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  • Ziricote is one of the most popular, visually striking exotic woods in the world. Renown 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.

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    Sustainability: Not currently listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. That said, given the recent poaching epidemic taking place in Mexico over the last several years, this status — as well as other Mexican woods, such as Bocote, Camatillo and Katalox — could be changing in the very near future.

    Common Uses: Furniture, veneer, cabinetry, flooring / parquee flooring, gunstocks, musical instruments (in particular, guitars), entrance doors, turnings, decorative beams, trim and small specialty items.

    Comments: 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. It truly is an oddly unique — ‘exotic’ in the truest sense — wood with an allure and mystique all its own.

    While it has never been an inexpensive wood, recent revelations of epidemic poaching across Mexico has 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.

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  • Zebrawood is a tough, durable, visually striking West African wood whose heartwood base color — which can range from tan to a dull pale yellow, to a muted off-white / almost gray hue, depending on specific region and consitions of growth — is decorated by dark brown striping of varying degrees (ranging to almost black), hince its name. The striping is typically long and fairly uniform when the wood is quartersawn, but wavy and irradic when flatsawn. Sapwood is easily distinguishable (by its lack of striping, naturally) and is usually a light, pale white color.

    Its coarse, open-poured texture combined with its wavy and/or interlocked grain patterns can make planing a challenge. (… as well as finishing, if filling all surface pores is requisite.) For any sort of resawing or surfacing, blades and cutting tools should be at their sharpest to minimize tearout. The wood glues well and usually possesses a pleasant, moderate to high luster, which can make for impressive finishing.

    While its demand is based almost exclusively on its aesthetic appeal, Zebrawood is a strong, stiff lumber, once dry.

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    Sustainability: This species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, but is classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: High-end furniture, veneer, musical instruments (in particular, guitars), skis, handles, and turned objects.

    Comments: While flatsawing the lumber can yield some quite dramatic aesthetic results, quartersawn lumber provides maximum (and sometimes much needed) stability. The species is known to be difficult to dry, with pieces sometimes warping during the kiln drying process. Tiny pockets of small void areas, also, are not uncommon along the darker striped areas — especially among flatsawn boards.

    Zebrawood’s trademark aesthetics have made it very popular with veneer mills around the world. However, great care is required when handling, to avoid it cracking.

    The wood’s popularity keeps it in steady demand, which makes it moderately expensive in spite of a generally steady supply in the US.

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  • 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.

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    Sustainability: Listed in CITES Appendix II, and reported as “Vulnerable” to “Near Threatened” (depending on specific species) by the IUCN; part of the Dalbergia -genus worldwide exportation ban.

    Common Uses: Veneer, musical instruments, boats and shipbuilding, furniture, cabinetry, trim work, flooring, inlays, carving, turned objects, and other small specialty wood items.

    Comments: There are four distinctly different Dalbergia species which are all commonly called “Madagascar Rosewood.” Back in the 1990’s, wood poaching on the African island of Madagascar reached epidemic proportions. Logging and exportation of the wood was banned, in response, in 2000, but was lifted in 2012, in the aftermath of major political upheaval in 2009. Madagascar Rosewood’s exportation was once again banned in 2015, but between an unwaivering demand for the lumber and continuing poverty throughout the region, the illegal logging trade has continued (despite bans).

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  • 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.

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    Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: Commercial & residential flooring, veneer, musical instruments, furniture, cabinetry, turned objects, carvings, interior utility wood applications and miscellaneous wood specialty items.

    Comments: For more than a century, Hard Maple has remained the preferred choice for commercial flooring in the US for applications — such as gymnasiums, bowling alleys, dance halls and any more — where light-color, strength and toughness are requisite qualities. It is the strongest and densest of all the commercial maple species.

    Its trees are also known as “Sugar Maple,” being the primary species tapped for maple syrup.

    Use caution, be slow and patient, and pay careful attention when cutting or sanding any maple species with high-RPM machinery, as its surface can burn.

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  • 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.

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    Sustainability: This species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, but is classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: Veneer, plywood, furniture, cabinetry, flooring, boatbuilding, utility wood, musical instruments, turned objects, and other small wooden specialty items.

    Comments: Sapele makes a great alternative to Honduran (“Genuine”) Mahogany. Prices for it are significantly less than its genuine counterpart; with the current export restrictions being imposed on mahoganies in Central America, Sapele (despite being exported from Africa) has become much easier to source.

    Sapele works, turns and finishes beautifully. Aesthetically, it can be a stunning wood. Its modest price tag makes it an inviting choice, although highly-figured (such as waterfall and pommele) pieces can sometimes command very high prices.

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  • 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.

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    Sustainability: This species is in CITES Appendix II, and is listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List.

    Common Uses: Furniture, cabinetry, turned objects, veneer, musical instruments, boatbuilding, and carvings.

    Comments: Once a mainstay in the cabinetry, furniture and guitar building industries, here in the US, Genuine Mahogany has become increasingly more difficult to source since its inclusion in CITES’ Appendix II, in 2003. It is still imported, although a significantly high percentage are of plantation-grown origin — which is less desirable and considered to be of inferior quality to that grown in native habitats.

    While the net effect of all this has been to create a ‘mahogany substitute’ segment of the exotic wood import industry — bringing woods such as Sapele and African Mahogany more into favor — the demand for Genuine Mahogany hasn’t waned.

