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Anegre

Indigenous to the tropical regions of East Africa and West Africa, as far south as Angola.¬† Anegre has been used primarily as an interior wood; it is decidedly non-durable, and thus not recommended for outdoor applications. The wood’s aesthetics can vary greatly, as Anegre is comprised of three separate species within the Pouteria genus. Its colors can range from pale yellowish to orangish-brown wood, to a pale pinkish-brown, sometimes with additional highlight coloration. Anegre typically darkens to a golden-to reddish brown over time, with repeated UV ray exposure. The heartwood and sapwood of Anegre are usually not distinguishable from each other.

Anegre has a medium texture with closed pores similar to Maple.  The species is easy to work with both hand and power tools.
Examples can be quite beautiful — and sometimes stunning, with curly and mottled figuring being not uncommon. Its hues tend to be generally pastel in nature, so it makes a very complimentary, aesthetically unimposing wood for a variety of interior applications. Grains are typically straight but can occasionally be interlocked. Its texture is medium and it has a nice natural luster.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carpentry, construction, veneer
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Common Uses
Sipo

Sipo Mahogany (commonly referred to as either just “Sipo” or “Utile”) is an African wood that is considered to be the closest, aesthetically, to Genuine Mahogany (although not a true “Swietenia”). It’s interlocked grains are akin to other African woods and generally produce a characteristic contrasting light-dark / two-toned sort of appearance, when quartersawn — which can be visually stunning in the case of more chatoyant boards. The fact that the wood is considerably easier to work, with less tearout, than African Mahogany and possesses a hardness that places Sipo between it (African Mahogany) and Genuine Mahogany has seen it transcend from relative obscurity to become a quite popular and highly regarded “mahogany substitute” wood, presently.

Aesthetically, the wood is similar, also, to its African first cousin, Sapele (with both being species of the Entandrophragma genus) — although Sipo is more pourous, and has richer color.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carving, furniture, turnings, veneer
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Tamboti

Tamboti is a beautiful African hardwood which is derived from the Spirostachys Africana tree — a medium-sized, semi-deciduous to deciduous, fruit producing tree. The heartwood is brown to dark brown, with darker markings and streaks, clearly demarcated from the whitish to pale yellow sapwood. Its grains are usually straight to slightly wavy, with a fine, even texture. The wood has a beautiful banded figure and a satin-like lustre, with an oily surface. Known for its durability, dimensional stability and exceptional rot and insect resistance, Tamboti is a hard, heavy wood — and one which remains in steady demand throughout regions of its natural range, despite its somewhat challenging working properties.

Between the tree’s natural oils and latex production, resawing the wood tends to gum up saw blades. Difficulties aside, the wood turns and finishes well, and its density and pleasant aesthetics make it popular with wood carvers, as well.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carving, construction, flooring, furniture, specialty items, turnings
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Teak - Burmese

Genuine Teak is one of the world’s most well-known and coveted woods. Its heartwood is light-medium to medium brown, with a tint that can range from muted gold to a pale red. (Its color darkens as it ages.) Sapwood colors are a pale white, off-white or a pale yellowish brown. But it is the wood’s great toughness, rot resistance and durability — versus some rather bland aesthetics — which make it so popular.

Its grains are typically straight (although sometimes wavy, or even interlocked) with a high natual oil content. This generally makes for favorable working characteristics, although the wood does possess a high silica content.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, carving, construction, flooring, furniture, turnings, veneer
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Walnut - African

African Walnut is derived from the Lovoa Trichilioides tree — a monoecious, evergreen that is indigenous to Central and Southern Africa’s tropical regions. Its heartwood color can vary anywhere from a golden brown to a reddish brown, often with darker streaks and/or portions. Over time, its color will darken to deeper brown tones. The sapwood is narrow, grey to beige in color, and clearly demarcated from the heartwood. Despite it not being a true walnut (of the Juglans genus), it shares many of the basic characteristics.

African Walnut’s grains are typically straight or slightly interlocked — yielding good working properties — with a fine to medium, consistent texture and a fine natural luster. Finding figured pieces is not uncommon. It turns, glues and finishes well. The wood is considered moderately durable.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carving, flooring, furniture, gun stocks, joinery, paneling, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Yellowheart

Yellowheart is a neo-satine wood whose color can range from pale yellow to bright yellow to varying shades of gold. Sapwood is lighter and pale, but not always easily discerned from pale-colored heartwood. Its grains are typically straight, but can also by wavy and/or interlocked. Its typically fine (sometimes medium or in between), consistent texture takes on a luxurious look, revealing a deep natural luster, when sanded.

