BOTANICAL NAME: Dalbergia nigra of the family Fabaceae (syn Leguminosae) the legume, pea, or bean family
COMMON NAMES: babia rosewood, bahia rosewood, caa-biuna, cabeuna, cabiuna, cambore, camboriuna, caviuna, jacaranda (Brazil), jacaranda cabiuna, jacaranda de Brasil (Spanish), jacaranda wood, jacaranda-da-bahia, jacaranda-preto, jacaranda-rajado, jacaranda-roxo, jacarandaholz, legno di jacaranda, madera de palisandro, marnut, obuina, palisander, palisanderholz, palissander, palissandre du bresil (French), palissandro, pau preto, pianowood, rio rosewood, rosewood, south american rosewood, urauna
COLOR: The heartwood is a mix of browns and reds (many shades of each) with occasional yellow and orange and other colors including purple and pink, and the whole is frequently streaked with black. This wood can be a real stunner and the word "variagated" is particularly well suited to its color variety. The sapwood is yellowish-white, sometimes with greenish or brownish tine, and is clearly demarcated from the heartwood. Color variety and beauty are the main feature of this wood, although it is quite possible to obtain planks of this wood that are NOT particularly attractive.
A personal note: In the early 1980's when I first became aware of exotic woods, I bought a large mix of exotic veneers and a few years ago I unearthed a few small sheets of the Brazilian rosewood from that and they were absolutely stunning in the deep red and black color variations. I have not seen anything like this in all of the Brazilian rosewood veneer that I have had pass through my hands in the last few years since I started dealing in veneer as a side hobby to my woodworking. Unfortunately, I sold off those sheets before I started this web site and I have no pictures to show you what I mean but a few of the web pics give a hint of what I'm talking about. Much of what I see on the market today is downright ugly compared to that earlier stuff. The tree is now endangered and export is banned, which is why you will frequently see pieces referred to as "pre-ban". If all the stuff sold today as pre-ban were actually pre-ban, I would have to conclude that American vendors stored huge warehouses full of the stuff prior to the ban. This is possible, but I find it unlikely.
GRAIN: typically straight, occasionally wavy.
TEXTURE: medium to rather coarse and the wood has large pores that are quite irregular in size and position. It has an oily or waxy appearance and is reported to be gritty to the touch, although I have not experience any "grittiness", just coarseness. Luster is medium.
PROPERTIES / WORKABILITY: hard and heavy but works easily with both hand and machine tools. Ease of workability is universally reported, but blunting effects are reported all over the map with some reports saying low, some saying severe. Reports on other woodworking properties, including planing, boring, mortising, moulding, turning, and sanding vary from difficult to very easy. Carving qualities are moderate, glues well (oiliness is occasionally mentioned as a potential problem, with one report recommending epoxy resins), planes well, nails and screws with some difficulty and requires pre-boring to avoid splitting, turns moderately well, polishes and stains well.
DURABILITY: No consensus. Depending on the report you read, the heartwood is either durable and very resistant to decay and insect attack or perishible and susceptable to insect attack. The fact that there IS consensus that it is a somewhat oily wood seems to me to lend more credence to the "durable" reports and they do somewhat predominate over the "non-durable" reports.
Several reports say that preservative treatments are unsuccessful but also unnecessary and probably ndesirable because of the traditional uses of the wood. The similarity of the particular wording of all of these reports leads me to believe that some "root" report (perhaps the USDA) stated that "fact" and then was copied by everyone else so that we are in fact looking at a single report. That doesn't mean it is incorrect, just that the word "several" at the beginning of this sentence may be misleading.
FINISH: finishes to an exceedingly smooth, shiny, highly polished surface.
STABILITY: low movement in service
BENDING: No consensus. Some reports say not suitable for steam bending, some say it is, one says knot-free stock with straight grain is suitable for steam bending.
ODOR: reportedly has a very fragrant aroma similar to that of roses when freshly cut. The smell, which is less pronounced in younger trees, is reported to be also discernible when the wood is burned. It also has a distinctive taste.
SOURCES: Brazil (India is also reported as a source). Because of long-time exploitation, the tree has become very scarce in the more accessible regions of Brazil and its export from Brazil is now banned. You will frequently see veneer, in particular, advertised as "pre-ban" to an extent that leads me to believe that either (1) there was simply an AMAZING amount of the stuff squirreled away prior to the ban or (2) the ban is being ignored or (3) what is being sold as Brazilian rosewood veneer is actually something else. I have no idea which it might be, but the first seems unlikely. Some reports do say that some timber from the species is available from environmentally responsible sources, which presumably means cultured tree-farming.
USES: Esteemed for centuries as one of the finest woods in the world for high-class furniture. Highly figured veneer is prized for high-end architectural paneling.
Also used for bedroom suites, billiard tables, billiard-cue butts, boat building (general), bobbins, bowls, boxes and crates, brush backs, building materials, cabinetmaking, cabinetry, cabinets, carving, chairs, chests, decorative plywood, decorative veneer, desks, dining-room furniture, drawer sides, drum sticks, fancy turnery, figured veneer, fine furniture, flooring, furniture, handles, heavy construction, interior construction, joinery, kitchen cabinets, knife handles, levels, living-room suites, marquetry, mine timbers, musical instrument fingerboards, musical instruments, office furniture, organ pipes, paneling, piano cases, piano keys, pianos, picker sticks, plywood, poles, railroad ties, shade rollers, shafts, shafts/handles, shuttles, sounding boards, specialty items, spindles, spools, sporting goods, stencil & chisel blocks, sucker rods, tool handles, turned items. piano cases, turnery, umbrella handles, vehicle parts, veneer, violin, violin bows, wainscotting, wardrobes, and xylophones
TREE: sometimes attains a height of 125 ft, with short irregular bole, often buttressed, trunk diameters 3 to 4 ft. Old trees are generally hollow and also lose much of their volume when the undesired sapwood is removed. Old defective stems reportedly yield the most attractive wood. Since the logs are small and quite defective, they are almost always plain sliced. Widths are generally narrow, with 12" being common. Lengths up to twelve feet are available.
WEIGHT: 47 to 60 pounds per cubic foot reported
DRYING: fairly easy to dry but slightly prone to collapse and checking and needs to be dried slowly. Splitting also sometimes reported as a drying defect.
AVAILABILITY: fairly readily available as veneer, rare as lumber
COST: very expensive
OTHER COMMENTS: Sawdust from machining operations has been reported to cause severe skin irritation in some individuals.
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Waste-factor is reported to be potentially high in old trees, since they are usually hollow. Usable volume may be reduced considerably after the undesirable sapwood is removed. Ironically, old trees with defective stems are reported to yield the most attractive material. Brazillian rosewood is reported to be far superior in hardness than any of the native N. American hardwoods used in furniture manufacturing. Rosewood is also reported to be the primary choice as a tonewood for the highest quality stringed musical instruments.
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Solid Brazillian rosewood is very hard to find and what veneer is available is very expensive.
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The often buttressed trees are reported to develop boles that are usually short and irregular in shape
Since they are usually hollow. Usable volume may be reduced considerably after the undesirable sapwood is removed.
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Brazilian rosewood is reported to be currently under threat of Extinction within its natural habitat. A recommendation has been made to ban the species from commercial trade (Source - Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora - CITES - March 1993).
A recommendation has been made to ban the species from commercial trade (Source - Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora - CITES - March 1993)