Selected Wood For Carving

Selecting the correct wood means the carving will last for many years.

When the wrong wood is used, the carving will shrink and crack. Wood is, after all, a "living" material and subject to changes in climate and humidty.

At BATANAI we select only certain types of wood. We keep wood artwork in storage for up to 4 years, sometimes longer, to ensure the wood is fully acclimatised to a low humidity, so shrinkage of wood pieces is generally minimal. Together with our BATANAI oil finishes this will ensure that your piece of African art will last for many years. However, in certain climates or centrally heated homes additional minor drying may occur which may cause minor cracks to appear, a natural process of wood.


Difficult to find, this wood has a subtle and beautiful red grain mixed with brown grain. The red creates an interesting "blush" colouring in the wood. A hard wood.


Ironwood is an exceptionally hard and beautiful brown wood found in Zimbabwe and parts of South Africa. When dry it still remains heavy because of the density of the grain.

Has a dark red or deep reddish brown colour. The timber is rated very durable. Ironwood is a common name for a wide variety of African trees or shrubs that have exceptionally hard or dense wood. Although the name is applied generally to trees of three unrelated genera, scores of other trees are also called ironwood in local usage. Because it is so dense it will not float in water, carving anything from it can be extremely difficult.
Southern Africa is home to many master carvers of Ironwood, especially in Zimbabwe. They use hand held tools to initiate producing these works of art.

The tree is white on the outside (sap wood) and dark brown inside (heart wood). Polishing accents the natural colour of the wood and the finished heart wood of the art ranges from brown to black, depending on the age of the tree.

At BATANAI we take great care in selecting our Ironwood carvings to make sure they have been properly dried.


A black hardwood, famous for it's lustrous beauty. It is a delicacy in the world of the African wood sculptor. Skilled ebony sculptors tend to migrate to the few regions of Africa where ebony wood is grown. A highly dense wood with a dark interlocking grain, ebony wood normally is brown on the outside of the tree, and black on the inside. The carvings often come as a beautiful mixture of black and brown, but it is mostly the pure dark black wood that is the most well known grain. Ebony is probably the world's most expensive wood.

African Walnut

From the walnut tree, walnut wood is a hard, dark brown wood with bronze, yellow-brown dark irregular lines. Like all wood art pieces, it is hand-carved, sanded, polished, and most importantly, treated with oils to darken and add richness to the colors of the wood graining. It has an lot of cross grain and is moderately heavy, very strong for its weight, and exceptionally stable.


Straight, tight, interlocking grain with a rough surface with reddish-brown to light brown color wood.

Olivewood or Olea Europaea

Has a straight grain with a fine texture and red color varing slightly with each piece. Olivewood is used for small turnings, carvings, and inlay work, and in some cases as beautiful bases for stone carvings.

Lead Wood

This tree is found anywhere from Tanzania to Kwazulu-Natal, in Southern Africa. The heartwood is very hard and heavy. Giraffe, elephant, kudu, grey duiker and impala feed on them. Lead wood is a protected species of tree in Southern Africa.


Exceptionally rare, this wood is very difficult to find. In many parts of Africa this wood is protected. It has a beautiful aroma which lasts for years, and comes from the thick and heavy sap. The grain is interesting and contains many swirls and twists that enhance the natural beauty of the wood.