Brazilian Rosewood (Dalbergia nigra)

Brazilian Rosewood (Dalbergia nigra)

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Common Name(s): Brazilian Rosewood, Bahia Rosewood, Jacaranda

Scientific Name: Dalbergia nigra

Distribution: Brazil

Tree Size: 100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall, 3-4 ft (1-1.2 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 52 lbs/ft3 (835 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .68, .84

Janka Hardness: 2,790 lbf (12,410 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 19,570 lbf/in2 (135.0 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 2,020,000 lbf/in2 (13.93 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 9,740 lbf/in2 (67.2 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 2.9%, Tangential: 4.6%, Volumetric: 8.5%, T/R Ratio: 1.6

Color/Appearance: Brazilian Rosewood can vary in color from a darker chocolate brown to a lighter purplish or reddish brown, with darker contrasting streaks. The black streaks can sometimes form a unique grain pattern that is sometimes referred to as “spider-webbing” or “landscape,” very similar to Ziricote. Lighter yellowish sapwood is clearly demarcated from the heartwood.

Grain/Texture: Brazilian Rosewood has a uniform, medium to coarse texture with medium-sized open pores. The grain tends to be straight, but can occasionally be interlocked, spiraled, or wavy.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; medium to very large pores in no specific arrangement; solitary and radial multiples of 2-3; mineral deposits occasionally present; growth rings indistinct; rays not visible without lens; parenchyma banded (seemingly marginal), apotracheal parenchyma diffuse-in-aggregates, paratracheal parenchyma vasicentric, sometimes weakly aliform.

Rot Resistance: Heartwood is rated as very durable to decay resistance, and is also resistant to insect attack.

Workability: Easy to work with both hand and machine tools, though it may have a slight blunting effect on cutting edges.  Brazilian Rosewood turns, and finishes well, though it can sometimes be difficult to glue due to its high natural oil content.

Odor: Has a distinct, rose-like scent when being worked.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Brazilian Rosewood has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions simply include eye and skin irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Likely to be very expensive, and from questionable sources. Trade of Brazilian Rosewood is highly regulated, and sales are generally limited to reclaimed or pre-existing pieces of lumber.

Sustainability: Brazilian Rosewood is listed in CITES Appendix I, which is the most restrictive appendix, and also includes finished products made of the wood. It is the only species whose listing supersedes the already restrictive genus-wide restriction on all Dalbergia species listed in appendix II. It is also listed on the IUCN Red List as vulnerable due to a population reduction of over 20% in the past three generations, caused by a decline in its natural range, and exploitation.

Common Uses: Veneer, fine furniture, cabinetry, flooring, musical instruments (acoustic guitars, piano cases, etc.), turned objects, and other small wooden specialty items.

Comments: Brazilian Rosewood, like other exploited hardwoods such as Cuban Mahogany or Teak, has earned worldwide fame. Historically, it has perhaps been the species most frequently associated with the term “Rosewood,” and with its strength, hardness, stability, beauty, and acoustic properties, it’s easy to see why Dalbergia nigra has been used for everything from flooring to xylophone keys.

Due to the high demand and limited supply of Brazilian Rosewood, and its continued exploitation in recent decades, it has been listed in the most restrictive category of endangered species: CITES Appendix I. Not only is the lumber restricted from being imported or exported from country to country, but even finished products made of Brazilian Rosewood may not cross international boundaries.

Because of these heavy (yet justifiable) restrictions, several substitutes from the Dalbergia genus have been used in recent years, such as East Indian Rosewood, Honduran Rosewood, and Cocobolo; though perhaps the closest rosewood in terms of color and appearance may be Amazon Rosewood (Dalbergia spruceana)—another hard-to-find and pricey rosewood, though not CITES listed as Brazilian Rosewood.

Related Species:

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures:

Brazilian Rosewood (Dalbergia nigra)

Brazilian Rosewood (sanded)

Brazilian Rosewood (sealed)

Brazilian Rosewood (sealed)

Brazilian Rosewood (endgrain)

Brazilian Rosewood (endgrain)

Brazilian Rosewood (endgrain 10x)

Brazilian Rosewood (endgrain 10x)

  • Leslie Edelman

    Can anyone tell me if this is rosewood, and if so, what kind??
    No one seems to be able to tell me!

  • Looks like Cocobolo to me, at least in terms of the color and pattern. Is it real wood, and is it solid? Might want to check out: http://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/wood-identification-guide/

  • Trevor Bone

    Cocobolo is well known for its beautiful coloration. Even though i’ve only worked with cocobolo twice.

    You may try to smell it, most rosewoods have they’re own distinct smell.

