Ipe (Tabebuia spp.)

Ipe (Handroanthus spp.)

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Common Name(s): Ipe, Brazilian Walnut, Lapacho

Scientific Name: Handroanthus spp. (formerly placed in the Tabebuia genus)

Distribution: Tropical Americas (Central and South America); also farmed commercially

Tree Size: 100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall, 2-4 ft (.6-1.2 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 69 lbs/ft3 (1,100 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .91, 1.10

Janka Hardness: 3,510 lbf (15,620 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 25,660 lbf/in2 (177.0 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 3,200,000 lbf/in2 (22.07 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 13,600 lbf/in2 (93.8 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 5.9%, Tangential: 7.2%, Volumetric: 12.4%, T/R Ratio: 1.2

Color/Appearance: Heartwood can vary in color from reddish brown, to a more yellowish olive brown or darker blackish brown; sometimes with contrasting darker brown/black stripes. In certain species, there are powdery yellow deposits within the wood. Ipe can be difficult to distinguish visually from Cumaru, another dense South American timber, though Ipe tends to be darker, and lacks the subtle yet characteristic vanilla/cinnamon scent while being worked.

Grain/Texture: Has a fine to medium texture, with the grain varying from straight to irregular or interlocked. Moderate natural luster.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; solitary and radial multiples; medium to large pores in no specific arrangement, moderately numerous to numerous; tyloses and mineral/gum deposits occasionally present; parenchyma unilateral, winged, and marginal; narrow rays, spacing normal; ripple marks present.

Rot Resistance: Rated as very durable; excellent insect resistance, though some species are susceptible to marine borers. Superb weathering characteristics. (Ipe was used for the boardwalk along the beach of New York City’s Coney Island, and was said to have lasted 25 years before it needed to be replaced: an amazing lifespan given the amount of traffic and environmental stresses put upon the wood.)

Workability: Overall, Ipe is a difficult wood to work, being extremely hard and dense, with high cutting resistance during sawing. Ipe also has a pronounced blunting effect on cutting edges. The wood generally planes smoothly, but the grain can tearout on interlocked areas. Also, Ipe can be difficult to glue properly, and surface preparation prior to gluing is recommended. Straight-grained wood turns well, though the natural powdery yellow deposits can sometimes interfere with polishing or finishing the wood.

Odor: Ipe has a mild scent while being worked.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Ipe has been reported to cause skin, eye, and respiratory irritation, as well as other effects such as headaches, asthma-like symptoms, and/or disturbance of vision. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Primarily sold as decking or flooring, boards for furniture or general use are sometimes availabe as well. Prices are moderate for an imported tropical species.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, Ipe species grow in very low densities, with mature trees only occurring once per 300,000 to 1,000,000 square feet (3 to 10 hectares) of forest area. This necessitates the clearing of large sections of rainforest trees (most of which are of little commercial value). Though uncommon, certified sources of Ipe are available.

Common Uses: Flooring, decking, exterior lumber, veneer, tool handles, and other turned objects.

Comments: Ipe is a wood of extremes: extremely dense and durable, as well as extremely difficult to work. Its incredible hardness and strength make it well suited for flooring applications, though it is referred to as “Brazilian Walnut” among flooring dealers—though it is not related to true Walnut in the Juglans genus.

Formerly placed in the Tabebuia genus, species of Ipe (H. guayacan, H. impetiginosus, H. serratifolius) were moved to the Handroanthus genus in 2007 based on genetic studies

Related Species:

None available.

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures:

Ipe (sanded)

Ipe (sanded)

Ipe (sealed)

Ipe (sealed)

Ipe (endgrain)

Ipe (endgrain)

Ipe (endgrain 10x)

Ipe (endgrain 10x)

  • david williamson

    Hi used ipe on a decking , lovely to work with although very hard, smells a bit like corn , does effect breathing and would say use a mask. After returning to the job its turned that lovely grey colour. expensive but worth it.

