Common Name(s): Pau Ferro, Morado, Bolivian Rosewood, Santos Rosewood
Scientific Name: Machaerium spp. (Machaerium scleroxylon)
Distribution: Tropical South America (mainly Brazil and Bolivia)
Tree Size: 65-100 ft (20-30 m) tall, 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 54 lbs/ft3 (865 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .70, .87
Janka Hardness: 1,960 lbf (8,710 N)
Modulus of Rupture: 17,750 lbf/in2 (122.4 MPa)
Elastic Modulus: 1,574,000 lbf/in2 (10.86 GPa)
Crushing Strength: 8,830 lbf/in2 (60.9 MPa)
Shrinkage: Radial: 2.8%, Tangential: 6.7%, Volumetric: 9.9%, T/R Ratio: 2.4
Color/Appearance: Color can be highly varied, ranging from reddish/orange to a dark violet/brown, usually with contrasting darker black streaks. Narrow sapwood is a pale yellow and is clearly demarcated from the heartwood.
Grain/Texture: Grain is typically straight, though sometimes slightly irregular or interlocked depending on the species. Fine, even texture and a naturally high luster—though depending on the particular species, the wood can have a coarser, more fibrous texture.
Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; medium pores in no specific arrangement; solitary and radial multiples of 2-3; mineral deposits occasionally present; parenchyma banded, diffuse-in-aggregates, vasicentric; narrow rays, spacing close.
Rot Resistance: Rated as very durable, though quite susceptible to insect attack, and not recommended in direct ground contact.
Workability: Pau Ferro is considered overall to be of fair workability, as it can blunt the cutting edges of tools, and any irregular grain has a tendency to tearout during machining operations. Also, many of the same challenges in gluing rosewoods are common to Pau Ferro as well. Pau Ferro turns and finishes well.
Odor: Depending on the species, the wood can have a characteristic scent.
Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Pau Ferro has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions simply include eye and skin irritation. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a high rate of reaction among woodworkers, and the wood contains the very same sensitizing substances as those found in rosewoods (Dalbergia genus). See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
Pricing/Availability: Pau Ferro is in the medium price range for exotic imported hardwoods, and is likely to be much more affordable than some of the scarcer true rosewoods, (Dalbergia genus), of which this wood is often used as substitute.
Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and many of the species within the Machaerium genus are reported by the IUCN as being of least concern. One exception is Machaerium villosum from Brazil, which is reported as vulnerable due to deforestation.
Common Uses: Veneer, musical instruments, cabinetry, flooring, interior trim, turning, and other small specialty wood objects.
Comments: Pau Ferro is a wood of many names, and is sometimes called Morado: and because the wood is so similar in appearance and working properties to rosewood, it is also sometimes referred to as Bolivian or Santos Rosewood. The wood has been used in various capacities as a substitute for the endangered Brazilian Rosewood. Although the wood is not technically in the Dalbergia genus, it’s in a closely-related genus (Machaerium), and contains the same sensitizing compounds found in rosewoods—about as close to a true rosewood as a wood can get without actually being a Dalbergia species.