EAST INDIAN ROSEWOOD
BOTANICAL NAME: Dalbergia latifolia of the Family Fabaceae (syn Leguminosae) the legume, pea, or bean family. Related species are Dalbergia sissoo and Dalbergia javanica.
COMMON NAMES: bhotbeula, bhotuk, biti, bodbera, bombay, bombay blackwood, bombay rosewood, botbiola, east indian rosewood, eetti, eravadi, eruvadi, ervadi, ervaid, indian palisandre, indian palissander, indian rosewood, indonesian rosewood, iridi, iti, java palisandre, jitangi, jitegi, jitiyegishi, kala-rukh, kalaruk, kalaruk., karitti, makle, malabar, malobar, rosewood, rute, ruzerap, saisa, satsayar, satsiyar, seris, serisso, shisham, shisham (india), siase, siras, siris, sirsa, sirsai, sisali, sison, sissa, sissoo, sissu, sissua, sissui, sisu, sitsal, sonobrits, sonokeling, thethagatti, thodagatti, thothagatti, veeti, vitti, yerugudu
COLOR: Heartwood varies in color from golden brown to dark purple brown, sometimes with a whole variety of greys, reds and browns. Darker purple streaks give an attractive figure; sapwood is yellowish often with purplish tinge and sharply demarcated from the heartwood. The sapwood reportedly deepens in color after seasoning. Heartwood is generally more purplish in hue than Brazilian rosewood. Most reports say the heartwood oxidizes to a rich brown color over time. I have seen turning squares that are pure purple with dark purple veins and I have seen guitar-back thin-wood with an amazing variety of colors all in the same plank (see pics on the main page for this species)
GRAIN / TEXTURE / FILLER / FINISH / LUSTER: Grain is usually interlocked and and some reports say that selected logs yield an attractive ribbon-stripe figure, but I have not experienced that. The texture is generally listed as medium to coarse and my own experience has always been on the medium side, not coarse.
The wood has excellent finishing and polishing characteristics, but it requires some advance grain filling for best results. Takes stains well, although anyone who stains this wood should be shot. The luster is reported to vary from dull to medium.
PROPERTIES / WORKABILITY: A dense/heavy, strong, tough/hard wood with high bending and crushing strengths, low stiffness, medium shock resistance. Moderately difficult to work with hand and machine tools because of the high density; chalky deposits, if present, will dull cutters and interfere with boring operations, as will the occasional gum pocket, but cutting resistance is generally reported as low to moderate. Holds screws and nails well and glues satisfactorily although one report says unsuitable for nailing and some suggest pre-boring for nailing. One report says resin makes it a little hard to glue but that has never been my experience.
Sands easily but many machining operations such as boring, routing, mortising, moulding and planing, are reported as fairly difficult to very difficult. Very slow speeds have been recommended for mortising operations.Reports on turning range from excellent to difficult; personally I have found it to be fairly easy to turn.
can be peeled and sliced for veneer and is reported to respond very well to peeling after a soaking treatment, but it is liable to develop numerous small surface checks.
Plywood manufactured from EI rosewood is reported to have good strength properties, but the surfaces are usually not very smooth and uniform.
Heartwood is rated as highly durable, highly resistant to attack by decay fungi and termites. Sapwood vulnerable to powder-post beetles. Reports on effectiveness of preservative treatments range for poor to good.
STABILITY: small movement in service
BENDING: steam bending properties are reported as everything from poor to good
ODOR / TASTE: fragrant when freshly cut (hey, it's a rosewood!) but without distinctive odor or taste when seasoned
SOURCES: The trees are native to Southern Asia. Specific countries mentioned include India, Indonesia, Java, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam and also as an introduced species in Nigeria. Damp growing conditions are said to be ideal for the tree, but it has a wide-growing area throughout Southern India scattered in the dry deciduous forests, but nowhere common; attains its best growth in the Bombay region.