    • Rot Resistance: Rated as very durable; excellent insect resistance, though some species are susceptible to marine borers. Superb weathering characteristics. (Ipe was used for the boardwalk along the beach of New York City’s Coney Island, and was said to have lasted 25 years before it needed to be replaced: an amazing lifespan given the amount of traffic and environmental stresses put upon the wood.)

  • Duane Keck

    Dave:
    I have a piece of IPE ( 7 3/4″ x 8 3/8″ x 2 3/4″)at home that has a density of 1.12 SpG.

    Duane Keck

    • Carla Mahl Kelly

      I make drumsticks for dunduns (West African hand drumming). We often beat the sticks on 1/4″ steel hoops on the sides of our drums and that will tear up almost any wood, no matter how hard (ebonies, rosewoods, lignum vitae, etc.). After four years worth of research for a tough-enough wood, I found ipe. This stuff is not only enormously hard and heavy (as you noted), but tremendously acoustic and TOUGH. I test all of my blanks by taking a piece @ 1/2″ square and @ 14″ long, put on a glove to protect my hand, and bang it repeatedly against a rock or cement to try and break it. If it doesn’t break or crack, it becomes a drumstick. The loss rate of blanks is about 2%–that’s how tough this stuff is. I can’t imagine why one would want to use a finish of any kind on it–doesn’t splinter, crack, etc. It’s the only wood I know of that can weather without damage. Awesome wood!

      • Carla Mahl Kelly

        BTW, here is a picture of some of the sticks I make. I use the hardest, darkest, straightest heartwood I can find. Then I fine-sand them to a gloss and apply a bit of wax and buff. The design is a rounded-off square, which is done to prevent them from rolling and also to aid in gripping when the drummers’ hands sweat (any rough grip like knurling is out because it would also cause abrasion). The sticks are so hard, smooth and heavy that they feel almost like stone or metal in the hand and are incredibly acoustic.

      • Don Medford

        Just curious, if dunduns are West African hand drums, why do you need drumsticks?

        • Carla Mahl Kelly

          Don,
          Good question. I wasn’t very clear in my description. West African drumming includes two types of drums which play polyrhythms. The prime drum is the djembe, the drum which is usually the solo instrument, played only with hands. The support drums are dunduns, three drums–kinkinni, songban and dundun ba. They are played with sticks. Those are the sticks to which I refer.
          Best, c:

          Carla Kelly, Luthier
          811 Middle Turnpike
          Storrs, Connecticut 06268
          Home: 860-429-9572
          Cell: 860-450-9391
          http://www.linkedin.com/in/barefootdesigns

  • J Richter

    I built a deck of tigerwood with ipe fascia/step risers… I built it myself for the long term, with hidden fasteners and stainles hardware. We were getting some landscape planning work done and the yahoo who marked the garden bed outline with orange spray paint got some on one of the fascia panels. (not pictured, but it is at the front right side.)

    Now I’d like to remove that paint – should I attempt to use a solvent, such as lacquer thinner, mineral spirits or varsol, or sand it off and re-stain/re-oil? We treated the wood with Penofin penetrating oil earlier this summer (though we know it does not really get absorbed that well!). I don’t want to have to replace it, so any advice in advance would be appreciated. Granted that it’s now -10 out and winter up here in Ontario, I’d rather do something now if I still can, than wait until the pores open again and the orange paint soaks in…. Thanks!

  • J Richter

    The ipe was hard on the cutting tools, but you know, the marks left by the steel strapping that wrapped the wood for shipping came out easily enough with sanding sponges. It seemed to get little or no damage from that. I gave it a once over with 100 grit belt sander to even out the lighter/less oxidized areas before oiling it.

    The upper deck boards are tiger wood and the pergola posts are select cedar 6×6 with a chestnut oil stain (Penofin). Regrettably the tiger wood looks great for a couple of weeks after cleaning and re-oiling, but goes silvery-gray by fall. Trying to find a better surface finish that can take the sun and rain and retain the brown/red tones. Any recommendations for exterior finish that does not “skin” after several applications. Is a silicone based water repelling finish advised?

