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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
Morado

Morado is known by many names.¬† Pau Ferro, Bolivian Rosewood and Morado are the most common.¬† ¬†The wood earned its “… Rosewood” nicknames (by which it is commonly known) because its colors and density are similar, which its medium brown base typically augmented by black streaks or grain lines, and sometimes even purple, tan and golden secondary hues, and sometimes a purplish tint, overall. Although it can have varying grains, straight-grained pieces are generally very easy to work, and the wood turns smoothly and finishes well. It is considered quite durable, although it can be subject to insect attack.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, flooring, furniture, lutherie, musical Instruments, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
Walnut - American Figured

Black Walnut with a stunning figure across the grain.

Black Walnut has long been considered one of the US’s most durable hardwoods, and one of its most popular. Prized for its typically deep chocolate color (often highlighted by red or purple streaks and/or tint), straight grains (though sometimes irregular), fine texture and warm luster, the wood has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio and is considered to have solid dimensional stability after drying. Its cooperative grain structure and moderate density give Black Walnut excellent working properties, which have made it coveted by fine furniture craftsmen for centuries.

While there remains a robust domestic supply, the demand for this wood also remains constant. It is considered a premium domestic hardwood.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, furniture, gun stocks, interior panelling, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
Maple - Spalted

Spalted Maple doesn’t denote a species, but can be any member of the Acer genus that has black lines and/or streaks in the lumber caused by slight decay and a fungus in the wood.

Maple is the only American wood species harvested primarily for its sapwood, rather than heartwood. Since the beginnin of mass commercial production of the electric guitar, in the early 1950’s, Hard Maple has remained a pivotal lumber in the industry. It comes in a variety of figures — including Birdseye and Tiger Maple figurings — and its soft pale white to pale yellow complexion is sometimes augmented by light blue, red or pinkish tints and highlights, with a marvelous luster and often a luxurious sheen.

Its excellent strength-to-weight ratio, handsome looks, easy workability and steady supply has cemented Maple as a part of both American industry and culture. Despite its ready availability, premium-grade boards always command high prices and remain in constant demand, worldwide.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, carving, flooring, furniture, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
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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Common Uses
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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Common Uses
Walnut - American

Black Walnut has long been considered one of the US’s most durable hardwoods, and one of its most popular. Prized for its typically deep chocolate color (often highlighted by red or purple streaks and/or tint), straight grains (though sometimes irregular), fine texture and warm luster, the wood has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio and is considered to have solid dimensional stability after drying. Its cooperative grain structure and moderate density give Black Walnut excellent working properties, which have made it coveted by fine furniture craftsmen for centuries.

While there remains a robust domestic supply, the demand for this wood also remains constant. It is considered a premium domestic hardwood.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, furniture, gun stocks, interior panelling, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
Wenge

Wenge is unique among the world’s exotic woods. This tough tropical wood’s distinctive deep chocolate color — which can sometimes augmented by muted gold, orange, red or even burgundy tint — is actually known as “Wenge” in the color spectrum nomenclature of various parts of the world (with paint manufacturers, etc.). Its grains are generally straight (though sometimes wavy or irregular) and are accenuated by overlapping black lines which typically decorate the board’s surface.

While being considered a strong, durable wood, Wenge’s course, rugged texture makes it very splintery — making some craftsmen hesitant to use it. It can be difficult to work, although is glues well and is considered a very dimensionally stable species.

Common Uses:
bows, cabinetry, flooring, furniture, handles, paneling, specialty items, veneer, walking sticks
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Common Uses
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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Common Uses
Ziricote

Ziricote is one of the most popular, visually striking exotic woods in the world. Renowned for its “landscape” or “spiderweb” grain patterns, its colors range from medium to dark shades of brown (occasionally with either a green or purplish tint), and are accentuated by intermingled bands of unpredictable, irregular black growth rings. Sapwood is easily distinguishable by its dull off-white to pale yellow hue.

Although it is a fairly dense wood, its typical straight (though sometimes slightly interlocked) grains and fine to medium-fine texture give it cooperative working properties, as it cuts, turns, glues and finishes smoothly.

Ziricote is a close relative (and neighbor) of Bocote, with both being Central American woods of the Cordia genus. Its radical, often-dramatic grain patterns have given the wood somewhat of an ‘elite’ status among international exotic woods enthusiasts.¬† While it has never been an inexpensive wood, recent revelations of epidemic poaching across Mexico have resulted in a greatly reduced supply and sharp price increases on wholesale and retails levels.

