Milling Ipe with a Router
Ipe wood is hard, stubborn and toxic. Wear a respirator and use carbide tooling. June 23, 2006
I am going to bid on an ipe rail system for a 600 foot beach boardwalk. The rail's top is rounded. I have not used ipe, only hearing of its hard-to-work quality. What kind of tooling would I need and are there challenges to be aware of when milling this wood?
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor J:
Use sharp tools and wear a respirator!
From Professor Gene Wengert, Sawing and Drying Forum technical advisor:
The density of the wood can vary quite a bit from site to site and can be 50% heavier than oak at times. It also has crossgrain. Both the weight and the grain mean very difficult machining. Probably you will have to use carbide to prevent constant sharpening. Horsepower requirements will be higher than normal.
From contributor M:
Ditto to what contributor J said, especially about the respitator. A dust/particle mask will not be the same at all. I machined some ipe, a fairly small amount, but the dust seemed to be almost toxic. I had a severe burning sensation in my mouth, nose, and throat. I would probably wear some sort of glove if possible, and some long sleeves.
From contributor A:
We've milled quite a bit of ipe in the shop, from handrails to freehanded arches for pergolas. We had to route large mortise and tenons as well. It has a false reputation of being difficult to mill. We found it cut very nicely on the shaper with HHS. It is so hard and the grain so tight, it actually mills more like a hard plastic.
The dust is noxious and toxic. It will give you a nasty respiratory infection if you don't wear adequate protection. It dyed my old boss' white Santa Clause beard green for a week.
The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).
Comment from contributor N:
I work with ipe often as a substitute for teak on boats. It is heavy but the tight grain and oily wood does not make it difficult to cut or machine. Feed speeds are slower but it does not burn on the tool like other woods such as maple. Chip-outs are minimal. I hear that silica in the wood dulls tools but I am not sure if I have specifically noticed this as I work with many woods. I wear a respirator and goggles. The dust irritates my eyelids, cheeks, and other tender skin and breathing the dust when I started working with it made me sick (sinus pain and headaches).
Would you like to add information to this article?
Interested in writing or submitting an article?
Have a question about this article?
Have you reviewed the related Knowledge Base areas below?
KnowledgeBase: Knowledge Base
KnowledgeBase: Architectural Millwork
KnowledgeBase: Architectural Millwork: Custom Millwork
KnowledgeBase: Architectural Millwork: Millwork Installer
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in
any manner without permission of the Editor.
Review WOODWEB's Copyright Policy.
The editors, writers, and staff at WOODWEB try to promote safe practices.
What is safe for one woodworker under certain conditions may not be safe
for others in different circumstances. Readers should undertake the use
of materials and methods discussed at WOODWEB after considerate evaluation,
and at their own risk.
335 Bedell Road
Montrose, PA 18801
Copyright © 1996-2020 - WOODWEB ® Inc.