Persimmon wood is a fascinating material that’s sustainable and incredibly versatile. It’s a type of wood often overlooked, overshadowed by its fruit-bearing capabilities. But for those in the know, persimmon wood offers a range of unique properties that make it invaluable in various applications, from woodworking to sports equipment.
What is Persimmon Wood?
Scientific Name: Diospyros virginiana
Persimmon wood comes from the persimmon tree, scientifically known as Diospyros virginiana. This tree is primarily found in the Eastern United States. It can grow to 60-80 feet tall with a trunk diameter ranging from 1-2 feet.
Specific Gravity: 0.74 – 0.83
Janka Hardness: 2,300 lbf
Average Dried Weight: 52 lbs/ft³
Persimmon wood is heavy, hard, and strong. It has a very high specific gravity and Janka hardness, making it incredibly durable. The wood is known for its excellent shock and wear resistance. However, it has a high shrinkage rate, which means it may experience significant movement when used in certain applications.
Color and Appearance:
The wood has a very wide sapwood that is white to pale yellowish-brown. The heartwood is usually less than 1″ wide and is dark brown to black, similar to ebony.
Grain and Texture:
The grain is straight, with a uniform medium-coarse texture.
It’s noteworthy that persimmon wood is rated perishable and susceptible to insect attack.
Persimmon wood is generally responsive to hand tools but can be challenging to plane. It also tends to blunt cutting edges faster than expected. However, it turns and finishes well.
Persimmon wood is commonly used for turned objects, golf club heads, veneers, and other small specialty wood items. It’s not commonly available in lumber form, and when it is, it’s usually in smaller blocks or turning blanks. Prices for persimmon wood tend to be high for domestic species.
This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, making it a sustainable choice for various applications.
Allergies and Toxicity
Be cautious, as persimmon wood has been reported to cause skin irritation.
|Definition||Turned objects, golf club heads, veneers, and other small specialty wood items.|
|Scientific Name||Diospyros virginiana|
|Tree Size||60-80 feet tall, 1-2 feet trunk diameter|
|Specific Gravity||0.74 – 0.83|
|Janka Hardness||2,300 lbf|
|Average Dried Weight||52 lbs/ft³|
|Color and Appearance||Wide sapwood is white to pale yellowish-brown; heartwood is dark brown to black.|
|Grain and Texture||Straight grain with a uniform medium-coarse texture.|
|Rot Resistance||It is rated as perishable and susceptible to insect attack.|
|Workability||Responsive to hand tools but challenging to plane; blunts cutting edges quickly.|
|Common Uses||Turned objects, golf club heads, veneer, and other small specialty wood items.|
|Sustainability||Not listed in CITES Appendices or IUCN Red List; considered sustainable.|
|Allergies and Toxicity||Reported to cause skin irritation.|
The Origin and Distribution of Persimmon Wood
Geographic Distribution: Eastern United States
Persimmon wood primarily originates from the Eastern United States. The tree thrives in various soil types and climatic conditions, making it a versatile species. It’s commonly found in forests, riverbanks, and open fields.
Sustainable Harvesting: Not Listed in CITES or IUCN Red List
The persimmon tree is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which suggests that it can be sustainably harvested. However, due to its high value, both as a fruit-bearing tree and for its wood, sustainable harvesting practices are recommended to ensure the tree’s long-term survival.
The persimmon tree is also commonly known as the American Persimmon. It’s a native species to the United States and has been a part of its natural landscape for centuries. The wood is highly prized for its unique properties, hardness, and durability.
The Unique Characteristics of Persimmon Wood
Hardness and Weight
Persimmon wood is renowned for its exceptional hardness, boasting a Janka Hardness of 2,300 lbf. This makes it one of the hardest domestic woods available. Its average dried weight is 52 lbs/ft³, making it a heavy wood, ideal for applications that require durability and strength.
Specific Gravity and Material Properties
The specific gravity of persimmon wood ranges between 0.74 and 0.83, indicating its density and strength. The modulus of rupture, a measure of its breaking strength, stands at an impressive 17,700 lbf/in². Its crushing strength, which gauges its ability to withstand compression, is also noteworthy at 9,170 lbf/in².
