Wood carving is one of the most lucrative industries in Kenya. It is highly associated with the tourism industry and enjoys large volume of export market worldwide. However, a number of the indigenous wood carving species have been over exploited and it is crucial to identify alternative species to sustain the industry. The main objective of the study was to determine physical, macroscopic and microscopic features of Kenyan wood carving species and use these properties to classify them. Samples for 52 wood carving species (including the potential alternative species) were obtained from Coast, Eastern and Nairobi regions. The wood characteristics were determined at KEFRI Forest Products Laboratory using standard procedures. Information on local names, tree characteristics, wood characteristics, geographical distribution and uses are also provided. The 52 species are ranked based on macroscopic features, density and hardness and classified into 3 categories; major (4), minor (7) and alternative(41). The alternative ones are further classified into 3 groups i.e. high potential (23), medium potential(15) and low potential (3). The results indicate that some of the salient macroscopic features important for wood carving species are: heartwood darker than sapwood, non irritating odour, minute pores and rays, fine to medium wood texture, straight grains and distinct growth rings. High wood density is also found to be an important feature and about 80% of the species have densities ranging between 0.60 g/cm3 to 1.23 g/cm3. Wood hardness is also an important feature and most of the wood carving species are moderately hard to very hard (4 to 20KN). The important microscopic features are: minute rays (1-3 cells wide), pores solitary or in radial multiples of 2 or more, vessels with simple perforations, very thick walled fibres and few parenchyma cells.
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