Jatoba (Hymenaea courbaril)

Jatoba (Hymenaea courbaril)

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Common Name(s): Jatoba, Brazilian Cherry

Scientific Name: Hymenaea courbaril

Distribution: Central America, southern Mexico, northern South America, and the West Indies

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

Average Dried Weight: 57 lbs/ft3 (910 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .77, .91

Janka Hardness: 2,690 lbf (11,950 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 22,510 lbf/in2 (155.2 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 2,745,000 lbf/in2 (18.93 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 11,780 lbf/in2 (81.2 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 4.2%, Tangential: 8.0%, Volumetric: 12.1%, T/R Ratio: 1.9

Color/Appearance: Heartwood varies from a light orangish brown to a darker reddish brown, sometimes with contrasting darker grayish brown streaks. Color tends darken upon exposure to light. Sapwood is a light grayish yellow, clearly demarcated from the heartwood.

Grain/Texture: Grain is typically interlocked, with a medium to coarse texture. Good natural luster.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; large pores, very few; solitary and radial multiples of 2-3; mineral deposits (dark brown) occasionally present; parenchyma vasicentric, aliform (lozenge or winged), confluent, and marginal; narrow to medium rays, normal spacing.

Rot Resistance: Jatoba is rated as being very durable in regards to rot resistance, and is also resistant to termites and most other insects. (Though it has been reported to be susceptible to attack from marine borers.)

Workability: Jatoba is considered difficult to work with on account of its density and hardness, and has a moderate blunting effect on tool cutters. Jatoba also tends to be difficult to plane without tearout due to its interlocking grain. However, Jatoba glues, stains, turns, and finishes well. Responds well to steam-bending.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Jatoba has been reported to cause skin irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Available in satisfactory sizes and widths as lumber, and also available as flooring planks. Jatoba is inexpensive for an imported timber.

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

Common Uses: Flooring, furniture, cabinetry, tool handles, shipbuilding, railroad ties, turned objects, and other small specialty items.

Comments: Although it’s widely named “Brazilian Cherry,” (mostly among flooring sellers), it bears little relation to the domestic Cherry (Prunus serotina) that is found in the US, except perhaps that its natural color closely matches the  common stained color of domestic Cherry that has been aged/stained reddish-brown as seen on some interior furniture.

Jatoba is exceptionally stiff, strong, and hard—representing a great value for woodworkers seeking high-strength, low-cost lumber.

Related Species:

None available.

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures:

Jatoba (sanded)

Jatoba (sanded)

Jatoba (sealed)

Jatoba (sealed)

Jatoba (endgrain)

Jatoba (endgrain)

Jatoba (endgrain 10x)

Jatoba (endgrain 10x)

Buckthorn and Jatoba (turned)

Buckthorn and Jatoba (turned)

9 Comments

  1. Beto February 8, 2018 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    Greetings! I came across some lumber that was supposedly used for ship ballast. It is apparently quite old, though I have no idea when ships used exotic hardwood for ballast. I have been told this lumber could be at least 70-80 years old. I have several pieces I was hoping someone here could help me to identify. The first one I was suggested by someone at a lumber store that it may be jatoba. I compared it to a piece at the store and it matched quite well. The pieces I have have some lighter sapwood that is also full of beetle holes (but not on the other areas). I think these pieces are quite lovely and I will make a guitar pedalboard from it.

    I also have other pieces that are some kind of mahogany and rosewood.

    Any idea if this is, in fact, jatobá?

    • Eric February 8, 2018 at 3:14 pm - Reply

      Very hard to say from the picture. While the color seems about right, there are thousands upon thousands of woods, and many of them are more or less *brown*. Need to see a clear, closeup, finely sanded picture of the endgrain to get a better idea on ID.

      • Beto February 9, 2018 at 12:03 pm - Reply

        Thanks Eric! I don’t have a photo ready of the endgrain, but here is a close-up. When I held it up to a piece of jatoba at Rockler, the reddish portion looked almost identical.

        • Tim Elliott April 7, 2018 at 4:56 pm - Reply

          I don’t believe that’s Jatoba. I’m not sure what is. Here’s a piece of Jatoba for reference

  2. gwsmith September 20, 2015 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    I’m a furniture maker. I bought it for flooring in my house and love it. With the pieces left over I built some small pieces with handmade dovetail drawers. It works well but hard, glues well, sands well, and finishes easily with tung oil or plane lacquer. It’s beautiful. I love the color it becomes once exposed to light.

  3. Peter Chan April 9, 2015 at 7:22 am - Reply

    I wonder Jatoba (from Suriname) good for rotary cut veneer use for plywood face. Can Jatoba substitue to use as Dipterocarpus spp (Malaysia/ Indonesia trade name, Keruing) or Dryobalanops spp (Malaysia/Indonesia trade name, Kapur).

  4. Leonardo Silva Tapia September 6, 2014 at 9:41 am - Reply

    I got a piece of jatoba, I’m a instrument maker so this wood has amazing properties so far(for fingerboard, neck and laminated tops, too heavy for bodies and couldn’t find pieces thick enough), I got a twisted piece but it was possible bad luck.

    well, so far it was quite pricy and hard to get, it has a really amazing deep orange color with black mineral deposits, couldn’t ask for a more beautiful piece, others had a redish brown color in it more similar to the picture shown, to be more specific this was Bolivian Jatoba, also known as “Paquio”, which was the name the seller sold it as. (later on knew it was Jatoba too)

    I’m from South America Chile.

  5. Stanghop74 August 26, 2014 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    Try making a 6 panel door out of it ??

  6. Stanghop74 August 26, 2014 at 4:39 pm - Reply

    Coasters are always a hit ???

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