As far as working characteristics are concerned, Yellowheart is generally very cooperative for a fairly dense and durable wood. (Although sharp blades may be necessary with some interlocked-grain boards.) It glues and finishes very well. The wood holds its color well: slowly darkening, to a degree, as it ages, often giving it an even more striking appearance.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carving, flooring, furniture, handles, inlay, musical Instruments, trim, turnings, veneer
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Rosewood - Madagascan

Madagascar Rosewood is a very popular wood with both acoustic and electric guitar luthiers (especially the former), as well as furniture craftsmen, despite being a wood that has been difficult to acquire in the US for the bulk of this new millennium. Depending on the specific species, heartwood colors can range anywhere from a pale yellowish-brown to orangish-red to deep burgundy to a chocolate brown, typically highlighted by bold black ink lines and secondary hues. Its straight grains and medium texture generally make for excellent working properties, despite its considerable hardness and density; its cuts, turns and finishes beautifully, with a nice natural luster.

The wood typically has a high natural oil content, which can make gluing challenging.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carving, flooring, furniture, inlay, specialty items, trim, turnings, veneer
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Sassafras

The Sassafras genus is renowned for and distinguished by its aromatic properties. Its typically straight grains and coarse texture bear patterns which resemble Ash; and its generally tan to light brown coloration makes its appearance easy to mistake it as such, though sometimes tints ranging from pale orange to olive green can be present. Despite its relatively light dried weight (31 lbs/ft3 / 495 kg/m3), once dry it is considered to be dimensionally stable, with excellent durability and easy working properties.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, furniture, turnings, utility lumber
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Common Uses
Palmyra - Black

Not unlike its coconut-producing cousin, Red Palm, Black Palmyra (perhaps better known as “Black Palm” in the US) is unique among exotic woods in several ways. First, it’s tree is not categorized a hardwood or softwood tree, but as a flowering plant: Monocotyledon (or “Monocot”). Secondly, the tree is comprised of two entirely different layers: at its core is a soft, spongy cellulose mass; this soft core is surrounded by a protective body, comprised of dense, overlapping layers of interwoven fibrovascular strands. It is this hard, dense protective layer that is considered its wood.

While it is considered to be typically straight grained, because of its toughness the wood can be very diificult to work; splintering and tearouts are not uncommon. It is a dimensionally stable wood, but it requires sharp blades and precise-angled cuts to get acceptable results when resawing this wood.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, construction, flooring, furniture, handles, turnings, walking sticks
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Purpleheart

While renowned for its often deep, rich purple hues, Purpleheart is actually one of the toughest woods in the world. It is considered one of the stiffest, hardest woods — boasting an impressive strength-to-weight ratio. It is also extremely water resistant, which, combined with its toughness, has seen it frequently used in outdoor decking and even as truckbed flooring. The wood is typically straight or wavy grained (though sometimes irregular). Its texture ranges from fine to medium, and it has a nice natural luster that emerges when fine sanded. The wood works and turns well, although sharp tools and blades are a necessity. It glues and finishes well, also.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carving, decking, flooring, furniture, inlay, paneling, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Rosewood - African

African Rosewood is a species from the same genus as Bubinga (Guibourtia), which has led to Bubinga often mistakenly being referred to as “African Rosewood.” Though obviously not a true rosewood, it does often bear aesthetic similarities. The grain is generally straight but can be interlocked; its texture is moderately fine. The heartwood color ranges from pink to reddish-brown, with purple or red streaks / lines / highlights.

African Rosewood works well, although it can have a moderate blunting effect on tools. It glues and finishes well. It needs to be dried slowly and carefully, to prevent warping and cracking. It’s a durable wood and is considered stable, once dried.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, decking, flooring, furniture, millwork, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Mahogany - Brazilian

Known in the US primarily as “Genuine Mahogany,” Swietenia Macrophylla, its scientific name, is what most in the exotic lumber industry consider to be the true species when referring to “Mahogany.” Historically, it has been a very economically important wood throughout the Latin America region. Its color can range from a pale pink to a light to medium reddish-brown, and it is renowned for its chatoyance. Grains vary; although generally straight, they can be interlocked, irregular or wavy, also. Its texture is fine and uniform, with a rich natural luster.

