Caesalpinia echinata (syn Guilandina echinata) of the family Fabaceae (syn Leguminosae) the legume, pea, or bean family
This Latin American wood (mostly from Brazil) is also called pau Brazil and Brazil Wood (and a LARGE number of other common names). It is from this wood that the country of Brazil got its name. The simplistic version of that story (totally untrue, I've been told) is that Portugese invaders asked a group of natives "what is the name of this country", gesticulating widely with their hands to show they mean a wide area. The natives thought they were asking, "what is the name of the beautiful trees in this forest?"
Humberto Baltazar Morais has pointed out to me that this story is nonsensical since the natives would NOT have called the wood "Brazil" or anything close to that but rather would have called it "ibirapitanga" (meaning "red tree") which was the name of the tree before the Portugese starting calling it brazilwood. The country DID get its modern name from the Portugese name for the tree, but not from the natives. It's the kind of story that SOUNDS true and so becomes widespread and takes on the trappings of truth by the frequent retelling.
The names pernambuco and Brazil wood are widely misapplied to several unrelated woods from Latin America and even from Asia, so you have to be careful what you are getting.
It is hard and heavy and can be somewhat difficult to work, but is stable in service and takes a high polish. The frequent orange color deepens and quickly turns more red with exposure. This is clearly shown in the first entry in the web pics down below my own samples.
Pernambuco (Caesalpinia echinata) is closely related to paela (Caesalpinia platyloba) and they sometimes look quite similar, even to the extent of it being pretty much impossible to tell then apart by simple visual inspection, although this certainly is not always the case (as you can see from the pics) and the end grains show noticeably different characteristics.
my samples: NOTE: these pics were all taken in very bright incandescent lighting ("soft white" at 2700K) colors will vary under other lighting conditions
both sides of a sample plank of pernambuco / Caesalpinia echinata --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by Mark Peet whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.
end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above
both sides of a very small plank with terrific color. This was given to me as pernambuco with no species designated. This is an excellent example of how pernambuco and paela can look very similar. When I first saw this, I thought it WAS paela but the owner insists it is pernambuco. HUGE enlargements are present.
NOTE: THIS IS NOT PERNAMBUCO, REGARDLESS OF THE OWNER'S INSISTENCE THAT IT IS. Although the color of this piece is exactly like that of some pieces of pernambuco (but also like paela), I have now examined the end grain update (see below) more closely and this sample is EXACTLY like paela and very little like pernambuco. The pores are noticeably smaller and more numerous in this sample than in pernambuco which means it's like paela, not pernambuco. Further, the vasicentric parenchyma is thin like paela whereas in pernambuco it is thicker. Also, in this sample, as in paela, there are very frequent radial groupings of multiple pores, often more than 2 long, but pernambuco has only rarely has pore multiples and they are only two pores long.
two planks (upper and lower). Shown on the left is one side of each plank, freshly cut, and shown on the right is the other side which was left in direct sunlight for a couple of hours, showing the rapid color change that is normal for this wood.
log with a small section sliced off. This was listed as pernambuco / Caselpinia echinata
planks, all recently cut and not exposed to direct sunlight
closeups of two of the planks directly above
closeups of the planks directly above
Planks listed as pernambuco / Caselpinia echinata --- both levels of enlargement are present
since the pic on the left is from a vendor whom I know to often have misleading pics, I did a simple "white balance" correction and got the pic on the right. The actual color probably has a fair amount of orange, particularly if the planks are freshly cut, but not as much as they show in this pic.
plank with mostly wet section and some dry area, showing the contrast
pen blanks --- color looks totally different that any other pernambuco pics I've seen, so this may have been misrepresented on the site I stole the pic from.
veneer with believable color
veneer with colors that are highly suspect (much too rich)
pen turned from pernambuco / Caesalpinia echinata. Photograph contributed to the site by the pen turner, Bruce Selyem, whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. The pen is finished with shellwax. I note that Bruce had the common name as pernambuca but I cannot verify that spelling with any professional source.