  • Bud Savoie

    As a pipe smoker, I have seen several pipes made of rosewood listed on ebay. On a pipe-smokers list, a woodworker said that rosewood pipes should never be smoked, due to irritant and allergic qualities. The type of rosewood these pipes are made of is never specified in the offerings; but at least two oldish pipe books sing the praises of rosewood pipes, calling the smoking effect “hypnotic” and “soporific.” One of the books specifies the Brazilian rosetree, or “palissandre” in French. Is this hazardous to smoke? Should “rosewood” pipes be avoided?

  • Bud,
    I think they may have been referring to the allergic properties of the wood coming into contact with your mouth. It’s all relative I suppose, depending on the amount of risk you’re willing to take with contacting the wood on a regular basis. It’s a very similar concern to that of using rosewood for mouthpieces to woodwind instruments.

  • Leslie Edelman

    Can anyone tell me if this is rosewood, and if so, what kind??
    No one seems to be able to tell me!

  • mike

    that looks like dalbergia nigra. And it is definitely veneer. I recently saw a piece I made in 1981 & the colour had lightened, similar to your picture

  • johnny guitar

    C’mon man!, even if there is some kind of shortage, just plant more trees! It’s not like it’s gold or silver – it is a renewable resource for crying out loud, you plant the seedling and it grows into big tree, chop down tree, make guitars, plant more! Repeat.

    • ejmeier

      Not exactly. It’s more like: plant more trees, and your GRANDKIDS will chop them down. Not exactly a practical solution, especially since there are other tree species that can be harvested much sooner, and will be more financially profitable.

    • Dave Burrows

      Right. Plant more trees. That sounds simple enough. How many have you planted by the way? But until disadvantaged people in developing countries are no longer exploited, threatened, even murdered for the wood you want for your guitars, maybe you could do the planet a favor, and consider sustainable alternatives for crying out loud.

      • Donald Gran.

        AMAZING! Thanks for setting the stupid ones straight. These trees are also very environmentally specific. Their natural habitat is being destroyed by city growth. Its almost impossible to effectively bring back the population of these trees within the foreseeable future. However I would like to think that some day they’ll be back to their full strength and everyone can responsibly enjoy this beautiful wood.

        • Dave Burrows

          City growth. Is that the sanitized euphemism for rain forest destruction these days? But, I wouldn’t say stupid; I’d say self-involved, reckless, irresponsible, even naive, but not stupid. You’re correct about their environmental specificity, and that can be said for many of if not most of the endangered species of flora & fauna. I also agree that bringing these trees back to sustainable populations will be difficult, and maybe impossible.

          Their endangerment is partially caused by complex economics of impoverished nations who need every bit of export money they can get; any government can put a stop to the export of any part of any species whether newly harvested, or antique. (See CITES, Appendix iii http://www.cites.org/eng/app/appendices.php, and if the species is in appendix i, then no part of it may legally cross any border anywhere in the world.)

          It’s also partially caused by woodworkers & collectors who will pay increasingly exorbitant prices for rare woods, especially the ebonies of the genus Diospyros, and the true rosewoods of the genus Dalbergia, but there are other species, too, and they are almost all familiar species; wenge, Peruvian walnut & zebrawood are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (http://www.iucnredlist.org/search). As hardwood species become rarer, their price naturally increases. As it does, people’s lives are increasingly put at risk.

          In Madagascar where both ebony & rosewood are legally
          harvested, for example, a man was murdered while trying to protect them from illegal
          logging practices. He is now considered a martyr, and candlelight vigils are held where he was killed. In Cambodia, a 14 year old girl, and a journalist
          were killed for trying to safeguard endangered trees. These stories
          are becoming less isolated, and they are recent.

          The deforestation of their habitat in the name of development for the sake of the profit of a very few is stealing from the rest of us something from which we can never recover; the flagrant, careless extinction of who-knows-how-many species. This has never before happened in the history of the planet, and no one knows how it will affect our future however certain of their own soothsaying – on either side – they may be.

          Johnny’s fault isn’t that he wants the prestige and/or pleasure that comes with owning, or perhaps building beautiful guitars that some argue have tonal qualities unlike any other woods. It’s that he seems to think the problem of their endangerment can be so easily solved. That’s a problem because it allows him not to give a shit, and thus, to continue contributing to their endangerment. How about you? I can’t tell where you’re coming from. Do you give a shit?

        • Arcanek

          i don’t think that the deforestation is due to city growth. And the main culprits in culling D nigra were the Japanes, who used helicopters to deforsetremote, hard to access locations.