Lumber which originates from the wood’s indigenous natural regions is considered to be significantly more durable and stable than its plantation-grown counterparts.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carving, furniture, turnings, veneer
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Sapele

Sapele is an economically-important wood to the continent of Africa, and one that continues to grow in popularity in other industries beyond veneer mills, here in the US. It is commonly used as a substitute for Genuine Mahogany — also belonging to the Meliaceae family — and it, too, is considered moderately durable and stable. Its color can range from a light golden brown to a darker reddish- or pinkish-brown. The color will darken as the wood ages. Sapale is renowned for its sometimes quite dramatic figuring, which comes in an array of different styles: ribbon, pommele, quilted, mottled, waterfall, wavy, beeswing, tiger-striped and fiddleback. It also possesses a beautiful natural luster.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, flooring, furniture, specialty items, turnings, utility lumber, veneer
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Makore

Makore is a beautiful African wood which is renowned for its great strength and durability, despite being of a moderate density. Its heartwood can range from pink to a light to medium reddish-brown, with its yellow sapwood be clearly discerible, when present. Figuring is not unusual, with striped, mottled and sometimes even beeswing being found in quartersawn boards. It is typically straight-grained and easy to work, although grain patterns can occasionally be wavy or interlocked. Although it can have a dulling effect on saw blades, its high silica content contributes to its fine natural luster and poses no real issues with gluing or finishing.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, flooring, furniture, specialty items, turnings, utility lumber, veneer
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Common Uses
Oak - Slavonian

This is an oak hardwood species not often seen or found in great abundance outside of Western & Southwestern Europe. It is perhaps best noted for its use in the manufacture of wine barrels; the wood is said to have a mellowing effect on the taste and texture of wines which are aged in the barrels. (It is an historical favorite among Italian wine producers.) Its heartwood is a light to medium brown, sometimes with a greenish hue. Its grains are generally straight (although sometimes interlocked or irregular), but its texture is coarse and uneven.

Like many other oaks, quartersawn pieces will typically display fleck ray patterns. Although not as dense as White Oak, it is also very responsive to steam bending, and is a tough durable wood. It, too, is easy to work, and glues, stains and finishes well.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, flooring, furniture, veneer, wine barrels
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Oak - White

White Oak has long been considered one of the preeminent hardwoods of Central & Eastern America. The trees commonly live for hundreds of years, if left undisturbed. The color of the heartwood can vary from a light golden tan to a light to medium brown. The grains are straight. Quartersawn examples often display the “fleck” figuring patterns for which oaks are known. Its renowned toughness and durability has seen White Oak used in boat building for centuries, as it also responds well to steam bending. Despite its large pores and generally coarse surface, the wood works, glues and holds a stain and/or a finish very well.

The White Oak is the most durable of the oak subgroups; however, because of its high shrinkage rates, dimensional stability can be a challenge.  Although it is commonly offered in both flatsawn and quartersawn boards, most stable results are always obtained by using quartersawn stock.

Specimens have been documented to reach ages of more 450 years old; while one, still living (in Basking Ridge, NJ), estimated to be over 600 years old.

It should be noted that all Quercus-genus (true oak) hardwoods have been known to discolor when left in contact with iron.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carpentry, flooring, furniture, veneer, wine barrels
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Imbuia

Although its nickname is “Brazilian Walnut,” Imbuia bears little aesthetic resemblance to any members of the Juglans (true walnut) genus beyond its typical brownish colors. Grain patterns are generally wild and unpredictable, and occasional sap content can create a rather stunning contrast, with its rich, (typically) pale to medium muted golden hues. Although published data would leave on to surmise that it shares a very similar density with that of walnut (which it often does), Imbuia can be significantly more dense, at times, depending on growing conditions

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, flooring, furniture, gun stocks, turnings, veneer
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Iroko

