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Making Mesquite Wood Furniture

Mesquite, the thorny, hardy tree found in Southwestern areas of the United States, makes great furniture. Long thought of as scrub brush and a nuisance, the characteristics of mesquite make it a great choice for furniture. Labeled as a hardwood, mesquite has a very stable, hardy and adaptable nature. Mesquite is drought tolerant and thrives in hot, desert environments. This extreme environment creates a slow growing, dense tree. This plant has deep regeneration properties that make it difficult to eradicate, which is why mesquite is considered an invasive species. Even a tiny piece of its root that is left in the ground can create new growth.

The Nature of Mesquite

Mesquite, the thorny, hardy tree found in Southwestern areas of the United States, makes great furniture. Long thought of as scrub brush and a nuisance, the characteristics of mesquite make it a great choice for furniture. Labeled as a hardwood, mesquite has a very stable, hardy and adaptable nature. Mesquite is drought tolerant and thrives in hot, desert environments. This extreme environment creates a slow growing, dense tree. This plant has deep regeneration properties that make it difficult to eradicate, which is why mesquite is considered an invasive species. Even a tiny piece of its root that is left in the ground can create new growth.

Mesquite Furniture Characteristics

Mesquite is durable and is not known to split, warp or buckle as the wood settles or shifts. This indicates its strength, ability to handle expansion and contraction and its long-term wear properties. It handles moisture and weight well. It has a broad range of graining and colors. In fact, its graining is exotic and unpredictable, making it a must for many table tops and flooring applications. Mesquite's surface defects are seen as great characteristics, something to be treasured and certainly appropriate in the rustic furniture that usually is made from it. Often found in short, shrub heights, many woodworkers don't bother considering mesquite, believing that the proper lengths aren't available for furniture. Actually, mesquite trees can grow as high as 20 to 30 feet. These lengths serve furniture making quite well.

Carving Traditional Furniture

Due to its rough texture and defects, mesquite does not necessarily lend itself to a traditional furniture style. Most mesquite furniture makers tend toward rustic and practical designs when using mesquite. But not Leslie Mizell, a furniture maker using mesquite in unusual ways. Her traditional Chippendale chair, cut and carved out of mesquite, tells a different story about this amazing hardwood. Her work shows that mesquite wood handles carving and sanding very well. An article she wrote about her experiences with mesquite can be found in a book called "Wood," published by Tauton Press in 1985.

Finding Mesquite For Furniture

Mesquite is milled in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico. Because of its weight, mesquite is not shipped elsewhere for milling or processing because of the expense. This is why it can be difficult for some furniture makers to find it. Mesquite is also being produced as veneers, which are much less expensive to ship. Mesquite typically weighs around 4 to 5 pounds per board foot.

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