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  • African Mahogany is a wood that continues to grow in popularity — so much so that this new millennium has seen its various species be replanted into tropical regions in Central America, as well as becoming a contemporary plantation roster addition. Depending on its origin, growth conditions and specific strain (“African Mahogany” encompasses four different Khaya species), it color can range from a pale pink or muted orange, to a somewhat darker reddish- or golden-brown. It can also have darker striping, and, aesthetically, it can be further enhanced through figuring (ribbon; wavy diagonal; mottled) and varying levels of chatoyance.

    Its grains are typically either straight or interlocked. It works, turns and finishes easily, and beautifully, although boards which feature interlocked grains can occasionally pose tearout issues when planing, joining or resawing.

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    Sustainability: This species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, but is listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. (Given recent upsurges in supply, it may be due for a reevaluation.)

    Common Uses: Veneer, plywood, turned items, furniture, boatbuilding, electric guitar building, and interior trim.

    Comments: This is another commercially important wood to the African continent. It has been traditionally used there in numerous applications, and is considered a strong, tough, durable wood.

    Its being utilized as a Genuine Mahogany substitute has seen its popularity and demand increase, leading to plantation-grown lumber and its various species being transplanted into tropical regions across Latin America. Its ‘mahogany substitute’ status is a valid, justified one: the wood possesses many of the same structural and aesthetic qualities as Honduran Mahogany.

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  • Leopardwood/Lacewood 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.

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    Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: Veneer, cabinetry, fine furniture, musical instruments (mostly guitars), and turned objects.

    Comments: Leopardwood is often confused with Lacewood as they have a similar “leopard-like” pattern, but it is considerably heavier and denser.

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  • Similar to that of Sapele and Tiama, this West African species is fine grained with a tendency to interlock.  We only 45x50mm blocks left, so get some of this slightly unusual Mahogany substitute while you can.

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    Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common uses: High class joinery, shopfitting, furniture .

    Comments: A good substitute if Sapele is in short supply.

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  • Brazilian Kingwood is the second most-dense of the Dalbergia species (with African Blackwood being first). As is the case with many such woods of exceeding density, logs have a tendency to split from the center, outward, after being cut. Because of this, it is rare to find boards of any substantial size without defects; cracks and internal checks and tear-out are not uncommon. Grains are typically straight, though they can occasionally be wavy or interlocked. It has a fine, even texture and a high natural luster.

    Its heartwood can vary from a muted orange- to reddish-brown, with dark brown or black thin stripes. Sapwood typically has a yellow tint and is commonly seen in boards.

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    Sustainability: This species is listed in CITES Appendix II , but is not yet in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: Inlays, veneers, musical instruments, tool handles, gun & knife handles, turned objects, and specialty items.

    Comments: Although not considered endangered, Brazilian Kingwood is an exotic rosewood which has consistently been quite difficult to access in the US in anything other than small craft-sized pieces. It is a tough, durable wood — very resistant to both rot, and bug and worm infestation — making it a popular choice for custom gun handles. Its density makes it hard on cutting tools and saw blades, and it can be difficult to glue, due to its high natural oil content.

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  • Kiaat is closely related to African Padauk (both are species of the Pterocarpus genus), sharing its characteristics of being durable, extremely stable and easy workability. The wood is renowned for its great bug and termite resistance.

    Although Kiaat is considerably less dense (than Padauk), it has an impressive strength-to-weight ratio which (combined with its durability) makes it a very versatile, useful wood — suitable for a great variety of applications. Its heartwood color can vary from a light golden brown to a medium brown with a reddish or purplish tint. Grains can be straight, wavy or interlocked; its texture ranges from fine to medium, with a nice natural luster. Kiaat has very good working properties, and turns, glues and finishes well.

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    Sustainability: This species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, but is classified by the IUCN as being “Near Threatened.”

    Common Uses: Furniture, boatbuilding, veneer, turnings, and other small wooden objects.

    Comments: Kiaat has been utilized for centuries in a variety of applications in its native Africa. It is renowned for its strength and durability. It has extremely low shrinkage rates, and is considered to be a very dimensionally-stable wood.

    Its relatively small tree size make larger boards difficult, if not impossible, to access, with small craft pieces being more commonly found.

    This is a wood which remains very rarely seen in the US.

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  • The trees which produce this light-colored Southeast Asian softwood are better known for their sap being tapped and used in the production of latex. The wood is popular with carvers who know of it, as its lack of density makes it very easy to work, the wood has excellent dimensional stability and it holds a stain or finish very well. Any applications should be limited to those of the indoor variety, as the wood is decidedly non-durable.

    Its generally straight (though occasionally interlocked) grains, fine to medium-fine, consistent texture and nice natural luster render exceptional working and finishing properties.

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    Sustainability: This species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is reported by the IUCN as being a species of least concern.

    Common Uses: Latex production, patternmaking, carving, utility and small specialty wood items.

    Comments: Before chewing gum manufacturers went the synthetic route, the latex derived from the Dyera Costulata trees’ sap kept the species in steady demand. In the SE Asian region to which it is indigenous, the wood is used in much the same fashion as Basswood.

    Trees can grow to towering heights, so sizable boards are not uncommon. (… although finding available lumber in the US is uncommon.)

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