  • David H Dettman

    I’ve been working with Ipe on a ceiling project, where I used it as a 2.5″ wide strip at the ceiling peak. Raw cut wood had extensive yelllow deposits/stain, not removed by further sanding or cutting. According to web search, this material is lapachol:
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lapachol

    Experimentation and research indicated that color of material is pH sensitive, so I tried treating with a variety of common household acids and bases. The best treatment was a quick swipe with a rag lightly moistened with ammonia, which instantly converted the stain from yellow to brownish-red associated with untreated wood. After two weeks, the colors on treated raw samples and the finished wood project(polyurethane wiped on) are stable.

  • David,
    Interesting observations about the color change. Have you found that you can go the opposite direction as well? (i.e., going from dark red brown to a lighter yellow).

  • Philip Zobel

    I was extremely apprehensive about working with Ipe, but found it wasn’t as difficult to cut, drill, or glue as I heard. I’m not saying it was easy but it was doable. I made 3-5 ft. benches and a shade fence and what I found out about Ipe was that it was very easy to sand. That really surprised me. I started with a high grade 50 grit down to 150 to a perfect finish. I don’t recommend Ipe benches though as they are extremely heavy unless that’s what you are looking for.

  • peter dallman

    It was often used to make bows and works well for this if backed with hickory. Use laminates or otherwise it will pressure check. My friend is highly allergic so do use a masks. Carves wonderful and I have made some nice fly rods from it.

  • Don Jewell

    I’ve used ipe wood recently as a top rail for a railing project and I found it to be extremely hard and difficult to cut (we used carbide tipped saw blades). Drilling was just as difficult. I would recommend using carbine bits. It is also a very heavy wood.

    • James Connelly

      It is best to order it in the lengths you want already cut if possible. Ipe is difficult to cut and work with which is also why it lasts over 75 years without treatment. Let us know if we can help https://ipewoods.com. If you are cutting it make sure you seal the ends to avoid splitting.

    • UGLY JUST UGLY !

  • J Richter

    I built a deck of tigerwood with ipe fascia/step risers… I built it myself for the long term, with hidden fasteners and stainles hardware. We were getting some landscape planning work done and the yahoo who marked the garden bed outline with orange spray paint got some on one of the fascia panels. (not pictured, but it is at the front right side.)

    Now I’d like to remove that paint – should I attempt to use a solvent, such as lacquer thinner, mineral spirits or varsol, or sand it off and re-stain/re-oil? We treated the wood with Penofin penetrating oil earlier this summer (though we know it does not really get absorbed that well!). I don’t want to have to replace it, so any advice in advance would be appreciated. Granted that it’s now -10 out and winter up here in Ontario, I’d rather do something now if I still can, than wait until the pores open again and the orange paint soaks in…. Thanks!

    • J Richter

      The ipe was hard on the cutting tools, but you know, the marks left by the steel strapping that wrapped the wood for shipping came out easily enough with sanding sponges. It seemed to get little or no damage from that. I gave it a once over with 100 grit belt sander to even out the lighter/less oxidized areas before oiling it.

      The upper deck boards are tiger wood and the pergola posts are select cedar 6×6 with a chestnut oil stain (Penofin). Regrettably the tiger wood looks great for a couple of weeks after cleaning and re-oiling, but goes silvery-gray by fall. Trying to find a better surface finish that can take the sun and rain and retain the brown/red tones. Any recommendations for exterior finish that does not “skin” after several applications. Is a silicone based water repelling finish advised?

    • RT

      Beautiful looking deck! My deck is ipe (Brazilian I think) and we’re having trouble finding a product to stain it with. We tried with one general purpose stain and it dried with a “sand-like” finish (almost looked like someone had sprinkled fine sand randomly in moderate amounts). Can someone please recommend a good product to stain ipe with? I’m looking for something with a bit of a red-wood looking finish. Thanks!

    • https://ipewoods.com

      Gorgeous use of Ipe! You can find Ipe like this here https://ipewoods.com/. Ipe Woods is a full service Ipe wood supplier.

