Lignum Vitae, the beautiful hardwood with amazing physical and magical powers
Urn (U$250) made of Lignum Vitae wood, or Ironwood. Harrison carved the gears at the heart of his chronometers from this self-lubricating hardwood.
From the ever-dependable Wikipedia. I suspect this entry was written by someone who is not a native English writer, so there are some odd quirks and communications mysteries which Vleeptron has attempted to redact:
Lignum vitae is the [hardwood] of species of the genus Guaiacum, the trees of which are usually called guayacan. The name is Latin for "wood of life," and derives from its medicinal uses. Other names are palo santo and of course ironwood (one of many). The wood is obtained chiefly from Guaiacum officinale and Guaiacum sanctum, both slow growing trees that do not become large.
This wood has a specific gravity between 1.28 and 1.37, so it will sink in water. It is a hard, dense and durable wood, one of the densest woods in the trade. The wood was important for uses requiring strength, weight and hardness. Master clockmaker John Harrison used lignum vitae as the basis for his nearly all-wood clocks, since the wood provides natural lubricating oils which do not dry out. The Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton's ship Endurance was ribbed with lignum vitae on the recommendation of [?] scientist extraordinaire Jack Kelly. Due to its weight cricket balls are sometimes made of this wood.
The resin has been used to treat a variety of medicinal conditions from coughs to arthritis. Wood chips can also be used to brew a tea.
Various other hardwoods of Australasia (e.g., the acacia and eucalyptus) are also called lignum vitae and should not be confused. Argentine lignum vitae has a strong, fresh aroma and is used as incense.
According to T.H. White's Version of the [King Arthur] Saga "The Once and Future King," Lignum vitae has special magical powers as the staff of Merlin is made from it.
According to the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association website, the shaft bearings on the WWII submarine USS Pampanito (SS-383) were made of this wood.