Desert Ironwood bottle stoppers and base holder

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Project by jfk4032 posted 12-20-2012 01:26 PM 3094 views 6 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A couple who we are friends with invited me and my wife on a golf trip earlier this year to Arizona. We really appreciated this trip as it was our first as a couple without kids in years as we recently just became empty nesters and it got our juices going to start traveling more, especially once those tuition payments are finished soon!

While buying some pocket knives for our collective kids, we all were drawn towards the desert ironwood used by many of the local native artists. This started me thinking of what kind of wood would have more meaning to make them a thank you gift for hosting our trip.

While playing golf out there I bought some extra golf ball markers from each of the 3 courses we played to use on the top of each stopper. Once back home, I searched the internet for desert ironwood and found a guy outside of Phoenix who sells it, and has a nice selection. His name is Joe Suckley and I would highly recommend him if you need desert ironwood. On a subsequent trip I made to the area this Fall, I actually drove out to his house and bought some more pieces and he threw in some rough branch pieces which is what I used for the base holders.

The wine barrel stopper was made by gluing up 5 pieces alternating white oak and desert ironwood…even the bung hole was a small piece turned of the desert ironwood. I finished that one and the simple pull shape stopper on the right with the Beall buffing system. The stopper on the left was designed to look like a golf ball sitting on a golf tee. I cheated a little in that I purchased the Boffin 53 sphere cutting jig from Kevin Young in the UK to help cut a more believable golf ball shape. I filled in some of the cracks with crushed turquoise which also carried some meaning of our trip to Arizona. I finished this stopper with CA glue and PSI’s “I Can’t Believe This Finish Starter Set”.

The base holder was made by resawing one of the rough branch pieces I got from Joe. I sliced a piece on the bandsaw, trued it up on my drum sander, drilled the three holes, filled in some cracks with the crushed turquoise, sanded that down and buffed the top and sides with the Beall buffing system. I love the contrast of the heartwood and sapwood with desert ironwood, it is truly remarkable wood.

I found some rough pieces of desert ironwood that didn’t have sapwood on them and cut them for the base legs, made them parallel and equal heights on a sander and glued them to the base. I wasn’t sure how strong the glue bond would be end grain to long grain, so to strengthen the joint, I drilled some small pilot holes and tacked in some brass decorative brads. I also put some tan velvet on the bottoms of each base leg.

Not pictured above is the matching set and base I made for our friends which I already gave to them. The pictures here are from the set and base I kept for us.

-- ---Joel; Central MD...rookie empter nester and getting back into woodworking!

6 comments so far

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30068 posts in 2542 days

#1 posted 12-20-2012 01:34 PM

Beautiful work. Beautiful wood. Wish I had some.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View johnstoneb's profile


3063 posts in 2377 days

#2 posted 12-20-2012 01:58 PM

Nice work. Love the finish

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View Grumpymike's profile


2335 posts in 2519 days

#3 posted 12-20-2012 05:45 PM

Iron wood is indeed a beautiful wood and hard as it gets.
I have beed collecting it for a few months now, ruined a really good bandsaw blade, and still have yet to make anything out of it.

-- Grumpy old guy, and lookin' good Doin' it. ... Surprise Az.

View jfk4032's profile


365 posts in 2731 days

#4 posted 12-20-2012 05:53 PM

Yes, not the easiest to work with, but boy does it finish beautifully! Wear a good dust mask as well as it leaves a pretty strong odor and may be irritating to those who have allergies to dust.

Joe, the guy I referenced above who I bought the wood from, mentioned to me that desert ironwood is a protected species and he collects the wood from private properties so it is not that easy to obtain legally.

-- ---Joel; Central MD...rookie empter nester and getting back into woodworking!

View Scott Oldre's profile

Scott Oldre

1103 posts in 3635 days

#5 posted 12-21-2012 12:42 AM

During a trip out to Tucson I was able to pick up some of this ironwood at the Woodworkers Source store there. They had boxes of it where you picked up chunks you liked and paid by the pound. I still have some left and pull it out from time to time just to marvel at the grain and colors. I’ve made a few pens from it and a few other small pulls, but haven’t used it all, and may never..just fun to look at. Love the stoppers! That golf ball is similar to a few pieces I picked up there. If you’re interested, they have several stores in AZ. I don’t see any on their web site, but I think there’s a reason for that. Pretty sure they still have it available in small chunks. Nothing like the size you found.

-- Scott, Irmo SC

View clieb91's profile


3521 posts in 4139 days

#6 posted 12-21-2012 06:49 PM

I like the idea of the stand. A great way to store them when they are not being used. The use of the ball marker adds a very nice touch as well.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

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