create their art? Let’s take a brief look at 4 main woods that are often used in Balinese carvings, see some of their unique properties and the benefits of carving with these different types of wood.

The first tree has the most commonly used wood for carvings in Bali. It is known locally as “Albesia” or “Belalu”. (Albizia Falcata) This is a white, soft wood. There are many reasons why it is used so often. His homeland is Indonesia. As such, it grows remarkably well to a staggering 130 feet tall. Now that’s nothing special. Some sequoias have been found that are 380 feet tall, but when you consider how fast the albesia grows, it becomes quite obvious why it is the preferred species in plantations in Indonesia. It can grow to 30 feet tall in just 2 years. It’s astronomical! It holds the official title as the “fastest growing tree in the world”. Because it grows so fast, Indonesian farmers have been able to make a living from this tree alone, planting it wherever they can. The main wood is used to make furniture, doors and plywood. It is also termite resistant. At Golden Sun, we did a test with one of our pieces and left it near a termite bed for a week and surprisingly it was not damaged by the termites. For these reasons, most of our carvings are made from the almighty Albesia wood.

The next tree is known as “Crocodile” or Satin Tree. (Zanthoxylum Rhetsa) You can see why it is called crocodile tree. Some villagers have been scared before by a crocodile tree floating downstream as it looks like a crocodile’s back. Kind of funny! =) It is a white, relatively hard wood. Carving with this wood gives a very smooth finish. So smooth it looks like ivory.

Moving to the right we have the “Suar” or Rain Tree. (Albizia Saman) This tree has brown, hard wood. It is a tree with a wide crown and a large symmetrical spread. It is known as the rain tree because its leaves fold when it rains and when the sun sets. It reaches a height of 82 feet and almost 120 feet in diameter. The wood is quite heavy, making it an ideal choice for house supports. The Bali carvings that use this wood are dark in color and have considerable weight. It is a preferred wood by importers from outside the tropics because its cross-interlocking grain prevents the wood from cracking when placed in drier climates. If you live in the desert or Texas, you should choose this tree.

Finally, we have “Waru” or gray hibiscus. (Hibiscus Tiliaceus) The wood is white mixed with light gray. This wood often produces distinctive two-tone carvings. As it ages, the gray turns green, giving it an earthy appearance. These trees are very short, reaching a paltry 32 feet in height. The outer bark of this tree has strong fibers used to make ropes. It has the unique property of being stronger when wet. That is why it is usually used to seal ships. It is the preferred high-quality wood for furniture. If you want your piece to be outside, I would recommend getting “waru” wood. That way, you don’t have to worry about moisture in the air.

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