USES: Has largely replaced Brazilian rosewood (because it is increasingly difficult to obtain) as a tonewood of choice for guitars and other instruments.
Other uses include: agricultural implements, artificial limbs, backs, bank fittings, bearings & bushings, bedroom suites, boat building (general), boats, bobbins, boxes and crates, brush, brush backs, cabinetmaking, cabinetry, cabinetwork, carpenters’ tools, carvings, chairs, chests, concealed parts (furniture), core stock, cutlery, decorative boxes, decorative flooring, decorative items, decorative veneers, desks, dining-room furniture, door, dowell pins, dowells, drawer pulls, drawer sides, drum sticks, excelsior, exterior joinery, figured veneers, fine furniture, fixtures, floor lamps, flooring, food containers, fuelwood, furniture, furniture components, furniture squares or stock, handles, hatracks, heavy construction, high quality furniture, high-end architectural woodwork, high-end paneling, including furniture, inlay, joinery, kitchen cabinets, light construction, living-room suites, marquetry, matches, mathematical instruments, measuring devices, mine timbers, musical instruments, office furniture, organ pipes, paneled doors, paneling, piano keys, pianos, picker sticks, plain veneer, plywood, plywood: veneer (marine), poles, pulp/paper products, quality turnery, radio, radio - stereo - tv cabinets, railroad ties, rustic furniture, scandinavian-style furniture, sculpture, shade rollers, shop, shuttles, skis, sounding boards, specialty items, spindles, spools, sporting goods, stencil & chisel blocks, stereo, stools, structural work, sucker rods, tables, textile equipment, tool handles, toys, turned knobs, turnery, tv cabinets, umbrella handles, utility furniture, vehicle parts, veneer, violin, violin bows, walking sticks, wardrobes, wheel spokes, wheels, xylophones
TREE: trees can be large, but tree size varies by location and growing conditions. At its tallest, the tree is 100 feet with clear, cylindrical boles 35 to 50 ft in length; diameters may reach 5 ft, more often 2.5 ft or less.
WEIGHT: reports range from 46 to 60 lbs/ft3 with an average weight of 53 pounds per cubic foot
DRYING: The timber seasons well with no appreciable degrade and is reported to dry defect-free in log form, but it must be protected against too rapid drying, to avoid surface checking and end-splitting.
Existing shakes may extend during drying. Degrade can be minimized during air-drying by the application of end-coatings. Logs with calcerous deposits are more prone to checking. The color of the timber reportedly improves during drying.
AVAILABILITY: Although some reports say it is only exported as turning squares or components for musical instruments, I have found it in limited availability in small plank form. The veneer is also very limited in availability.
TOXICITY: the dust is reportedly amongst the most irritating, debilitating, allergy provoking of any timber with possible skin and eye irritation.
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"Indian rosewood is a heavy timber with high-strength properties and is particularly hard for its weight after being thoroughly seasoned."
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Size is usually quite good with quarters in the 8"-12" width category and plain sliced wood up to 24" in width. Lengths of ten to twelve feet are common ... it has largely replaced the other rosewoods as a favourite insturment back and sides wood due to its wonderful appearance, tone and ready availability. It closely resembles Brazillian Rosewood in tone, having slightly richer mid-high harmonics but less clarity.
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Although East Indian Rosewood had been used for guitar backs and sides for many decades it came into very common usage starting in the mid-1960s when the more well known Brazilian Rosewood became less available in the quantities needed for large scale guitar production. High quality Indian Rosewood logs
were plentiful and commercially available to the major markets when the Brazilian government stopped the export of Brazilian Rosewood logs. Fortunately for us all – guitar manufacturers large and small – Indian Rosewood was also found to be an excellent alternative to Brazilian Rosewood both visually and tonally.
The vast majority of the higher quality steel string and classical guitars made over the last thirty years have been made in Indian Rosewood. Even many of the top classical guitar makers – Romanillos, Fleta, Friederich, Gilbert – prefer it to Brazilian Rosewood.