[Greenbuilding] Black Locust instead of Ipe

Tim Vireo Keating t.keating at rainforestrelief.org
Wed Dec 7 18:01:37 PST 2011

Sacie, et al,

I apologize for the delay in responding to this. 
As David mentioned, I have been working on this 
for some time but have been swamped.

Years ago, black locust was used for wagon wheel 
hubs, "trunnels" ("tree nails" for nailing wooden 
ship hulls to the beams), occasionally for ship 
hulls, for insulator pins on telegraph poles and 
sometimes for the poles themselves.These days, 
the wood is still (occasionally) used for certain 
parts of wooden boats but, as you say, mostly 
used for fence posts.

I have been recommending black locust as an 
alternative to tropical hardwoods to companies 
and municipalities for about five years. The use 
of this material in Brooklyn Bridge Park, where I 
campaigned for two years against the use of ipê, 
is a direct result of my advocacy - as it is in 
Central Park and by NYC Parks Department in 

I firmly believe that black locust can provide an 
excellent alternative to tropical hardwoods in 
applications where durability vis-a-vis 
resistance to moisture and bacterial breakdown is 
an issue. This includes decks (including the 
rails), porches, exterior posts, sill plates, 
fencing, siding and even roofing shingles (should 
one attempt to go with wood, as they did in the 
old days).

I have been working for some time to be able to 
provide these profiles to users. Indeed, I had 
convinced at least one municipality to order the 
wood for their boardwalk renovation project more 
than a year ago, but they ended up buying the 
wood from a supplier that sold them 'log run', 
which was not suitable for a municipal boardwalk.

There is no doubt that, for many applications, 
using black locust has its challenges. I believe 
these can be overcome with some application of 
intelligence and I am working on doing this right 
now. It's very important to understand the 
realities of this wood, especially in regards to 
the size of the trees, their tendency to twist as 
they grow and the tendency of the wood to move as 
it's milled and after. It's an extremely dense 
and strong material. One needs to know just how 
to dry it and then how to mill and plane it - and 
then re-plane it! As well, there are applications 
where it simply won't work (I have personal 
experience with one such application, where I was 
the first person to recommend the material to the 
user, then they ended up buying if from a 
supplier and using it in an area I didn't know 
about, in a very thin profile, with only one 
screw holding the four-foot-ling pieces down on 
each end - not the right place for, or at least 
the way to fasten, this material).

I have seen this material in place and performing 
extremely well in numerous situations. One just 
needs to know how to deal with it.

If anyone on this list would like to try black 
locust for any of the above applications, please 
contact me.

tim keating

At 9:26 AM -0600 11/16/11, Sacie Lambertson wrote:
>When we lived in Virginia, Black Locust was the 
>post of choice.  Out here in Kansas, Hedge is 
>(Osage Orange).  Both last forever in the 
>ground, though the latter lasts even longer than 
>that.  This article about using Black Locust 
>which can be sustainably harvested, rather than 
>Ipe, which isn't, is compelling.
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