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Hi there, I'm a complete novice to all kinds of wood-working, but I have a neat idea that I'd like to try out.

It involves using a metal-cutting milling machine (hand operated) to mill out the interior of a block of wood (cuboid of outer size: 4w x 4h x 2d inches) to make space for some LED lights and a bit of electronics -- it will be an ornament for a fireplace. I'm only going to make one of these as a Christmas gift. I've tried my milling machine out on a few scraps of hardwood and it works well, but I need some high quality wood for the final build.

I would appreciate some suggestions regarding what type of wood would be most suitable for this.

My specific requirements:
  1. Must be able to polish it well without having to varnish it
  2. Must be able to mill it accurately without it splitting
  3. Must be dark in colour, preferably with attractive grain/knot patterning on most sides
  4. Must be somewhat translucent when sanded down VERY thinly... I'm talking 1/32" thin for a small area
  5. Must not become fibrous when sanding

I know I'm asking a lot, but does anyone know of a type of wood that fits this description?

The plan is to mill out one face to about 1/16" thickness and then back-fill that hole with clear epoxy (for structural support). Then carefully sand down the outside of the cube to reduce this to about 1/32" or less in order for the high-intensity LED lights to shine through the very thin wood. The idea is that when turned off, you cannot see anything except plain wood on the surface, but when it's turned on you get the colourful patterns shining through!

And yes, the LEDs are ridiculously bright. :)
 

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I suppose you could start with something like this:
http://www.veneersupplies.com/products/AAA-Walnut-Burl-Veneer-Sheet--1075-x-1725.html

Then sand it down to whatever thickness you think will suit what you are doing (though 1/42 is pretty thin!) and then treat it accordingly. That's honestly about all I can think of. Producing materials as thin as you are looking for is very difficult to produce in a home shop. It could probably be done, but I think buying a veneer would be easier and the cost isn't horrible.

Let's see what other suggest.
 

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