Pau Ferro (Machaerium spp.)

Pau Ferro (Machaerium spp.)

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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, moderately numerous; 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.

Related Species:

None available.

Scans/Pictures:

Pau Ferro (sanded)

Pau Ferro (sanded)

Pau Ferro (sealed)

Pau Ferro (sealed)

Pau Ferro (endgrain)

Pau Ferro (endgrain)

Pau Ferro (endgrain 10x)

Pau Ferro (endgrain 10x)

Pau Ferro and Curly Maple (turned)

Pau Ferro and Curly Maple (turned)

 
  • Bill White

    This wood gives me a serious skin reaction on my head and neck, but not on my hands (too callused?). It also does not seem to cause any respiratory problems. My head, neck and hands are the only parts of my body exposed when I turn this wood on the lathe. The hives last 24 to 48 hours. So far, I have not found an effective OTC treatment.

  • Sebastian Francese

    It is my first time working with Pau Ferro, I have used a marine grade, satin oil based varnish (three coats) and it is taking forever to dry does anyone knows why or had a similar experience?

  • Sebastian, this is something that I want to address in an article as I get time, but finishing problems on oily woods is a common problem, and is somewhat related to the problems in gluing oily woods. It seems to affect reactive finishes like polyurethane more than simple evaporative finishes such as shellac.

    I once applied some polyurethane to some Cocobolo, and it simply never dried (at least not in about a month I waited). My theory is that the chemical composition of the finish is being altered when the wood leaches oil into the finish, thereby rendering it incapable of curing or setting up properly.

    The only remedy that I know for this is to seal the wood completely using several coats of a compatible finish, such as shellac, and then use the desired finish as a topcoat.

  • Donnie Fricks

    Morado makes me itch pretty bad, too. I’ve never had any problem with Polyurathane finish on this wood, nor any problem gluing. System Three makes an epoxy/resin glue called G-2 that is supposed to work pretty well. I’ve used it but never tested it by dropping it on the floor like a toughbook. However, I did try to pull it apart with my arms and it didn’t budge.

  • Lale

    Ciao, io uso questo tipo di legname da tempo ma non ho mai avuto problemi. Lo uso nella produzione di sedie e poltroncine di alta qualità. Ciao.Lale

  • Dave Kimball

    Actually I came here to find answers to why my finnish has never dried and you’ve pretty much answered it except I used Shellac on several different types of wood at the same time: Buckeye burl, Redwood lace burl, asian satin wood, Padauk, and of course the morado. All were flat surfaces (guitar picks), all were done at the same time, 5 coats( half hour intervals), 24 hours, flip and repeat except I let them cure for 3 days before I had a chance to look at them…all were dry EXCEPT the Morado, which 3 and a half weeks later are still tacky!!! Good news is this was the smallest piece and therefore the smallest number of picks lol

    • John Martin

      Cant use polyester on Pau Ferro, it won’t dry without a barrier coat

  • Joe McCutchon

    I had forgotten how bad this wood is to finish until I am nearly done with my current project. It had been about ten years since my last attempt. It’s just so beautiful. I had to take my first coat of undried polyeurethane off. Then I coated with shellac and had a beautiful second coat of polyeurethane which dried nicely, but that marred too easily. Back to the drawing board.

  • LORD METAL

    Wood as many notables is a Respectfull species, it will show you your future very precisely as it comes from the undoubtfull past, it’s spirit calculates immaculately. Those of you who use Polyurethane on Instruments should really re-consider your carrer choice. Using poisonous compounds such as Polyurethane (developed as a side product of Zyclon B – the gas that Nazis allegedly used on Jews) WILL MAKE YOUR SKIN MORE PRONE OR SUCCEPTIBLE TO ALLERGIES, NATURAL POISONS AS WELL AS PLAY AN IMPORTANT FACTOR IN THE DEMISE OF YOUR GENERAL HEALTH!!! Stay away from Polyurethane, Nomex, (developed by DuPont also Kevlar, Mevlar, etc.) and other Harmfull Substances – Your Immunity is on the line You don’t feed gasoline to babies, do you?

    Karma will punish the endorsers of Planetary destruction

    High in the Indian mountains, there is a People (descedants of the army of Alexander the Great) who have built there houses of wood alone, not a single nail was used in the construction of their whole Territory. It is prohibited for outsiders to talk to their elders as they do not allow impurities to enter their culture. When they need money they conduct business with tourists from a far (several meters away) – the tourist must not look in the eye of their representaives and allways put the money on the ground for them to pick up.

    And yeah if you listen carefully, wood will tell you tales which no Human word formation can come even remotely close to.

    Till the next time Balls&Glory

    • LORD METAL

      As a finish one should allways use something that is as close to the wood you are working with as possible with the least possible chemichals involved – make your own oil from Pine leaves if you don’t have any Morado leaves accessible… Beeswax works fine as well go on spend a buck you won’t ever go broke on Beeswax

      you will kill millions of Bees using Polyurethane

  • Rickey Brayn

    T/R shrinkage rates! We all know quarter swan wood is much more stable than flat swan. But the T/R ratios that we see in the wood data base, which kind of swan wood are they or you getting the T/R ratios from. What is the T/R ratios of flat swan verses quarter swan wood? They have to be different! What is the formula for quarter swan?

    • ejmeier

      The T/R ratio is what it is, and it doesn’t change based on how the wood is sawn.

      Basically, quartersawn wood is not actually more stable in the sense of shrinkage — the wood will always shrink the same amount. It’s just that quartersawn wood has the effect of placing the dimension with the least amount of shrinkage (i.e., the radial surface) in such a way that it will seem to be more stable. For instance, with quartersawn flooring planks, each plank seems more stable because the dimension that expands and contracts the least amount is oriented horizontally, thus the wood planks will not change in width as much as they would if the planks had been flatsawn. HOWEVER, those same quartersawn flooring planks WILL change MORE in thickness (the tangential dimension), which doesn’t really matter, since they have plenty of upward room to expand, and is of little consequence. The same holds true for things like quartersawn guitar tops — they are expanding a lot in thickness, but not as much across the width.

  • Rickey Brayn

    The shrinkage rate of quarter swan wood is more in a radial measurement or height! Instead of a tangential measurement or width measurement! What is the formula for quarter swan verses flat or plain swan wood in T/R terms?

  • Rickey Brayn

    Thanks for the info on T/R Ratios – As you said quarter swan expands the most in a vertical movement, this is why is seems much more stable. I just didn’t know until now that the formula stays the same for the same wood no matter how it is swan! Thanks Rickey