Olive Wood - Characteristics, Uses and Benefits
The olive wood, farmed form the trees of Olea europaea, is a hard and rich in color wood
that is prized all around the world for its appearance, density, straight grain and fine texture.
Originally found around the eastern coast of Mediterranean, Olive trees
managed to spread outside of Europe, thanks not on the need for wood
exploitation, but for the growth of its delicious olive fruit that demands
very little upkeep and attention during seasonal growth. The most recent
reports claim that olive tree is currently being commercially farmed for
its fruit in over 20 countries, with 60% of all trees being located on the
territory of European Union (with five leading countries being Spain,
Italy, Turkey, Greece, and Syria).
Olive lumber is very strong, but it has a high sensitivity to outside elements and insect attacks.
Because of this, it can most commonly be found only in indoor furniture and
smaller wooden objects. Visually, olive wood is famous all around the world
for its consistent texture, grain and a very distinct and fruity scent when
Since it has lower durability and resistance to elements and is not
therefore used for mass production of flooring, paneling and structural
construction, and has spread around the world where it is planted anywhere
where it can grow in hot and dry environments, olive wood is currently not
strongly exploited for lumber on the worldwide market. This helped it to
remain unlisted on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
What is Olive Wood
Olive wood is wood harvested from Olea europaea and O. capensis, two types of Olive trees that originate from southern
and eastern Mediterranean countries in Europe and Eastern Africa. Even
though Olive trees can live exceptionally long and can grow up to 40 meters
(130 ft) in height, such occurrences are rare, and the vast majority of
trees manages to grow up to 10 meters (33 ft) with 1-1.5 meters trunk
While olive trees are praised around the world for their fruit, its lumber
has also managed to capture the attention of the worldwide woodworking
community, who has managed to find great uses for this hard, heavy, dense
and very strong type of wood.
Olive usually grows in a very twisted and irregular way,
with a large number of side branches twisting the trunk in many directions,
which makes extracting large and straight pieces of lumber difficult. The
vast majority of lumber extracted from grown Olive trees is cut into
smaller pieces and is used for the creation of smaller indoor objects, with
largest one usually being table top panels or structural objects in
Visually, olive wood has a strikingly rich and colorful appearance, which makes it
perfect for use in decorative objects. Its structural features are highly
contrasting brown lines and yellow streaks of sapwood, and even more
importantly, the surface of olive wood can be easily polished to a high
degree. While it can be a bit uncooperating during cutting, olive wood can
easily be glued. During cutting, has a distinct, pleasant and sweet odor,
and this odor usually remains present in the finished product for several
The negative points of this wood is that lacks necessary natural oils that repel insects and rot.
To achieve longer durability, furniture made from olive wood needs to be
treated so it can remain untouched by outside elements for years.
Additionally, raw olive wood is hard to dry, and during
this process, the lumber pieces can start to warp. To
prevent this from happening, olive wood needs to be very slowly dried using
the Kiln-drying process at low heat levels.
Olive trees are closely connected with earliest records of our history,
with records and finding confirming that this tree became commercially
cultivated in the territories of Crete and ancient Syria more than five
thousand years ago. And even before commercial cultivation, olives were
used in our ancestor's diets on the territories of Egypt, Create, Greece,
Macedonia, Italy, Spain, and others. The oldest surviving records of olive
leaves were found on Greek Island of Santorini, which was dated to 60
thousand years old.
With such rich history, olive trees, fruit, and olive oil became more
integral parts of many surviving ancient text, art and artifacts. Olive
branches were found in the tomb of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, ancient
Israel where olive oil, branches, and lumber were mentioned numerous times
in the Bible, often as a symbol or peace, wisdom, glory, fertility, power,
and purity. Ancient Greece had a close connection with Olive trees and oil,
while in Ancient Rome olive fruit was an important part of the Roman diet.
Olive tree and oil were also mentioned several times in Quran.
The oldest surviving olive tree is disputed, with several candidates being
found across the Mediterranean and other territories across the world. The
olive tree on the island of Brijuni (Brioni),Istria in Croatia, has confirmed the age of around 1600 years, one west Athens
tree is aged at 2,400 years until it was uprooted in 1975 in a traffic
accident. One Crete tree is estimated to be over 2 thousand years old, and
some trees in Italy and Lebanon are claimed to be over 3 thousand years
The oldest certified olive tree is aged 2000 years. It is located in Greece, and it still bears fruit. An average
lifespan of an olive tree is between 300 and 600 years.
Tree size - 25-50 ft (8-15 m) tall
Trunk diameter - 3-5 ft (1.0-1.5 m)
Janka Hardness - 2,700 lbf (12,010 N)
Average Dried Weight - 62 lbs/ft3 (990 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC) - .72, .99
Crushing Strength - 11,180 lbf/in2 (77.1 MPa)
Modulus of Rupture - 22,530 lbf/in2 (155.4 MPa)
Elastic Modulus - 2,577,000 lbf/in2 (17.77 GPa)
Shrinkage - Radial: 5.4%, Tangential: 8.8%, Volumetric: 14.4%, T/R Ratio:
Odor - Fruity, distinct and strong scent while working. Enduring odor for
several years while polished.
Workability - Easy to mild, with interlocked grain resulting in possible
tearouts during surface operations. Sometimes lumber can have poor
stability. Can be glued and finished well.
Texture - Uniform and fine texture, with some moderate natural luster.
Grain - Wild, straight or interlocked grain.
Sustainability - Not listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Required growth density - No particular requirements. Olive trees require
very little upkeep, but they are slow to reach full size.
Drying - Slow and hard. It can wrap during fast drying.
Durability - Medium. It can reach a good age in indoor environments,
especially if it is treated with preservation oils. Untreated olive wood is
susceptible to insect and rot attacks.
Maintenance - Low
Price - Higher than most lumber types
Olive wood is versatile and easy to work with, but even
though it is hard and strong, it is not used for outdoors applications since it lacks the
ability to survive in the open for long. It is very rarely available for
purchase in lumber form factor.
However, it is excellent for indoor use, and therefore it
can easily be found in these kinds of objects:
Indoor furniture (especially high-end)
Various small specialty wood items
High-end knife or tool handles
Small decorative items
Flooring and paneling (in rare cases)
- Traditional olive tree, originating from eastern Mediterranean, Syria,
parts of Asia Minor, Southern end of the Caspian Sea and northern Iran. It
is best known for its versatile wood and tasteful olive fruit which can be
processed into a popular type of oil. Its branches are celebrated as the
symbol of peace.
Olea capensis - African tree of the Olive family, known under name black
ironwood, ironwood and East African olive and Elgon olive. It grows all
across the territory of Sub-Saharan Africa and has three subspecies
(macrocarpa, capensis, and enervis)
Benefits of the olive tree are numerous. For starters, its fruit has
remained in high demand for several millennia, both for direct consumption
and for the creation of a popular type of oil. Direct eating of olive fruit is rare. Most eat it only
after it was processed, which reduces the bitterness of the fruit.
The olive is also known for its medicinal uses. Many home
remedies use olive as a means to calm the user, enhance the sleep, boost
the immune system and reduce the levels of cholesterol in the blood. Olive
oil is also promoted to be good for regulation circulation of the fat in
the body and for boosting the health of cardiovascular system.
The olive wood is regarded as one high end and is therefore used
predominantly in the creation of smaller more stylish wooden objects, or
for the manufacture of expensive furniture.