Many exocitc woods, particularly well colored and figured species that have been heavily logged in the past, are endangered. I know that there is illegal harvesting in various countries, and I want to make sure I'm not paying into the problem. How can I ensure that the wood I'm using has been ethically sourced?

  • Just a thought: one way to reduce use of expensive/uncommon woods is to use them as veneer. Not always possible depending on what you're doing, but this is a justification that even "real wood" snobs will reluctantly accept. – keshlam Apr 10 '15 at 3:00

The more you know about the species the better. First is knowing that the species you are buying is endangered. This Wood Database article provides a decent reference for species to look out for.

Being able to identify the species may help recognize woods that are 'similar' being switched and sold as the 'real' thing. To be sure you are getting what you expect, you should know the scientific names of the trees.

Often for endangered species that can still be legally sold, there are licensed dealers. Various national and international NGOs provide certification, including but not limited to FSC, SFI, and PEFC

Knowledge is power in this case, the more you know the better. Though to be perfectly honest, the safest way is to not buy any of it, since that would reduce the incentive for the black market wood...

  • Sound advice. This came up because of the Koa question. It'd be nice if the wood database listed similar species as one of their data points. – Daniel B. Mar 27 '15 at 16:49
  • How can I tell if a dealer is licensed? – Daniel B. Mar 27 '15 at 16:49
  • us.fsc.org and sfiprogram.org Answered my own question :D – Daniel B. Mar 27 '15 at 16:51
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    @DanielBall I think the Koa is one of the better harvest management. You have to be licensed just to cut the tree up in the forest. (each individual sawyer) – bowlturner Mar 27 '15 at 16:58
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Certified_wood#Programs This points to pefc.org, which appears to cover several forests outside North America. Regarding Koa, yeah. It's one of those success stories. Still expensive though; I'll have to save up and plan carefully if I make anything else with it ... mistakes will be expensive. – Daniel B. Mar 27 '15 at 17:00

You can use PEFC certified / accredited suppliers to be reasonably sure that you're getting sustainable timber, but the only way to be absolutely sure that the specific timber you're using is OK is to attain a chain of custody certificate. This tracks the specific wood you've bought right back to source.

There are other bodies such as the FSC which can also provide such certification, but I'm unsure how international they are (I'm in the UK), whereas the PEFC seems to cover the US etc.

Often, obtaining such a certificate will cost extra, since there is more work involved to track the timber, though it may be the case that some suppliers issue such a certificate "as standard" for some species.

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