Easy to recognize due to the mostly flat or slightly curved tops, Acacia trees grow in semi-arid climates around the world. People frequently refer to these hardy trees as umbrella trees due to the unique shape of the crown. With so many species, most people probably have a type of Acacia in their neighborhood, if not in their own yard!
The wood is very hard and dense, which makes it a very heavy wood. When polished, this desirable wood has a dark, reddish-brown hue. The denseness and other natural properties create resistance to decay, adding longevity to products using Acacia wood. It is a favorite of wood crafters and is well-known throughout time having created many well-known artifacts.
What Makes Acacia Wood Special?
Although predominantly having a reddish-brown hue, colors can vary from light brown to a deep, dark red. The texture varies depending on the tree or shrub that wood originates from. Because it is a very dense wood, it weighs more than oak, maples, and other popular hardwoods.
While highly prone to scratches, with a proper finish, Acacia wood has a higher density than many oak varieties by as much as 65 and 70 percent. The density makes it extremely durable and resistant to cracking. The attributes make Acacia wood highly desirable for outdoor furniture crafting.
Honorable mention in the Bible
In the Book of Exodus (chapters 37 and 38), Acacia wood plays a prominent role in the construction of the Tabernacle and its many structural features. Here is a partial list of items with Acacia wood:
- Ark of the Covenant and its poles
- Brazen altar and incense altar and their poles
- Table of showbread and its poles
- Poles and supports for the hanging of the curtains
Although not specifically referenced, the biblical use of Acacia was to represent pureness, fortitude, and renewal. The Freemasons frequently used it to symbolize the immortality of the soul. It was also an important part of Egyptian theology. It has a role in almost every religion and mythology throughout history.
RELATED READ: A Review of the Types of Wood for Furniture
Like cedar and some other types of wood, Acacia wood is naturally pest-resistant. This is due, in part, to the density of the wood. There are also deposits of waste substances within the heartwood (the hard, inner core of the tree). Acting as preservatives, this makes the wood unappetizing to insects.
These same properties also contribute to other beneficial side effects. Acacia is somewhat water-resistant. This means that it is difficult for other decay agents to penetrate, which prolongs the life of items that use Acacia in their construction.
Where to Find Acacia Wood
Acacia is a hardy tree and shrub that is normally found in semi-arid regions, predominantly in Africa, Meditteranean regions, and the Middle East. Growing well in normally bleak terrain, they are often the only visible vegetation for miles.
Some more common names for trees within the Acacia species include thorntree, wattle, and mimosa. Although normally sub-tropic vegetation, these trees are now commonly found in all areas of the world. In fact, a large majority of the most common Acacia species are in Australia.
Although there are many species of Acacia, not all are suitable for use in construction. Because Acacia grows as both trees and shrubs, not all varieties lend themselves to common usage. The species Acacia raddiana is the tree that is most commonly referred to in biblical references.
Because they grow in semi-arid climates, the plant naturally adapts to the environment. Smaller leaves assist the trees in conserving water. In fact, in times of drought, the Acacia tree can shed all of its leaves. This directs all water consumption to fortify the trunk and branches.
Acacia does bear fruit in some species. The Acacia raddiana produces a pod-like coil that contains hard seeds. Flowers are normally white and appear in dense clusters, although some species produce yellow or cream-colored blooms.
Ouch, That is Expensive!
Acacia wood is one of the most expensive hardwoods on the market because it is a type of exotic wood. The cost is not prohibitive, though, making it a popular choice for many applications. On a scale with common hardwoods, the pricing falls in the middle range.
Maple and oak are two of the most popular hardwoods that fall in the lower pricing range. Conversely, mahogany and rosewood are in the upper range. Acacia, in the mid-range, is among the higher-priced wood choices but not the most expensive.