Unless action is taken to stem the tide (of poaching), Ziricote and other Central American woods could very well be the subject of actions from CITES in the very near future.  Interestingly, the bark of the Cordia dodecandra tree and the wood have medicinal properties: the tea which is derived from their infusion is used in traditional medicine in Mexico, to treat coughs, diarrhea and dysentery.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, flooring, furniture, gun stocks, joinery, lutherie, musical Instruments, specialty items, trim, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
Shedua

A cousin of the more popular and well-known African tonewood, Bubinga, Ovangkol/Shedua is a softer wood (of similar weight and density) with handsome, yet greatly varying aesthetics. Its heartwood color can range anywhere from a light to medium yellow, to a light orange- or reddish-brown, usually highlighted by darker brown or black striping. Its unmistakable sapwood is pale yellow in color.

Its grains can be straight, wavy or interlocked, with generally a medium texture and nice natural luster (due in part to a somewhat high silica content). It is a tough, durable wood, usually possessing fairly cooperative working properties — although its silica content can gum up blades and cutting tools, and there can be tearout issues with boards with interlocking grain patterns. Shedua turns, glues and finishes quite well.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, flooring, furniture, trim, turnings, 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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Common Uses
Stinkwood

Black Stinkwood has long been popular for use in fine furniture building in South Africa (where it is indigenous), due to its fine, tight, typically straight grains and a resolute durability that is often compared to Teak. It’s heartwood color can vary from almost black to dark brown, to more medium brown tones with a reddish tint; the sap is easily distinguished by its contrasting pale yellow coloration. Despite its inherent density, Stinkwood possesses very cooperative working properties. It has beautiful finishing characteristics and a rich natural luster.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, fine furniture, gun stocks, joinery, specialty items
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Common Uses
Sycamore - French

Like all other members of the true maple genus (Acer), European Sycamore is a hardwood whose sapwood is greatly preferred and sought after, versus its heartwood. It sap can vary from an almost pure white to a light cream color with tinting ranging from a golden yellow to a muted red; heartwood is generally medium to dark reddish-brown colored. Grains are generally straight, but can be wavy. Combined with its fine texture, it is easy to work (although, like all maples, it can burn easily) — turning, gluing and finishing well, with a good natural luster. Not unlike its Acer-genus counterparts, pieces can sometimes be dramatically figured.

Boards are typical found quartersawn, as European Sycamore is the lumber renowned for its preferential, and historical, use as a body wood for stringed orchestral instruments (violins, violas, etc.), possessing superb resonance qualities and full-spectrum frequency response at a very moderate weight.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, flooring, furniture, joinery, millwork, musical Instruments, specialty items, turnings, utility lumber, veneer
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Common Uses
Pau Ferro

There are a few different types of wood which are known as Pau Ferro: the most common one is also known as Bolivian Rosewood, and Morado.  This one (also known as Pau Rosa), however, comes from Southern Africa.  It is hard and heavy, but can present itself with beautiful colors Рreds, oranges and yellows.

It turns and finishes well, but the grain is fairly porous.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, flooring, furniture, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
Pau Marfim

Pau Marfim is a dense, fine textured, mostly straight grained hardwood which is generally a creamy white colorm but it can vary from a lemon color to a pale yellowish-brown, also. There is very little contrast between its sapwood and heartwood, although the heartwood can be decorated with darker streaks, occasionally. It is an extremely tough, durable wood, which has seen it utilized as a popular substitute for maple and birch and makes it an ideal choice for anything from flooring to tool handles.

The wood turns excellently, and it is easy to nail, crew or glue. It polishes to a smooth, fine finish, and is considered to be a very dimensionally stable wood.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, canoes, carving, flooring, furniture, handles, oars, paneling, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
Pear - Swiss

Historically, an important domestic hardwood throughout Europe, Swiss Pear is known for its fine, straight grains and smooth, consistent texture, as well as its pink coloration (which naturally ranges from pale to light to medium). Once cut, the wood’s hues intensify as it oxidizes. Swiss Pear is commonly steamed, to provide a more smooth, consistent pink color, and to relieve stress within the wood, so it dries flat.

Its easy, cooperative working properties combined with its consistent texture and color make it loved by craftsmen, carvers and turners, alike. It is highly regarded all over Europe, and considered by many to be the region’s finest hardwood, boasting properties similar to rosewood.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, carving, furniture, inlay, millwork, musical Instruments, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
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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Common Uses
Rosewood - Honduras

Denser than East Indian Rosewood, Honduran Rosewood is well known for being the preferred wood for Marimba bars, with its ringing, well-rounded tonal properties. It compares well to Brazilian Rosewood (many claim it actually superior), producing a well-balanced acoustic guitar, with great projection and strong lows and highs. (In fact, during the ’50?s and ’60?s, the great flamenco guitar crafters considered it to be the only acceptable substitute to Brazilian Rosewood.)

