[Greenbuilding] Black Locust instead of Ipe

Tim Vireo Keating t.keating at rainforestrelief.org
Wed Dec 7 19:26:14 PST 2011

Honey locust is considered by the Forest Service 
Forest Products Lab to be "fairly durable" and 
black locust to be "extremely durable". That 
said, some of the mills with whom I've worked 
have said that their experience has them 
believing that honey locust is "very" durable. 
don't 'buy' it myself, given the milling 
properties of black locust.

One can easily tell the difference if one sees 
the tree before cutting. Black locust is the one 
with the drooping white blossoms in June (which 
are edible and quite tasty, btw).


>I've used Locust for decks, railings, and 
>outdoor tables; it's great. Perhaps kiln drying 
>causes stress:
>everything I've worked with has been ar dried, 
>and has been fairly stable. My problem is, I 
>don't know
>Black Locust from Honey Locust, or how much it matters.
>Clarke Olsen
>373 route 203
>Spencertown, NY 12165
><mailto:colsen at fairpoint.net>colsen at fairpoint.net
>On Dec 7, 2011, at 9:01 PM, Tim Vireo Keating wrote:
>>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 
>>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 general.
>>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 
>>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
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