Iroko is a very tough, durable wood that has been traditionally used in a multitude of applications in its native Africa. Its golden to medium brown color, course texture and interlocked grains give it an appearance very similar to that of Teak; although it is significantly less dense, it has been utilized in Africa in many of the same functions / duties that Teak has in other parts of the world. Despite its toughness (and interlocked grains), it is generally not difficult to work; it glues and finishes well.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, construction, flooring, furniture, specialty items, turnings, utility lumber, veneer
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Jatoba

Jatoba earned its nickname — “Brazilian Cherry” — from flooring manufacturers, as its natural color can often resemble the look of aged Cherry wood (medium to dark reddish-brown). Its resistance to rot and bug damage and excellent strength-to-weight ratio make it suitable for a variety of indoor and outdoor applications, although its density and typically interlocked grains can make it difficult to work and hard on blades.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, flooring, furniture, handles, specialty items, turnings
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Common Uses
Kiaat

Kiaat is closely related to African Padauk (both are species of the Pterocarpus genus), sharing its characteristics of being durable, extremely stable and easy workability. The wood is renowned for its great bug and termite resistance.

Although Kiaat is considerably less dense (than Padauk), it has an impressive strength-to-weight ratio which (combined with its durability) makes it a very versatile, useful wood — suitable for a great variety of applications. Its heartwood color can vary from a light golden brown to a medium brown with a reddish or purplish tint. Grains can be straight, wavy or interlocked; its texture ranges from fine to medium, with a nice natural luster. Kiaat has very good working properties, and turns, glues and finishes well.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, furniture, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Lignum Vitae - Argentine

Without question, one of the world’s hardest, most dense woods, Argentinian Lignum Vitae is very similar to its namesake — the world’s most dense wood, genuine Lignum Vitae — in appearance, working properties and physical characteristics. (Both are classified in the same scientific family, Zygophyllaceae.) It is a beautiful wood, with heartwood colors ranging from medium to dark brown, quite often featuring green highlights (sometimes in a prominent fashion) which become more pronounced as the wood ages and is increasingly exposed to UV rays. Sapwood is pale yellow. Its grains can be straight, wavy or slightly interlocked, and it has a smooth, consistent texture and an impressive natural luster that emerges with fine-grit sanding.

While its dense, hard, heavy physical nature makes it rough on blades and sometimes difficult to glue, it turns very smoothly and is extremely stable and durable.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, construction, handles, turnings, utility lumber
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Common Uses
Mahogany - African

African Mahogany is a wood that continues to grow in popularity — so much so that this new millennium has seen its various species be replanted into tropical regions in Central America, as well as becoming a contemporary plantation roster addition. Depending on its origin, growth conditions and specific strain (“African Mahogany” encompasses four different Khaya species), it color can range from a pale pink or muted orange, to a somewhat darker reddish- or golden-brown. It can also have darker striping, and, aesthetically, it can be further enhanced through figuring (ribbon; wavy diagonal; mottled) and varying levels of chatoyance.

Its grains are typically either straight or interlocked. It works, turns and finishes easily, and beautifully, although boards which feature interlocked grains can occasionally pose tearout issues when planing, joining or resawing.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, furniture, lutherie, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
Cedar - Spanish

Not a true cedar (of the Cedra genus), Spanish Cedar is actually more closely related to true mahoganies, as all are in the Meliaceae family. Weight, Density and mechanical properties can vary, depending on climate and conditions. Most of what is made available to the US market is plantation-grown, which produces wood that is lower in density, and paler in color than that cut from trees grown in forests. Its grains are straight and its texture is fine; combined with its modest hardness and density, the wood is very easy to work, and glues and finishes well.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, humidors, musical Instruments, veneer
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Common Uses
Cypress - Swamp

Swamp Cypress is so named for its association with swamp land, with is roots often protruding above the land or submerged into the swamp water where it grows. This light, pale yellow-brown wood known for its durability, toughness and character is also the State Tree of Louisiana. It is an important wood in the indigenous Southeast region of the US, as its versatility and workability lend it to a variety of diverse applications. It is typically straight-grained, although knots are commonly present. Other than the knots, the wood poses no difficult challenges for working, glue and finishing.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, construction, veneer
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Common Uses
Cedar - Japanese