The elastic modulus of persimmon wood is 2,010,000 lbf/in², which measures the wood’s ability to deform under stress without breaking. This high value indicates that persimmon wood is hard and flexible, making it suitable for various applications that require strength and flexibility.
The Versatility of Persimmon Wood
Persimmon wood’s hardness, density, and resistance to splitting make it an excellent choice for furniture. Its unique color variations, ranging from pale sapwood to almost black heartwood, add aesthetic value, making it a sought-after material for high-end furniture.
While not as commonly used as other woods like hickory or applewood, persimmon wood can be used for smoking meat. Its dense structure allows it to burn slowly, imparting a unique flavor to the meat.
Due to its high density and specific gravity, persimmon wood makes excellent firewood. It burns hot for an extended period, making it ideal for heating.
Wood for Sale
Persimmon wood is not commonly available in lumber form, but when it is, it usually comes in smaller blocks or turning blanks. Its scarcity and unique properties often command premium prices, making it a valuable wood on the market.
Golf Clubs and Sports Equipment
Persimmon wood has a long history of being used in golf clubs, specifically for drivers’ heads or “woods.” Its hardness and density make it ideal for this application, and clubs with persimmon heads still have a loyal following despite their premium prices.
Persimmon wood was historically used in textile looms for its durability. Only it and dogwood could withstand thousands of hours of wear before needing replacement. It’s also known as “possumwood” due to possums’ fondness for the tree’s fruit.
Is Persimmon Wood Good for Burning?
Persimmon wood is known for its high density and specific gravity, which make it an excellent candidate for burning. Its dense structure allows it to burn hot for an extended period, providing a consistent heat source. While exact heat values may vary, its high density generally translates to higher heat than softer woods.
Regarding burning characteristics, persimmon wood has a slow burn rate due to its density. This makes it ideal for long-lasting fires, whether for heating or cooking. However, it’s essential to note that the wood should be well-seasoned to achieve optimal burning efficiency. Fresh or “green” persimmon wood contains moisture that can result in excessive smoke and a less efficient burn.
Suitability as Firewood
Given its burning characteristics and heat value, persimmon wood is suitable for firewood use. Its slow burn rate and high heat output make it an excellent choice for indoor and outdoor fires. However, due to its high market value and scarcity, it may not be the most cost-effective option for regular use as firewood.
The Economics of Persimmon Wood
Persimmon wood is a premium material, often commanding high prices due to its unique properties and scarcity. It’s not commonly available in lumber form but may occasionally be seen in smaller blocks or turning blanks. The pricing is generally high for a domestic species, reflecting its value in the market.
Where to Buy
While you might not find persimmon wood at your local lumberyard, specialty wood shops and online retailers often stock it. Some websites even offer persimmon wood, catering to the needs of woodworkers and artisans who appreciate its unique characteristics.
The price of persimmon wood can vary significantly based on factors like quality, size, and whether it’s been processed or is in raw form. However, given its premium nature, you can expect to pay more than more commonly available woods.
Sustainability and Environmental Concerns
Persimmon wood is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which suggests that it is not currently considered endangered. However, it must be noted that the wood is primarily sapwood, making it susceptible to insect attack and decay. This raises questions about its long-term sustainability, especially if it becomes more popular and widely used.
The environmental impact of using persimmon wood is relatively low compared to other types of wood. Its slow growth rate and the fact that it’s primarily harvested from the Eastern United States mean that transportation-related carbon emissions are lower for American consumers. However, the slow growth rate also means that it takes longer for persimmon trees to reach maturity, which could have implications for sustainable harvesting practices.
Carbon Footprint and Environmental Friendliness
While the carbon footprint of persimmon wood has not been extensively studied, its slow growth rate and the energy-intensive process required to treat and prepare the wood could contribute to a higher carbon footprint. On the flip side, its durability and long-lasting nature could offset some environmental costs by reducing the replacement frequency.
Persimmon vs. Other Woods
Persimmon vs. Ebony Wood
|Aspect||Persimmon Wood||Ebony Wood|
|Color and Appearance||Pale sapwood to dark brown/black heartwood||Almost entirely black|
|Hardness (Janka)||2,300 lbf||3,220 lbf|
|Specific Gravity||0.74 – 0.83||1.03 – 1.19|
|Sustainability||Not listed in CITES or IUCN||Listed in CITES, considered endangered|
|Common Uses||Furniture, golf clubs, smoking meat||Musical instruments, fine furniture|
|Price||Premium, but generally less expensive than ebony||Extremely expensive|
Ebony wood is harder and denser but more expensive and less sustainable than persimmon wood. Persimmon offers a more varied color range, making it versatile for aesthetic applications.
