Family: Ilex Opaca, Aquifoliaceae Family
Origin: United States
Common Names: Holly, American Holly, Hummock Holly, Dune Holly, Scrub Holly.
The Tree: These attractive broadleaf evergreen trees grow approximately 15-50 feet tall with a trunk of 1-2 feet in diameter. They are pyramidal in shape and are known for their striking red berries and deep green, leathery leaves with sharp points. Their dense foliage provides cover for small critters and berries provide food for birds.
Wood Appearance: Holly ranges in color from white to ivory. Holly must be cut in the winter months and must be kiln-dried shortly thereafter to preserve the white color. This should be done to avoid blue stain or graying of wood. Holly has a very close irregular grain with little to no figure. Knots are common in Holly which reduces the usable area of wood.
Density: Holly is a very hard, dense, fine-grained hardwood with a specific gravity ranging from .50 to .64. The average dry weight of Holly is approximately 40 pounds per cubic foot. Janka Hardness is 1,020 pounds of force.
Drying and Shrinkage: Drying can be tricky. Holly is subject to discoloration if dried too slowly. Logs harvested in the winter are preferred when drying is necessary. The wood will need to be put into a kiln at a low humidity within hours after sawing; hence, most drying is done at the sawmill site. Holly should be dried promptly using a similar schedule as white hard maple. Average shrinkage reports are as follows: 4.8% radial, 9.9% tangential, 16.9% volumetric. Shrinkage of flatsawn lumber drying is nearly 8%.
Working Properties: Machining is high quality, although irregular grain does mean the tools need to be very sharp when working with holly wood. It can be sanded to a high luster when sanded with a fine-grit paper. Holly glues, stains, and finished well. The wood also turns well on a lathe.
Durability: Holly is reasonably stable when the moisture changes, but the irregular grain can result in some warping occasionally.
Uses: Holly is typically used only for ornamental and decorative purposes, but it can be used for inlays, furniture, piano keys (dyed black), broom and brush handles, turned objects, and other small novelty items. One surprising us is that sometimes this beautiful white wood was stained black and used as a substitute for ebony, even though holly is not as hard.
Availability: Holly is very rare due to the slow rate of growth and the small size of the trees that are harvested.