The hardest wood in the world has a recorded peak janka hardness of 5,060 - that’s over four times harder than American red oak. Australian Buloke is also spelled “bull-oak”, a fitting name for such a strong tree.
It is no secret that Australia hosts a very tough wilderness that it is home to some of the hardest trees in the world. Just like many of the world’s toughest trees, from the outside it isn’t necessarily a tree that stands out too much from the others. But the reddish core, or "heartwood" of buloke, is a very serious material.
Buloke is found along the Eastern and Southeastern side of Australia, just to the North and West of the Great Dividing Range.
Australian Buloke, after being sanded, buffed and waxed, takes a nice medium-darkness cinnamon red color. The grain pattern is somewhat similar to lacewood, but more striped and distinct. Like most dense woods, it definitely can have its “character”; small inclusions and checking may bother some, though others prefer it the nature of it. It is certainly a heavy material, and it keeps it luster long after being polished. The polished finish quality seems to be a blend between desert ironwood and snakewood. It’s safe to say that everyone at the shop approved of the finished product.
Turning it Into a Knife Handle, & Pricing
You’d think that this wood would a nightmare to work, but in reality it is not too bad. So long as you use sharp, fresh grit sanding belts, and don’t push it too hard, the wood doesn’t burn on you.
We get the knife handle blocks for around $10-$20 each direct from Australia. But because of high shipping costs from AU, and the fact that it takes a touch longer than usual to work, and it has slightly higher wear & tear on sanding belts and bandsaw blades, we’re [currently] charging $35 for an Australian Buloke handle.
There is a small logistical issue in regards to us getting Australian Buloke, as we purchase it direct from Australia, which is virtually on the other side of the planet from New York. It may take a month or so to arrive. The only other issue is a potential concern of the protection of the species; some articles I’ve read have said that it is a being hurt by agriculture, other websites claim it is doing well. Regardless, as long as we can acquire ethically sourced Buloke, we’ll keep using it in small quantities.
We have only done one knife with it, but so far, I’d give it a 5/5 stars for use as a knife handle. It looks great, and the one I have here has been made for a couple of weeks now and there are no signs of shrinking or expansion, and it has seemed to keep its factory luster better than any other wood (aside from snakewood). The only ones who may not be a fan are those who count grams and like their knife to be as lightweight as possible, because this stuff is dense. I believe we will add this material as an option for use on a custom ordered knife.
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