Snakewood lumber's extreme difficulty to acquire it , at least wood that has an amazing figure, ... it is rarely used
for anything other then small craft work, particularly for knife
scales (handles). Snakewood has a very tight exotic figure, consistent with its name, that works wonderfully
on the small surface area of a knife handle.
Snakewood is a truly exotic species, and probably one of the most
difficult species to find. It grows irratically in South America
Typically, it is a very small tree, and only show the wonderful
figure in a small percentage of the wood, and then rarely evenly spread
across the entire face of the board. High grade snakewood is very expensive and typically sold by the pound, at least on the wholesale market.
The jagged black blotches do resemble the skin of a snake, thus getting
its name. The background wood is quite orange, with a very tight grain,
and a moderate amount of black, irregularly shaped "leopard" spots.
The tight grain of the wood makes finishing relatively easy with
traditional lacquers, although I have known some knife makers that
have stabilized this wood in a small vacuum chamber to prevent minor
absorption of body oils from constant usage... this tends to extend
the life of the finish.
Cuts and turns like a hard maple, with a clean fine texture. Snakewood
lumber needs industrial sandpaper, and a bit of patience to work
up the grits if you wish to get that really silky finish...