What Is Japanese Keyaki Wood?

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Keyaki is the Japanese word for the wood from the Zelkova serrata tree. The wood is highly prized by Japanese woodworkers for its beautiful grain, and is used to fashion items as small as bowls to large pieces of furniture. One of the oldest and largest known Zelkova trees is called the Great Zelkova Nomo, in Toyono Nose, Osaka, Japan. It is more than 1,000 years old and is a National Natural Monument.

Classification

The Zelkova serrata tree is a member of the Ulmaceae (elm) family and is native to most parts of Japan, China and Korea. A large shade tree, it matures to an average of 60 feet tall and 60 feet wide. It is considered a good replacement for the American elm because of its resistance to Dutch elm disease and its similar vase-shaped growth habit, though it does not become nearly as large as the American elm.

Tree Features

The Zelkova serrata is characterized by a short, vase-shaped trunk with many large stems that create a rounded top. The leaves have a serrated edge and a dark green color in the summer that turn into a beautiful mixture of yellow, orange and red in the fall. In addition to its uses in woodworking, the Zelkova serrata tree is frequently used for ornamental purposes. Because of its appealing shape and beautiful leaves, it is found in many parks and gardens throughout Japan.

Wood Features and Uses

A beautiful grain distinguishes Keyaki wood and makes it desirable for woodworking. It is a hard, heavy and dense wood. The sapwood is yellowish-white and the heartwood is yellowish-brown or light golden brown. Keyaki is used to make furniture, cabinetry and fine ornamental and household items such as bowls. The wood is also suited to a variety of other woodworking applications, including boat building, flooring and molding.

Woodworking Properties

The cutting resistance of keyaki wood is said to be low, with the timber sawing without difficulty, according to WoodworkersSource.com. The wood responds satisfactorily or better to gluing, nailing, screwing and sanding. It also can be polished to a fine finish. When seasoning the wood, WoodworkersSource.com recommends using controlled conditions to minimize shrinkage and distortion.

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