      • Animorf Kawadias

        Yeah do not think you understand, how long it takes for a tree to reach maturity. Even if it’s a fast growing tree, which Brazilian rosewood is not. The time to plant a Brazilian rosewood tree, was 20 years ago. And still would not have the quality of a Brazilian rosewood tree that was say 500 or more years old. As at 20 years it would be inferior to an older tree.

    • slowhand15

      johnny guitar doesn’t know where they grow……
      Dalbergia nigra needs a habitat of wet and damp (hygrophilous) forest on rich soils to thrive. It is only found in the Atlantic Forest of southeastern Brazil, from southern Bahia to Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro.
      It struggles anywhere else.

      • Bill Irwin

        … Dalbergia Nigra, also known as a Jacaranda, is prevalent all over Southern California, they are purple flowering trees that you would not want to park your car under. They are also growing in Japan. There is no difference between Brazilian and non Brazilian wood, which is a HUGE issue for luthiers. Back in the 1970s, Martin made about 50 guitars using Jacaranda, and those who owned Brazilian Rosewood Martins screamed so loud, they never made another. Yamaha is the only large guitar maker that currently builds using Jacaranda (they have never built a Brazilian Rosewood Guitar), and they are very specific in their Jacaranda description. There is plenty of Jacaranda (typically younger trees), very little Brazilian Rosewood, same genus, same wood, same characteristics, but grow in different areas. I am lucky enough to own a guitar made with Brazilian Rosewood, it has Emerald Green streaks when lit up with a flashlight.

  • Peter

    Unfortunately these trees are quite tender when young , they need to be grown in places of high humidity , and shelter from direct light, the forest floor is a dark and moist and a constant 23 degrees centigrade . In other words , if you want this tree you have to supply the forest .

  • tcvarlh

    I have been offered a pipe made from this (supposedly) Being as the wood has a high oil content Does anyone think that smoking it may not be healthy?

  • Eduardo Maia

    I have a wood plank of approximately 40 years old (38 X 16 X 1,5 inches), that looks very similar to Brazilian Rosewood. It was part of my grandfather’s woodworking workbench. Anybody see any similarities with Brazilian Rosewood? By the way, i live in Brazil. Here’s some photos (the photo with the scale is in 0,5mmm and the diferences in color are because of the camera flash) :
    http://i1007.photobucket.com/albums/af193/edumaia/IMG_00111_zpsfd943469.jpg
    http://i1007.photobucket.com/albums/af193/edumaia/IMG_00110_zps3d312092.jpg
    http://i1007.photobucket.com/albums/af193/edumaia/IMG_00108_zpsbf8038c7.jpg
    http://i1007.photobucket.com/albums/af193/edumaia/IMG_00095_zpse4279598.jpg
    http://i1007.photobucket.com/albums/af193/edumaia/IMG_00086_zps684b21e0.jpg
    http://i1007.photobucket.com/albums/af193/edumaia/IMG_00064_zps7a5e5cb8.jpg

    • ejmeier

      More than likely not Brazilian Rosewood. From the endgrain, the pores appear to be too small and too numerous.

      If you’ve sanded it or worked with it, have you noticed any distinct scent? I don’t know if you’ve smelled rosewood before, but it’s a memorable scent.

      • Eduardo Maia

        The wood dust from the plank have a very pleasant scent, but i never smelled rosewood before.

        • Arcanek

          Brazilian rose has an almosy chocolate like sweetness to it.

    • Eduardo Maia

      A professor from a Brazilian University (ESALQ) identified it as Imbuia.

      • ejmeier

        Makes perfect sense. Imbuia also has a distinct scent.

  • Eduardo Maia

    A guitar maker (Frankie Montuoro) claims to be using a wood very similar
    do Brazilian Rosewood called “Conscia Silva”. I live in Brazil and
    never heard about any wood with that name. Does anyone here knows what
    wood is that? Here’s the article where the Luthier talks about that
    wood: https://www.fretboardjournal.com/columns/bench-press-frankie-montuoros-bench-copies/

    • ejmeier

      I have no idea; this is one of the pitfalls of using common names instead of including a latin name, as they very frequently can get confused and provide no help in finding the exact wood species.

      I will say that the statement “belongs to the same plant genus as Dalbergia nigra with respect to being in the Legume and Fabaceae family” is very misleading. I am guessing he just got his terminology wrong when he said “genus” because later he clarifies that it is actually the “family” (Fabaceae) that he was talking about. This plant family includes hundreds of genera and literally tens of thousands of widely differing species. To say that it belongs to the same family as Brazilian Rosewood is just a small step away from saying that it belongs to the same family of plants that produces trees that make wood. It doesn’t narrow it down much.