Pricing can vary widely due to a number of factors, so we only reference very general terms here. Different species of Acacia, the specific cut, and your physical location all have a bearing on the cost. For example, in Australia where it is considered invasive, pricing will be lower than in the Americas, where it is usually not a local acquisition.
Depending on what you use this exotic hardwood for, the cost may be offset by the many advantages of this dense, decay-resistant wood.
You can find Acacia readily available in most lumber supply retailers that deal in hardwoods. Specialty wood suppliers will carry a wider variety of bulk supplies, including blocks suitable for use with lathes.
Common Uses for Acacia Wood
Acacia wood has been in use for many centuries. In fact, it has been used to create numerous artifacts that maintain a prominent place within the history of the world.
Originally, Acacia wood was popular for use in the construction of small boats and sea-going ships. The naturally water-resistant wood, although heavy, created very durable, long-lasting, and sturdy ocean vessels. Modern uses include many items that see daily use such as flooring, cutting boards, bowls, and furniture.
Although it is sometimes popular for indoor furnishings, Acacia is most commonly seen in use to construct outdoor furniture. The chairs that everyone seems to rent for outdoor weddings are a popular use. The durability makes them a good investment for the rental company while supplying a beautiful-looking wooden chair for outdoor venues.
Outdoor patio sets are another often-seen item. Manufacturers routinely create beautiful outdoor pieces in the form of comfortable futons, complete poolside seating arrangements, or serving tables.
With proper care, Acacia wood furnishings will supply years of use.
As a flooring, exotic Acacia is not any more expensive than other floorings such as oak and maple. Available in a wide variety of finishes from distressed bronze to a deep reddish-brown, it can match any decor.
Whether you are installing as a DIY project or hiring a contractor, the market is flush with choices. Planks are available in flat pieces, or with interlocking tongue-in-groove edges. Usually sold “by the box” buyers will receive a variety of different length planks that can create a beautiful look in any home.
While not as easy to find as outdoor furniture and flooring, Acacia siding is available. This option is great for interior wood siding. The pre-made boards can be installed right over drywall to panel an entire room or to create an accent wall.
Due to the expense, there does not seem to be a huge market for exterior Acacia siding, although it is available from lumber suppliers that specialize in exotic woods.
Culture and the arts
Acacia wood is a favorite of crafters, popular for making everything from cutting boards to outdoor furniture such as Adirondack chairs. Depending on the species, crafters may find it easy to obtain, or difficult to procure.
Woodturners love it because, on a lathe, it can change from a lump of shapeless wood to a beautiful, one-of-a-kind bowl. The denseness and natural water resistance make it easy to apply finishes.
Jewelry boxes, storage benches, and as many projects as your imagination can conceive are all possible. The longevity of Acacia makes it perfect for crafting items that can become family heirlooms, passing from generation to generation.
Renewability of This Resource
Some Acacia species are slow-growing, although it does grow faster than oak and other hardwood species. It is a renewable resource and highly sustainable. For some species, the replenishment time is longer, making those species more difficult to obtain. Other species are considered invasive, so unlimited harvesting is permissible and even encouraged.
Acacia trees tend to have a short life of only 15 to 30 years, while other hardwoods such as oak can live for 80 to 200 years. Acacia harvesting is done after its sap has been used. By that time, with no viable benefit to animals, birds, and insects, harvesting is not detrimental to the ecosystem.
With a deep root system, these trees and shrubs thrive under low-moisture conditions. This makes Acacia trees and shrubs useful for many landscaping applications. Shrubs are fast-growing and can be groomed to become a beautiful piece of any property.
Acacia May Become Your Favorite Hardwood
Despite the expense, Acacia wood is a favorite of wood crafters, furniture manufacturers, and construction contractors. The advantages of this highly versatile wood far outweigh the slight expense.
Whether building an outdoor patio set or carving a sailboat for your child, you can be assured that your project will last well beyond your expectations. In fact, once you use Acacia for one project, we suspect it will become one of your favorite hardwoods to work with.