Rosewoods are the preeminent and valued group of woods available to woodworkers and craftspeople. Members of the genus Dalbergia, they are noted for their striking beauty and the distinct ‘rose-like’ scent produced when they are freshly cut.
When early sea trade brought these valuable timbers to Europe, they were quickly assimilated into the woodworking industry and changed the existing aesthetics of furniture design. Demand led to over exploitation and the Rosewoods are now rare and protected. Brazilian Tulipwood, a true rosewood, shares this interesting history.
There are few woods that compare to Avodire when it comes to the number of spectacular figures available to the woodworker. Wood and veneer showing bird’s eye, block mottle, crotch, curly, fiddleback and swirl configurations have all been produced by this African tree.
Avodire is native to west central Africa, with countries of the Ivory Coast being the prime producers. Avodire grows to 115 feet high with trunk diameters of 2 to 3 feet. It is known to produce clear boles up to 50 feet in height. It prefers moist environments and is typically found near lakes and rivers.
Ambrosia Maple is not a species of maple, rather it is a term that describes a distinctive figure common to soft maples produced by a beetle and a fungus. On infected wood, you will see small holes typically 1 mm in diameter. Surrounding the holes are greyish wisps of fungal stain that resemble puffs of smoke or flames. These puffs travel away from the hole up and down in a vertical direction. The overall look is unique; some woodworkers will like it, others may not.
Endemic to tropical West Africa, African Walnut is a large tree growing to heights of 150 feet. African Walnut logs typically have long branch-free trunks with diameters up to 4 feet. These trees will provide lots of lumber in decent lengths and widths. The grain is usually interlocked which will produce a shimmering ribbon stripe on quartersawn material.
The heartwood colours range from a golden yellow to reddish brown, often overlayed with dark black streaks. Upon exposure to light and air, the colour will darken to a deeper brown. The sapwood is a yellow to light gray and is sharply demarcated from the heartwood. Occasionally, there is a narrow colour transition zone present between the sapwood and the heartwood.
Iroko is a magnificent tree found growing in tropical Africa. Many woodworkers are familiar with it as a substitute for genuine Teak (Tectona grandis). While it does share some visual and structural characteristics with Teak, it should also be appreciated for its own merits.
Typically, two species are commercially harvested as Iroko (Milicia excelsa and Milicia regia). They typically grow to heights of 130 feet with diameters of 3 to 5 feet. Exceptional individual trees can be 160 feet tall with 8-foot diameters. The trunk of the tree is often clear of branches for the first 70 feet of growth. Iroko trees will produce large amounts of lumber in excellent lengths and widths. It also dries well with little degrade.