I have a Holme Oak which we are going to thin out, and I'd like to use a branch to make a bokken.
Does anyone know if this wood is OK to use (have been told it's much denser & heavier than oak), and also how long the wood needs to be aged for after cutting?
Holm seems to be a evergreen oak similar in properties to our Southern Live Oak here in the States). Both have a hard, wavy grain and pronounced rays. Holm is used for impact tools and handles in the Mediteranean and should be a good choice.
Live Oak can be a bit spotty for weapons unless you are patient. The wood tends to twist and check terribly when drying. The sap wood , while tough, is more prone to denting and has more open pores. Notwithstanding that, it is generally very tough (resists splitting) and fairly impact resistant.
I hand-shaped my own jo out of a stick of sapwood. It has served well with only minor denting. The main problem is that because of the open pores (if you are using the sap wood) there tends to be tearout when shaping them, I recommend scraping vice sanding for final finishing. In retrospect, I should have gotten a piece of heartwood, so find a largish radius piece where the heartwood is substantial enough for the whole weapon. In which case you may need to find a sawmill or be VERRRY patient to rip it out with a chain saw. Heart wood or not, I ain't broke it yet, not from lack of trying.
I also had a woodworker shape a lignum vitae bokken for me (which suffers from the same basic problem of tending to split and check while drying as the live oak). The piece of lignum I selected (still in service ten years later, without any splits) had been dipped in paraffin wax for about 6-8 inches from each cut end and then was left to season for about two years, or so they told me. Oak is not nearly as resinous as the lignum -- so drying it for a year should be adequate. I know from the wood I cut after Hurricane Ivan that the live oak was enough seasoned to burn well within a few (five) months (early September to January) so somewhere between that a full year ought to do it.