Japanese Cedar is the national tree of Japan, where it is highly-prized for the scented, strong, but lightweight timber it produces. It’s significance extends beyond that, as its impact on Japanese culture is reflected by the fact that it is found planted at numerous sacred sites throughout the country. The wood is reddish-pink in color, straight-grained and medium textured; it glues, stains and finishes well. Its impressive strength-to-weight ratio and excellent working properties makes it ideal for all varieties of construction applications.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, carving, construction, furniture, turnings
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Common Uses
Afrormosia

Native to West Africa, Afrormosia is a handsome, rot and bug resistant, extremely durable wood has been used as a substitute for Teak (Tectona grandis), thus earning its nickname, “African Teak”. While having a similar look, it also has working and mechanical properties that mimic Teak, whilst having none of its oiliness. (Afrormosia has a well-established track record for holding up in the most extreme conditions, proving the comparisons well justified.) Its heartwood color can be a muted tan, muted gold or any of a series of light- to medium-colored browns (from very muted to slightly, in hue), highlight by darker stripes, of varying degrees and coloration, which can run the length of its typically straight or wavy (though sometimes interlocked). Despite its similar “fuzzy” appearance (to that of Teak), it is fine grained, presenting a superb natural luster when sanded. Over time, the wood will darken, rendering an appearance often more like that of Black Walnut than of Teak. Despite being considerably harder than Teak, Afrormosia is generally very workable, offering crisp joints and it turns, glues and finishes very well.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, flooring, furniture, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
Andiroba

Andiroba is used as both a Mahogany substitute and a general utility carpentry wood throughout its indigenous regions that are scattered across Central & South America. It is widely used for furniture and flooring in it’s native geographical areas. Andiroba is generally easy to work, and the species turns, glues and finishes well. This pale reddish-brown colored lumber is a durable wood — similar to Honduran Mahogany, in that regard. Aesthetically, its typically more on the bland side (compared to a Mahogany), although more desirable examples of the species can be quite highly-figured.

Grains are typically straight, although they can be wavy or interlocked, and the wood is fine textured and has a good natural luster.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, flooring, furniture, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
Beech - European

Like American Beech, this wood features pale cream coloration, also often augmented by a pink or muted light reddish-brown hue. It’s large supply across the continent and typically modest price range makes it one of the most popular and commercially important hardwoods in Europe. Its straight grains and medium texture give comparable working and steam-bending properties to its American first cousin and it machines, turns, glues and finishes with ease.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, flooring, furniture, musical Instruments, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
Blackwood - Acacia

A close cousin to Hawaii’s coveted Koa, Australian Blackwood is growing in popularity as it becomes more known in both guitar and furniture-building circles. Its name is misleading, as there are no black hues ever seen in its grains. Highly-figured lumber is not uncommon, nor are pieces with a shimmering chatoyance, reminiscent of Koa. Hardwood colors can range from a light golden brown to various dark shades of brown; streak and highlights of various differing colors is not uncommon. Sap colors can range from tan to a dull light gray, and is clearly demarcated. Its grains can range from straight to wavy to interlocked, and its texture is typically fine, with an impressive natural luster.

Other than the occasional tear-out, issues associated with lumber with interlocking grains, the wood is very easily worked. It turns, glues, and finishes well. Australian Blackwood also bends easily, which combined with its toughness and durability,  has made it an historically popular wood in Australia for boat building.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, furniture, gun stocks, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
Bocote

With colors ranging from its typically golden brown base, to its dark brown and black striped accents, the surface of Bocote is perhaps best known for the many tiny “eyes” adorning the grain patterns of the highly-decorated, more visually stunning examples of the species. (These eyes are not to be confused with knots, as they pose no issues when machining.) The striking aesthetics that higher-grade pieces possess, make this wood coveted among furniture and cabinet craftsmen, as well as both acoustic and electric guitar luthiers.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, fine furniture, flooring, gun stocks, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
Cedar - Alaskan

Alaskan Cedar has been a wood historically embroiled in controversy with botanical and wood experts, as the wood has experienced its genus reclassified on six different occasions over the course of the last two centuries. Despite its relatively light weight and density, it is a very durable and quite versatile species — having seen duty in numerous indoor and outdoor applications. The wood has also become a popular choice with luthiers, for acoustic guitar soundboards.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, boxmaking, carving, construction, decking, flooring, outdoor furniture
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Common Uses
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