Honduran Rosewood’s grain lines are unusually tight and straight (though sometimes wavy or interlocked). The color ranges from a medium tan to a brownish brick red color, medium brown (sometimes with a purplish tint) or even a medium to dark burgundy, with occasional dark brown or black ink lines. Due to the wood’s density and high oil content, it can be difficult to cut, machine and glue. Its texture can range from fine to medium; (not unlike Braz Rw) it is porous, and those pores are usually medium- to large-sized. As would be expected — given its oily nature — the wood has a rich natural luster.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, furniture, harps, lutherie, musical Instruments, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
Rosewood - East Indian

East Indian Rosewood can vary greatly in color. Although its base color is mostly always brown, the shades can range from golden brown to purplish or dark reddish brown. Secondary colors are often present. The wood’s colors will darken with continued UV exposure. East Indian Rosewood is generally less dense than most other rosewoods. Its grains are typically interlocked (although they can be irregular or straight), which can make it difficult to work. Care must be taken when finishing the wood, as it is not uncommon for the wood’s natural resins to impose if it is not first sealed. It has a medium texture.

Since the exportation ban on Brazilian Rosewood, more than twenty years ago, it has become a popular substitute with corporate guitar manufacturers (electric and acoustic, alike) — due in large part to its historically steady supply and relatively low cost (compared with other Dalbergia’s). By comparison to Brazilian Rosewood, its pores are smaller, but it is also a very durable wood that’s not overly susceptible to bug damage/infestation and it is considered stable after drying.

Don’t confuse this species with Sissoo (Dalbergia sissoo) which can also be referred to as¬† “Indian Rosewood” in certain locales. It is believed that Sonokeling: a true Dalbergia indigenous to Indonesia — where it is also known as “Jacaranda” is also Dalbergia latifolia, however tree farmers in Indonesia are not in agreement with this assessment. Our research into Indonesia and the cultivation of rosewood trees there revealed that back in the 1700’s, while the Indonesian islands were considered a colony of Holland, Dutch merchant colonists transplanted two major Dalbergia’s to Indonesia: Dalbergia Nigra (Brazilian Rosewood), from Brazil, and Dalbergia sissoo (Indian Rosewood), from India.¬† This could well be a botanical mystery worthy of further investigation for the detail oriented student of the Dalbergia genus.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, furniture, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
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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Common Uses
Rosewood - Santos

There are actually two different types of wood which are known as Pau Ferro: the most common one is also known as Bolivian Rosewood, and Morado; the other one is significantly more dense (generally around 50% more), and is known also as Brazilian Ironwood and Brazilwood. The vast majority of what os made available in the US is former of the two — the less dense variety. The wood earned its “… Rosewood” nicknames (by which it is commonly known) because its colors and density are similar, which its medium brown base typically augmented by black streaks or grain lines, and sometimes even purple, tan and golden secondary hues, and sometimes a purplish tint, overall. Although it can have varying grains, straight-grained pieces are generally very easy to work, and the wood turns smoothly and finishes well. It is considered quite durable, although it can be subject to insect attack.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, flooring, furniture, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
Nogal

Nogal — also commonly known as “Peruvian Walnut” — is a dark chocolate-colored walnut which often contains black lines and streaks and can sometimes be tinted (in this case, usually purple, when found). Not unlike its American cousin, Black Walnut, it typically has straight grain patterns (which can also occasionally be irregular), a medium to course texture and a good natural luster.

Despite these aesthetic similarities, it is much less common to find figuring in Nogal than in Black Walnut. It is generally considered very easy to work, stain, finish and glue, although irregular-grained boards can experience tearout issues when planed.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, flooring, furniture, veneer
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Common Uses
Oak - Red

Red Oak has a light brown heartwood color, with a reddish tint. Due to its basically light coloration, it is not always that easy to distinguish its sap from its heart. Like its many cousins, quartersawn examples display varying amounts of its renowned “ray fleck” patterns. Grains are typically straight, but with a coarse texture and large, open pores. The wood works, finishes and glues well. Its impressive strength, hardness and moderate price have made it a popular choice with furniture builders and cabinet makers.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, flooring, furniture, handles, utility lumber, veneer
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Common Uses
Oak - Silky