Persimmon vs. Texas Persimmon Wood
|Aspect||Persimmon Wood||Texas Persimmon Wood|
|Color and Appearance||Pale sapwood to dark brown/black heartwood||Lighter in color, often pale brown|
|Hardness (Janka)||2,300 lbf||Generally softer|
|Specific Gravity||0.74 – 0.83||Lower specific gravity|
|Sustainability||Not listed in CITES or IUCN||Not listed in CITES or IUCN|
|Common Uses||Furniture, golf clubs, smoking meat||Primarily ornamental|
|Price||Premium||Generally less expensive|
Texas persimmon wood is generally softer and lighter in color than its Eastern counterpart. It is less commonly used for functional applications and is often more ornamental.
Persimmon vs. Black Persimmon Wood
|Aspect||Persimmon Wood||Black Persimmon Wood|
|Color and Appearance||Pale sapwood to dark brown/black heartwood||Darker overall, often uniformly black|
|Hardness (Janka)||2,300 lbf||Comparable hardness|
|Specific Gravity||0.74 – 0.83||Similar specific gravity|
|Sustainability||Not listed in CITES or IUCN||Not listed in CITES or IUCN|
|Common Uses||Furniture, golf clubs, smoking meat||Similar uses, but less commonly available|
|Price||Premium||Premium, often more expensive due to rarity|
Black persimmon wood is similar to regular but is often more expensive due to its rarity and darker coloration.
Working with Persimmon Wood
Tools and Techniques
- Carbide-tipped blades for sawing
- High-speed steel bits for drilling
- Sharp chisels for carving
Persimmon wood is hard and dense, so you’ll need robust tools to work with it effectively. Carbide-tipped blades are recommended for sawing, and high-speed steel bits are ideal for drilling. Sharp chisels are essential for carving intricate details.
Techniques to Master:
- Pre-drilling holes for screws
- Using a slow feed rate when sawing
- Sanding with progressively finer grits for a smooth finish
Given its hardness, pre-drilling holes for screws is advisable to prevent splitting. When sawing, a slow feed rate will help you achieve cleaner cuts. Sanding is crucial for a smooth finish, and it’s recommended to start with a coarse grit and work your way up to a finer one.
Workability Rating: Moderate to Difficult
Persimmon wood is difficult to work with due to its hardness and tendency to blunt cutting edges quickly. However, its density and fine grain make it excellent for turning and carving, provided you use sharp tools and take your time.
- Dust Collection:
Given its density, persimmon wood can produce fine dust that may pose respiratory risks. A good dust collection system is advisable.
Due to its oily nature, it’s recommended to use epoxy or polyurethane-based adhesives for better bonding.
Persimmon wood uses oil and water-based finishes well, but a test piece is always recommended to check for desired results.
Persimmon Wood and Aesthetics
Color and Appearance
- Sapwood: Pale yellow to tan
- Heartwood: Dark brown to almost black
Persimmon wood offers a unique color spectrum that ranges from pale yellow sapwood to dark brown or almost black heartwood. This variation in color makes it a versatile choice for furniture and decor, allowing for a range of aesthetic possibilities.
Grain and Texture
- Straight to slightly interlocked
- Fine and uniform
The grain of persimmon wood is generally straight but can be slightly interlocked, adding visual interest. Its texture is fine and uniform, which makes it ideal for intricate carving and detailed woodworking projects.
- Small to medium pores
- No specific arrangement
The end grain of persimmon wood is diffuse-porous with small to medium pores with no specific arrangement. This characteristic contributes to its hardness and density, making it a durable choice for various applications.
Health and Safety Concerns
Allergies and Toxicity
- Skin irritation
- Respiratory issues
While persimmon wood is not commonly associated with severe allergic reactions, some individuals may experience skin irritation or respiratory issues when working with it. It’s essential to take precautions, especially if you have sensitive skin or respiratory conditions.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Safety goggles
- Dust mask or respirator
Given the potential for skin irritation and respiratory issues, wearing appropriate PPE is crucial. Safety goggles protect your eyes from flying debris, while a dust mask or respirator can help mitigate the risk of inhaling fine dust particles. Gloves can prevent skin irritation.