  • Philip Zobel

    I was extremely apprehensive
    about working with Ipe, but found it wasn’t as difficult to cut, drill,
    or glue as I heard. I’m not saying it was easy but it was doable. I made
    3-5 ft. benches and a shade fence and what I found out about Ipe was
    that it was very easy to sand. That really surprised me. I started with a
    high grade 50 grit down to 150 to a perfect finish. I don’t recommend
    Ipe benches though as they are extremely heavy unless that’s what you
    are looking for.

    • Andrew Woloshyn

      Hi there, I am currently building a table out of Ipe, could you tell me what type of glue that you used? I heard a lot about how difficult it is to glue and am worried it won’t turn out.

  • ross

    I just finished a huge ipe deck that turned out great it took 2 months….we routed all posts to catch 2×4 railings…now i have a bad cough. I would wear a mask for sure. And it burns your skin a bit when u sweat. As far as tooling goes if u have nice blades and sharp chisels its not a problem.

  • Barry D

    I don’t know when this was written, but ‘sustainability’ needs to be updated as Ipe logging is causing concern with regards to deforestation in the Amazon

    • ejmeier

      Just added an update, thanks.

  • Patrick

    Yes, IMHO there is only one thing to use for Ipe. I have 2 decks with Ipe slat fences all around and my whole house uses Ipe “shiplap” siding. 1/2 of it is either full western or southern sun, rain and salt weather, being about 500yds from the beach. I used Penofin Marine everywhere and on the siding it is still a rich brown after about 2 years. The slat rails have slightly weathered, but are a light brown, not silver like our teak table. It’s probably time I gave them a little touch up, but a whole refinish is not needed. If you clean your deck with an deck / wood brightner and then use Penofin Marine, you will be happy. It does not form a film, rather it’s a penetrating oil. If the brightener doesn’t do it, you can use a sander with vac attachment. If you can get under the deck and also see the end grain, use the Penofin on all 6 sides of the wood to prevent cupping.

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  • C Castillo

    I used ipe wood to build a frame for a verticle, living garden. It is p
    lanted with succulents. I’ve never made them out of this type of wood. Is there any chance that this type of wood could be harmful to the plants? Or did my client just not water her living wall???

  • davehul

    I made this patio table of IPE. it is an incredibly beautiful wood which I finished with about 5 coats of oil based exterior poly. The top was glued up with Titlebond III using hardboard splines and three years later it looks like new. I wanted something heavy as we live on a lake and strong winds are common. It weighs around 150 lbs and hasn’t moved an inch even when everything else got blown over the side of the deck!

    • HollywoodF1

      It’s not and acronym IPE as in “eye pea ee,” it’s a word: Ipe, and pronounced “ee-pay.” You may be confusing it with the faddish IPA “India Pale Ale” beers that all the cool kids think makes them sound like beer-O-philes when they order it.

      • Nina Ricci

        it’s IPÊ.
        the right pronunciation is ee-pe (the same sound as the PE in PEndulum)

      • Sure there is.

  • tom wheeler

    I did my swim platform for my boat in ipe and it is beautiful! ipe loves to be sanded and it loves to be cut and routed. there are however three broken off drill bits hidden in the project from pre drilling screw holes. ace hardware is only 2 blocks away :-)

    • Jim

      You need to hold your drill steady. Brace yourself against something so you don’t sway. I drilled 1200 3/32″ x 3/4″ deep holes in my “Abaco” (similar wood from Brazil with the same hardness rating) wine racking with a small hand drill with one HSS drill bit. The holes were for the insertion of brads to hold SS name plates.
      Also pulling the drill in and out as you progress with the hole helps to clear the flutes cutting down on the rotation resistance.

  • Barefoot Gil

    I made a Tobacco Pipe with Ipe, and polished it with beeswax. I was reluctant to oil it, since it felt oily in my hands and I am glad I went for the wax, as it brought out the subtle colours and hints all over the grain. To finish a small surface, wax is definitely the way to go with this wood.

