Olive wood as used in pen turning comes from only one or two species of tree. The tree is originally native to the Mediterranean area of the world, but has been exported worldwide to be cultivated for its valuable fruit.
Olive trees can grow to be very old. At least one living tree is documented to be over 1600 years old.
Although the same tree, the wood seems to differ slightly in color and grain depending on where it originates. Furthermore, olive wood from the Holy Land may be marketed as such because of the significance of its origin to Christians or Jews.
The attractiveness of olive wood is its variation in color in the same pen blank from a honeyed brown to black and the strongly patterned graining of the wood.
The following olive varieties are marketed as pen blanks:
- Bethlehem Olive wood (BOW)
- Jerusalem Olive wood (JOW)
- Australian Olive wood
- Californian Olive wood
- African Olive wood
- Russian Olive wood
Russian olive is a different species of tree. It has been imported into North America as a windbreak tree. Some varieties have edible fruit. Russian olive wood can also be provided as a pen blank. it can be available as a burl.
Turning Olive Wood
Olive wood has a high oil content and a finish that is satisfactory to many people can be achieved simply by sanding to a fine grit and burnishing it. Because of its grain patterns, small checks in the pen blanks are not uncommon. These will often turn out, and if not, can usually be filled with glue and some saw dust.