Odor and Other Concerns
- Mild, not unpleasant
Persimmon wood has a mild odor that is generally not considered unpleasant. However, it’s something to be aware of if you’re sensitive to smells.
Beyond Furniture and Firewood – Other Uses
The fine grain and unique tonal qualities of persimmon wood make it an excellent choice for musical instruments. It’s particularly popular for the back and sides of acoustic guitars, flutes, and violins.
- Cutting boards
- Rolling pins
Given its hardness and resistance to wear, persimmon wood is also used in culinary applications like cutting boards, utensils, and rolling pins. Its fine grain makes it easy to clean and maintain.
- Small sculptures
The wood’s fine grain and unique color variations make it ideal for crafting novelty items like pens, jewelry, and small sculptures. These items often become collector’s pieces due to the wood’s rarity and aesthetic appeal.
- Textile looms
- Tool handles
Historically, persimmon wood was used in textile looms for its durability. It was also used for tool handles and even in shipbuilding, demonstrating its versatility across various industries.
The World of Persimmon Trees
Life Cycle of the Persimmon Tree
The life cycle of a persimmon tree starts as a seedling and progresses through juvenile and mature stages before reaching senescence. Depending on environmental conditions, the tree typically takes several years to reach maturity and can live for up to 60-70 years.
Varieties of Persimmon Trees
- American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana)
- Texas Persimmon (Diospyros texana)
- Japanese Persimmon (Diospyros kaki)
There are several varieties of persimmon trees, each with its unique characteristics. The American Persimmon is the most common in the United States, while the Texas Persimmon is native to the southwestern region. Japanese Persimmon is another variety that is often cultivated for its fruit.
Related Species and Their Wood
- Black Sapote (Diospyros digyna)
- Date-plum (Diospyros lotus)
There are also related species, like the Black Sapote and Date-plum, which belong to the same genus but have different wood characteristics. These species are less commonly used for woodworking but are interesting from a botanical perspective.
How to Spot and Buy Genuine Persimmon Wood
Identifying Genuine Persimmon Wood
- Color/Appearance: White to pale yellowish-brown sapwood with dark brown to black heartwood.
- Grain/Texture: Straight grain with a uniform medium-coarse texture.
- Specific Gravity: Ranges between .74 and .83.
- Odor: No characteristic odor.
Please pay attention to its color, grain, and specific gravity to ensure you’re buying genuine persimmon wood. The wood is known for its white to pale yellowish-brown sapwood and very thin dark brown to black heartwood. The grain is usually straight, and the texture is medium-coarse.
Where to Buy
- Specialized lumber stores
- Online platforms like NC Wood
Persimmon wood is not commonly available in lumber form but may occasionally be found in smaller blocks or turning blanks. Prices are generally high for a domestic species.
- Check for certifications to ensure sustainability.
- Inspect the wood for any signs of insect attack, as Persimmon is susceptible.
- Consult with experts or online forums for additional insights.
Is Persimmon Wood Hard?
Yes, persimmon wood is hard, with a Janka hardness rating of 2,300 lbf. It’s known for its excellent shock and wear resistance.
Can Persimmon Wood Be Used for Smoking Meat?
While it’s not as commonly used as other woods like hickory or applewood, persimmon wood can be used for smoking meat. It imparts a unique flavor profile.
Is Persimmon Wood Expensive?
Yes, persimmon wood is generally expensive due to its rarity and the high demand for its unique properties.
Is Persimmon Wood Sustainable?
Persimmon wood is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but it’s essential to check for certifications to ensure sustainability.
Can Persimmon Wood Cause Allergies?
Yes, persimmon wood has been reported to cause skin irritation. Always use proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when working with it.
Persimmon wood is a fascinating subject that touches various aspects of life, including sustainability, economics, and culinary arts. Its unique characteristics, varied uses, and market value make it a valuable resource for woodworkers and consumers. Understanding the unique qualities of persimmon wood can guide informed decisions and provide a clear understanding of its significance.