Silky Oak is not a true Quercus-genus species, although it can exhibit a similar appearance; it is renowned for its dense “rays” and sometime flecked figuring. (Quartersawn pieces can be very dramatic.) It has a light to medium reddish-brown hue, with contrasting rays that are slightly darker can range anywhere from a muted brown to gray color. Despite being more durable than any American oak species, its draw is its aesthetic qualities. Because of its course texture — with quartersawn surfaces being littered with Lacewood-like flecks — Silky Oak can prove to difficult to plane. Once you’re passed that, it is generally easy to work, and glues and finishes well.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, fine furniture, specialty items, turnings, 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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Common Uses
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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Common Uses
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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Common Uses
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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Common Uses
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
Maple - Birdseye

Birdseye Maple is another title which does not, necessarily, denote a specific Acer species — although the bulk of what is sold is Sugar Maple (Acer Saccharum) — but, rather, a unique figuring that occurs in maple as a result of numerous small- to medium-sized knots accumulating in the wood. It remains one of the most coveted and sought-after of all figured maple varieties.

Although it has never been scientifically proven, the prevailing school of thought is that the figuring is reportedly caused by unfavorable growing conditions. As the tree attempts to access more sunlight, buds begin to sprout in its trunk — to try and grow more branches, to access more light — but the tree lacks the requisite nutrients to support the growth and the new shoots are aborted, resulting in “birdseyes” (small knots) embedded in the tree’s wood.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, furniture, lutherie, specialty items, veneer
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Common Uses
Maple - Hard

Maple is the only American wood species harvested primarily for its sapwood, rather than heartwood. Since the beginning of mass commercial production of the electric guitar, in the early 1950’s, Hard Maple has remained a pivotal lumber in the industry. It comes in a variety of figures — including Birdseye and Tiger Maple figurings — and its soft pale white to pale yellow complexion is sometimes augmented by light blue, red or pinkish tints and highlights, with a marvelous luster and often a luxurious sheen.

Its excellent strength-to-weight ratio, handsome looks, easy workability and steady supply has cemented Maple as a part of both American industry and culture. Despite its ready availability, premium-grade boards always command high prices and remain in constant demand, worldwide.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, carving, flooring, furniture, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
Marblewood

Marblewood tree is known for the highly distinctive stripes, ranging in color from dark brown, to even purple or black. While the sapwood is usually bears the same distinctively pale yellow color as the heartwood, only the heartwood features the trademark striping, which makes the wood so appealing to turners. The striping is random and irregular; no two patterns are ever alike. The wood is heavy and dense, making it well suited for applications where strength and durability are key — such as flooring and furniture.

The wood can prove difficult to work, on account of its density and sometimes interlocked graining. Marblewood is also known for its high natural resin content; proper, complete kiln drying is essential for applications which involve finishing.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, carving, flooring, furniture, turnings, utility lumber, veneer
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Common Uses
Goncalo Alves

Goncalo Alves is known at least as commonly by its popular nickname, “Tigerwood” — given for its orange-hued primary color, and the dark striped (black or dark brown) which often decorates its surface. Its great durability, impressive strength, stiffness and hardness, generally cooperative working properties (although it can be difficult to glue, due to a high natural oil content), large tree sizes — which yield sizable boards — and regular supply, are factors which contribute to making Goncalo Alves a very popular choice among Central & South American woods made available to domestic markets in the US.

Grains can be wavy, interlocked or sometimes straight; its texture is fine, with a good natural luster.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, carving, flooring, furniture, lutherie, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
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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Common Uses
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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Common Uses
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
Leopardwood

Leopardwood is so named for the tightly-grouped flecks which cover its surface. It is almost exclusively quartersawn, which displays its dramatic flecking in leopard-spot-like patterns (thus, the name). It is medium to dark, reddish brown in color. . Prior to being sanded, the flecked portion’s slightly elevated positioning on the wood’s surface gives it a true 3D look. It is fairly difficult to work and it’s uneven texture can cause tearout issues when boards are planed.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, fine furniture, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
Louro Preto

Louro Preto is closely related to Bocote and Ziricote, also being a Central / South American wood whose species are in the Cordia genus. Its heartwood is typically a medium brown color, with both red and green tints common. The sap is easily discerned, being of a pale coloration with a base that’s usually a muted yellowish hue. The wood is known to darken, considerably, with repeated UV-ray exposure. Compared with either of its aforementioned Cordia counterparts, Louro Preto is generally pretty tame in its grain patterns (which are usually either straight-grained or somewhat irregular).

