Common Name(s): Bubinga, kevazingo, African rosewood
Scientific Name: Guibourtia spp., the three principal species are G. demeusei, G. pellegriniana, and G. tessmannii
Distribution: Equatorial Africa
Tree Size: 130-150 ft (40-45 m) tall,
3-6 ft (1-2 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 56 lbs/ft3 (890 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): 0.72, 0.89
Janka Hardness: 2,410 lbf (10,720 N)
Modulus of Rupture: 24,410 lbf/in2 (168.3 MPa)
Elastic Modulus: 2,670,000 lbf/in2 (18.41 GPa)
Crushing Strength: 10,990 lbf/in2 (75.8 MPa)
Shrinkage: Radial: 6.0%, Tangential: 8.2%,
Volumetric: 13.9%, T/R Ratio: 1.4
Color/Appearance: Heartwood ranges from a pinkish red to a darker reddish brown with darker purple or black streaks. Sapwood is a pale straw color and is clearly demarcated from the heartwood. Bubinga is very frequently seen with a variety of figure, including pommele, flamed, waterfall, quilted, mottled, etc.
Grain/Texture: Grain is straight to interlocked. Has a uniform fine to medium texture and moderate natural luster.
Rot Resistance: Ranges from moderately durable to very durable depending upon the the species. Bubinga is also reported to be resistant to termite and marine borer attack.
Workability: Easy to work overall, though depending upon the species bubinga can have silica present, which can prematurely dull cutting edges. Also, on pieces with figured or interlocking grain, tearout can occur during planing or other machining operations. Gluing can occasionally be problematic due to bubinga’s high density and natural oils. Turns and finishes well.
Odor: Bubinga is reported to have an unpleasant scent when the lumber is still wet, which disappears after the wood is dry.
Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, bubinga has been reported to cause skin irritation and/or skin lesions in some individuals. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
Pricing/Availability: Despite being an endangered species, bubinga continues to have decent availability in North America. Prices for unfigured wood are in the mid range for an imported hardwood. Figured grain patterns such as waterfall, pommele, etc. are much more expensive.
Sustainability: The three Guibourtia species yielding bubinga are listed on CITES appendix II—which also includes finished products made of the wood (though non-commercial finished items under 10 kilograms are exempted). Additionally, of the three bubinga species, two of them (G. pellegriniana and G. tessmannii) are on the IUCN Red List as endangered, while the third, G. demeusei, is listed as near threatened.
Common Uses: Veneer, inlays, fine furniture, cabinetry, turnings, and other specialty items. Since bubinga trees can grow so large, natural-edge slabs of the wood have also been used in tabletops and other specialized projects.
Comments: An immensely popular imported African hardwood, bubinga may be loved as much for its quirky name as it is for its strength and beauty. The wood is sometimes called kevazingo, a name usually applied to its decorative rotary-cut veneer. In addition to its myriad grain patterns, its strength-to-weight ratio (specifically its MOR) also ranks among the very best in the world.
Bubinga has a close resemblance to rosewood, and is sometimes called African rosewood—though this name is more commonly applied to another Guibourtia species, Guibourtia coleosperma. However, its similarity to true rosewoods has been a double-edged sword, as the wood has been heavily exploited in recent years in the Chinese hongmu (rosewood) market—resulting in a ban not only on true rosewoods, but also bubinga as well.
Images: Drag the slider up/down to toggle between raw and finished wood. The first sample shows a typical quartersawn piece, while the second is a flatsawn sample, and the third is a figured piece known as waterfall bubinga.
Porosity: diffuse porous
Arrangement: solitary and radial multiples; sometimes with decreasing pore frequency in latewood
Vessels: large, very few; brownish deposits occasionally present
Parenchyma: vasicentric, lozenge, confluent, and banded (marginal)
Rays: narrow to medium width; normal spacing
Lookalikes/Substitutes: Figured pieces can sometimes be confused with sapele (Entandrophragma cylindricum) as the two can have similar pommele and rippled figuring. However, sapele has much wider and more frequent parenchyma bands (as well as a distinct cedar-like odor), while bubinga’s banding tends to be narrower, and only at growth ring margins.
Notes: Heartwood fluorescent to weakly fluorescent when viewed under blacklight, though this is variable depending on the species.