BOTANICAL NAME: You will most often see Guibourtia demeusei or Guibourtia tessmannii but the species that use bubinga as all or part of one ore more of their common names include at least the following:
All are of the family Fabaceae (syn Leguminosae) the legume, pea, or bean family. There are a few other species in other genera that also use the name but I have not seen them in the USA
- Guibourtia arnoldiana
- Guibourtia coleosperma
- Guibourtia demeusei
- Guibourtia ehie
- Guibourtia liberiensis
- Guibourtia pellegriniana
- Guibourtia salikounda
- Guibourtia tessmannii
COMMON NAMES: African rosewood, Akume, kewasingo, kevazingo/kevazinga (see my comment at bottom), Ebana, Essingang, Okweni, Ovang, Waka, Buvenga. The French call it Bois de Roe d'Afrique.
The "African Rosewood" designation is fairly common, but to me this wood does not really look like a rosewood at all, although it is similarly attractive in its own right.
Varies greatly in coloration and grain patterns, but heartwood generally is a medium red-brown with lighter red to purple veins and will naturally darken with age. Sapwood is an unattractive dull grayish white.
GRAIN: Although it is frequently reported as having a "straight grain", interlocking is also usually mentioned, and the interlocked grain has been more in line with my experience. I've found it to be often attractively irregular and "mottled" in grain patterns with fairly heavy interlocking.
TEXTURE: Many reports say its texture is moderately coarse to medium but even, with fine pores are diffused throughout the wood, which often contain a reddish gum. My experience has been more of a smooth surface and some reports agree with this, saying "fine texture".
PROPERTIES / WORKABILITY: Works easily with hand or power tools despite being very hard and dense. Turns and finishes very well and polishes well, resulting in a highly lustrous surface, although this can take a little effort due to the density. Reduced cutting angle recommended for interlocked grain, which can cause tearout. Experts recommend a cutting angle of 15 degrees when planing. Moderate blunting of cutters. Pre-drilling required for nailing. It's widely reported that gluing can be difficult due to gum pockets, but I've never encountered this myself and find that it glues very well.
DURABILITY: Moderately durable. Susceptible to attack by common furniture beetle. Heartwood is resistent to preservative treatment. Sapwood is permeable.
FINISH: Takes a high natural gloss due to the density, but because of that density, getting to the high polish can take a little work. Well sanded and finished, this is a strikingly attractive wood and I've used it very successfully for numerous small gift and decorative projects. It reportedly takes stains very well, but anyone who stains this wood should be shot.
STABILITY: very stable
BENDING: Low steam bending characteristics
ODOR: It is said to have a bad odor when it is first cut, but this fades when the material is dried.
SOURCES: found growing mostly in the Cameroons, Gabon and the Ivory Coast of Africa. Specifically mentioned: Zaire, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Liberia and Nigeria.
USES: fine furniture, tool handles, figured veneer, flooring, cabinetwork and panelling (mostly the veneer), knife handles, and fancy goods (jewlery).
TREE: These trees are usually found near rivers and lakebeds as well as swampy areas or forests that are frequently flooded. This is a large tree that can grow up to 150 feet with a diameter of up to 6 feet. Sometimes Bubinga trees will have buttresses but almost always with straight boles.
WEIGHT: a very heavy wood, with weight varying from about 50lbs to 60lbs per cubic foot
DRYING: Dries easily with little degradation, although it will sometimes exude gum which can cause problems in working the wood. Experts recommend seasoning the wood slowly to avoid distortion or checking using kiln schedule T2-C2 for 4/4 stock and T2-C1 for 8/4 stock.
AVAILABILITY: readily available, even in wide sizes. Specialty outlets can get you boards 4 feet wide and more.
COST: reasonable to moderate. Expect to pay about $10/BF for good quality, although figured pieces will cost more. Very wide boards are readily available.
HOBBIT NOTES: Logs where the grain is slightly irregular are usually rotary cut into veneers by peeling, which produces a wild, swirling, veined figure that is quite unique and very attractive. This veneer does not look at all like the veneer yielded by any other cutting method on this species (or any other species for that matter!). When cut this way, this species is referred to as Kevazingo. This cut is widely used and highly prized for its beauty and character.
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Another popular name for Kevazingo is "waterfall bubinga", describing the pattern of a waterfall, and sometimes Kevazingo has a pommele figure.
We have recently seen an increase in demand for this species as a quality flooring material. With its color and figure resembling rosewood to a certain extent, its popularity has grown in recent years to all areas of the woodworking industry.
Quartersawn bubinga is exceptionally stable
While bubinga can exude gum, one writer says he has rarely seen gum pockets and when he did they were minimal and toward the center or pith of the tree.
Bubinga is sometimes used in place of rosewood, but the looks are very distinct. You would have to do some specific finishing to get the rosewood look from bubinga. Bubinga may have been compared to rosewood at some point because it has a vivid purple veining. But to me they are two separate, distinct woods.