Catalpa Wood: Beautifully Grained

The catalpa tree growing on the lot line with our neighbor blossomed beautifully in June, a late bloomer, but the vanilla type pods it deposited in fall were a mess. When neighbor Ken helped me cut the trees to make hobby wood to create, little did I know what the results would be. The grain on these photos shows the long grain and cross grain.


When we cut it down, I had no idea what the wood would look like. It took awhile, but first I used the limbs to make coasters and drink holders, many like the piece above on the right. It would be simple to make, simply cutting it with a chop saw like slicing bologna, making 1/2 inch deep pieces. Several summers ago I took on the project of making 100 or more of these, and they became souvenirs for our niece and her husband’s wedding. Married on Rib Mountain, outdoors, near Wausau made it a beautiful memorable day. Each guest was encouraged to take one or two, and on the back I placed a small sticker with their names and the date. Just 4 days ago I spotted on in another niece’s counter at her cabin.

When I wanted the trunk sections cut, I had no idea what the wood would look like. It wasn’t very aromatic, but after it was cut length-wise, the patterns and striations came out. The wood above shows that pattern.

My plan then was to talk to tree cutters in central Wisconsin and ask that they contact me when they cut a catalpa tree, but I didn’t follow up on it and for a time didn’t spend much time working with wood. Now I’ve regained my enthusiasm for it and hope to leave a message with the local tree cutters.

The tree appears dead until the first part of June, then it gets its leaves followed a couple weeks later with blossoms like a person would see on a magnolia tree. To many people, the vanilla type of beans are a nuisance and need to be cleaned up in the fall.


Now I’m anxious to get back into working with catalpa, thinking I’ll make a variety of items from the limbs as well as the trunk wood. Please write to me if you’ve had experience with catalpa or if you have one of these trees in your yard.  ([email protected])

Leave a Reply