It has a texture that ranges from fine to medium, and has the impressive natural luster associated with the genus.

Despite also sharing their propensity for high natural oil content, the wood usually glues well. It is known to be easy to work, although some examples may contain varying amounts of silica.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, furniture, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
Cherry - American Curly

The beautifully figured version of American/Black Cherry.

Black Cherry is an important domestic hardwood, long associated with fine furniture and a favorite of many master craftsmen. When freshly cut, the wood has a tan to light brown color with a pink or red tint. The dark reddish-brown (russet) color that it exhibits after aging is often imitated through the use of stains on other woods. The sap is pale yellow colored. Grains can be straight or irregular; combined with its moderate density, this makes the wood easily workable. The most desired examples are of the curly-figured variety, which can be bold and quite dramatic.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, fine furniture, flooring, millwork, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
Cumaru

Cumaru or Brazilian Teak is golden brown in color. It is extremely stiff, strong, hard and highly durable and can be an excellent substitute for Ipe for decking due to superb durability and weathering properties. It can be difficult to work due to its density and interlocked grain.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, decking, flooring, furniture
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Common Uses
Ebony - Black & White

More commonly known as “Pale Moon Ebony” to US guitar luthiers and aficionados, this Southeast Asian true Diospyros ebony is, without question, the world’s most difficult, perplexing exotic wood and at times, one of its most visually stunning. (It’s also one of its most sought-after.) The wood is known for the bold jet black ink lines which adorn its creamy, pale yellow base. Both the volume and pattern of its lines are unpredictable, varying greatly from piece to piece. Grains can be straight, wavy or irregular; its texture is fine, with a nice natural luster. Its hardness and density are quite moderate for an ebony.

After being harvested or re-sawn, the wood exhibits a strong tendency to self-destruct — often changing shape, cracking and checking — if not quickly coated in wax. Although it’s not currently viewed as endangered, the wood has always been in short supply in the US, despite an unquenchable demand from custom guitar builders and wood enthusiasts, alike. Other than the difficulties in drying, it has good working properties; it machines, turns, glues and finishes well.

Because of its noted self-destructive tendencies, the wood is coated in wax almost immediately after being harvested. Given this, what little makes it to the US market arrives with very high moisture levels, necessitating further drying. (This is where it gets tricky.) Experience has shown that the best drying results are obtained by leaving the wood coated in wax and just patiently allowing it to air dry. Any attempts to speed up this process are very risky as the wood usually winds up punishing the impatient! Even when dried very slowly, the wood can still change shape. It’s not unusual, at all, to find pieces with major surface checks and cracks that occur even while under wax. For this reason, you see significantly more craft-sized pieces than larger, resawable boards (which typically command a premium price). Recutting boards will speed up the drying process, but attentive care must be taken to prevent warpage of the cut pieces. Importation to the US has been through very limited, select channels on an irregular basis for a number of years.

This wood is most always in short supply, while the demand remains constant. Rare Woods USA is very pleased to be able to offer a limited amount of larger boards and billets of this spectacular exotic wood. Lumber orders to Southeast Asia can sometimes take 12 to 18 months or more to fill, ship and receive. With the recent banning of rosewood and ebony exportation by the Laotian government, we’re not sure how soon we’ll be able to restock (if at all). For the last several years, US importation of Black & White Ebony has been exclusively from Laos.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, carving, furniture, inlay, lutherie, specialty items, trim, turnings
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Common Uses
Ebony - Macassar

Macassar Ebony is known for its typically striped appearance, with usual colors typically dominated by deep browns although green, yellow, burgundy, red, orange and even peach secondary colors can highlight more spectacular pieces. Sapwood can range from a dull tan to a light golden brown, or sometimes even a muted orange, peach or light pink. In addition to its constant demand with veneer mills, it is highly-prized by guitar luthiers. Its great density gives the wood tremendous resonance, making it ideally suited for acoustic guitar back-and-sides or fretboards.

Macassar Ebony is noted for its striped appearance, although finding long, consistent grain patterns can be difficult on longer pieces. Usually its stripes are fairly large and bold — often with twists and overlaps — although occasionally (more desirable) pieces with fine, tight-knit, consistent striping can be found.

Like many woods of comparable density, it can be difficult to work and hard on blades, but that is of little concern to those who have experience with this regal ebony species. Southeast Asia produces some astounding exotics; Macassar Ebony is, most certainly, one of its renowned, trademark species.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, crafting, pool cues, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses