Narra (Pterocarpus indicus)

Narra (Pterocarpus indicus)

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Common Name(s): Narra, Amboyna (burl)

Scientific Name: Pterocarpus indicus

Distribution: Southeast Asia

Tree Size: 65-100 ft (20-30 m) tall, 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 41 lbs/ft3 (655 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .54, .66

Janka Hardness: 1,260 lbf (5,620 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 13,970 lbf/in2 (96.3 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,724,000 lbf/in2 (11.89 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 8,270 lbf/in2 (57.0 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 2.8%, Tangential: 4.0%, Volumetric: 6.9%, T/R Ratio: 1.4

Color/Appearance: Heartwood can vary widely in color, ranging from a golden yellow to a reddish brown. Pale yellow sapwood is clearly demarcated from the heartwood. Quartersawn surfaces display ribbon-stripe figure, and the wood is also seen with mottled, beeswing, or curly figure. Narra burl is full of well-defined knot clusters, and the highly valued wood is known as Amboyna.

Grain/Texture: Grain is usually interlocked, and can sometimes be wavy. With an uneven medium to coarse texture with good natural luster.

Endgrain: Semi-ring-porous; solitary and radial multiples and clusters; very large pores grading down to large/medium pores, very few; mineral/gum deposits (reddish brown) common; parenchyma vasicentric, winged, confluent, and banded; narrow rays, spacing fairly close.

Rot Resistance: Narra has good weathering characteristics and is typically very durable regarding decay resistance. It is generally resistant to termite and powder post beetle attack, though there can occasionally be ambrosia beetles present, especially in the sapwood.

Workability: Easy to work with both hand and machine tools, one of Narra’s only downsides is that it has a moderate blunting effect on cutters. Narra turns, glues, and finishes well.

Odor: Narra has a distinct fragrance that lingers even after being worked.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Narra has been reported as an irritant; most common reactions simply include skin and respiratory irritation, as well as asthma-like symptoms. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Not commonly exported as lumber, smaller pieces of figured Narra are sometimes available from specialty wood retailers, as well as Amboyna burl in solid and veneer form. Prices vary depending on the amount and type of figure: unfigured wood is moderately priced, while high-grade Ambyona ranks as one of the most expensive woods in the world.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, but is on the IUCN Red List. It is listed as vulnerable due to a population reduction of over 20% in the past three generations, caused primarily by exploitation.

Common Uses: Veneer, furniture, cabinetry, boatbuilding, plywood, turned objects, and small specialty wood items.

Comments: This wood has a seeming split personality. One the one hand there is the humble Narra, with good workability and dimensional stability (much like other members of the Pterocarpus genus)—on the other hand there is the exotic and highly-prized burl wood known as Amboyna. Both come from the same tree (Pterocarpus indicus), though the resemblance between the two is virtually unrecognizable.

Related Species:

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures: The picture below show the ribbon-stripe patterning that is common on quartersawn sections.

Narra (Pterocarpus indicus)

Narra (sanded)

Narra (sealed)

Narra (sealed)

Narra (endgrain)

Narra (endgrain)

Narra (endgrain 10x)

Narra (endgrain 10x)

Narra (quartersawn)

Narra (quartersawn)