    • Carla Mahl Kelly

      From one pipe maker to another–that’s gorgeous! Congrats!

    • Keith D. Williams

      Wax is truly the best thing to use if your going for that look and that pipe is sweet, but we use it for a great deal of applications along the New Jersey shore and allowing it to naturally gray is the most common way it is done because of the natural resins in the wood, that oily feeling you felt. I read a few people recommend using mineral spirits on it and that is a no no, if you want to treat it at all and don’t want it to fail I recommend an acetone wipe first, then stain or wax. When using it as decking the manufacturers recommend always sealing the end grain, if you don’t over time it may split.

  • ejmeier

    Maybe I’m not sure what you’re trying to do, but it sounds like you’d want to use a drill bit, and not a saw. A 1.25″ diameter circle, correct?

    I’d use a 1 1/4″ forstner bit. If you have to drill a lot of holes, get one that’s carbide tipped for longevity. Otherwise, a cheapie would do fine for one hole; though I’ve found if you pre-drill a small 1/8″ pilot hole for the bit, it can help it cut faster. http://amzn.to/1mcSzEX

  • Woodwierdo

    I have seen this wood used as a laminate in recurve bows for its compression strength and and stiffness, but I cannot find a good source for it. I know that it could be purchased as decking from a lumber company, but I worry I might have to order it by the train-car load, depending on the lumber company (and to insure I get a bow-quality board). My local wood emporium also sells it, but it only carries pen blanks and some other miscellaneous boards from I don’t know where. Does anyone have any suggestions for getting a couple 48″x6″x1.5/2″ boards? Thanks!

    • Jim

      Where are you? I can give you 3 sources in the Toronto area. From 4/4 to 16/4 and up to 24′ long in some dimensions.

  • Panatrees Inc

    Hello, We supply Ipe/Guayacan (Handroanthus spp) in round logs from Panama

  • Filipe Jungers

    Também é uma madeira muito utilizada para envelhecer bebidas no Sul do Brazil, em substituição ao Quercus..

  • Jim

    IPE actually comes in three different shades naturally. The wood colour is predicted by the colour of the flower produced by the tree.

  • Jim

    Of the Tite Bond glues, “3” is the only one that can have a chance with the oily wood. Cleaning the surface does help.

  • Jim

    The wood does shrink over a period of a month or two inside. I have found that the shrinkage depends on whether the wood is closer to the heart or the exterior of the tree. That being said, the flooring can be slightly different widths from the supplier, having acclimatized there for a period of time.
    The wood is oily. Unless the glue used was compatible with oily wood, it would hold. As previously mentioned, Titebond 3 does work, but it is recommended to clean the surface of oil with a solvent.
    Humidifier? I haven’t found the flooring to absorb any humidity. Spilled water will sit on untreated Ipe until it evaporates. I have about 2,000 sq ft of 3/4″ x 4 1/4″ in my home. After 2 years I did notice any further shrinkage, it has now been down for 6 years. I would recommend using a narrow board to minimize the gap between each board from drying. I also have 2500 sq ft of Jatoba. Half is from the first harvested wood. It is denser than the new material and is also more stable. The new material does open but will partially close in the more humid summer weather.

  • Jim

    Depending on how much direct sun you have; you could be fighting a losing battle. As Patrick says use a deck brightener. I haven’t tried the Penofin Marine, but have tried the Ipe Oil sold for this wood. It does not work in full sun! I contacted the manufacturer and they said it would last one year. I said my deck was in full sun (Toronto). He said it might need to be coated twice a year. When I said it only lasted two months, he said that’s about right….

    I’ve recently found a German clear finish at a trade show that claims to be UV stable. I’ll try it in the spring.

    BTW the grey is just oxidized wood. That is how the wood wants to be since doesn’t allow finish to penetrate.

  • Jim

    Some fun facts about Ipe.
    It has the same flame spread rating as concrete.
    Untreated, it will last 75 years outside.
    Your back hurts after laying an Ipe floor, but your house won’t blow away as easily. ;-)

  • Is a silicone based water repelling finish advised?