Quebracho (Schinopsis balansae)

Quebracho (Schinopsis balansae)

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Common Name(s): Quebracho, Quebracho Colorado, Red Quebracho

Scientific Name: Schinopsis spp.
(S. balansae, S. brasiliensis, S. lorentzii, S. quebracho-colorado)

Distribution: Tropical South America

Tree Size: 30-50 ft (9-15 m) tall, 1-3 ft (.3-1 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 77 lbs/ft3 (1,235 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): 1.03, 1.24

Janka Hardness: 4,570 lbf (20,340 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 20,540lbf/in2 (141.7 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 2,407,000 lbf/in2 (16.60 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 12,080 lbf/in2 (83.3 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 4.3%, Tangential: 8.2%, Volumetric: 13.1%, T/R Ratio: 1.9

Color/Appearance: Heartwood color typically a light to medium reddish brown, sometimes with darker blackish streaks. Color darkens upon prolonged exposure to light. Pale yellow sapwood distinct from heartwood, though transition is gradual.

Grain/Texture: Quebracho has a fine, uniform texture with a high natural luster. Grain tends to be irregular, roey, and interlocked.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; medium to large pores in no specific arrangement, few to moderately numerous; primarily in radial multiples of 2-3; tyloses and other heartwood deposits present; narrow rays not visible without lens, normal spacing; parenchyma vasicentric and unilateral.

Rot Resistance: Quebracho is rated as very durable, and is also resistant to insect attacks. Quebracho also has excellent weathering characteristics.

Workability: Difficult to work on account of its density and irregular grain. High cutting resistance, as well as pronounced blunting effect on cutters. Dries slowly—and tends to crack, check, and warp while drying. Turns and finishes well, and also able to take on a high natural polish without any finishing agents.

Odor: There is no characteristic odor associated with this wood species, though it is reported to have a bitter taste.

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

Pricing/Availability: Very seldom available in the United States, Quebracho is somewhat elusive as an imported hardwood. Expect prices to be in the medium to high range for an exotic wood.

Sustainability: Quebracho is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and  the IUCN reports that Schinopsis quebracho-colorado and S. balansae are species of least concern, though S. haenkeana is on the Red List as vulnerable due to a population reduction of over 20% in the past three generations, caused by a decline in its natural range, and exploitation.

Common Uses: Heavy construction, railroad cross-ties, and fence posts (within its natural range), as well as furniture, and turned objects (when exported).

Comments: The name Quebracho is from the Spanish quebrar hacha, which literally means “axe breaker.” Aptly named, wood in the Schinopsis genus is among the heaviest and hardest in the world. 

Quebracho was heavily exploited in the late 1800s for use in leather tanning. The tanin-rich heartwood (up to 20-30%) is cut into small chips, where the tanins can subsequently be extracted.

Related Species:

None available.

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures:

Quebracho (Schinopsis balansae)

Quebracho (sanded)

Quebracho (sealed)

Quebracho (sealed)

Quebracho (endgrain)

Quebracho (endgrain)

Quebracho (endgrain 10x)

Quebracho (endgrain 10x)

  • Luc

    My grandfather carved a head into a log of quebracho while traveling on a tramp steamer in the ’50s.
    The sculpture spent at least 15 years outdoors in new england with little ill effect, and was only brought indoors and treated better after ants moved in. I don’t know that they were feeding on the wood: it does not seem to have been significantly damaged by the ants.

  • Richard Ellis

    The cracking effect seems to happen primarily when exposed to the elements. The cracking originates on the outer exposed surfaces progressing over long periods into the inner structure. Common woodworking tools, drills, radial saws will work OK but must be used very slowly. Nails will not work at all because the hardness will only allow a nail to be driven 1/4 inch maximum. Pilot holes for screws again must be made almost at the screws diameter as the wood won’t deflect allowing the screw into the wood.

  • Andy

    Just curious, would this be suitable for an inlay for a ring?

  • Erik Larsen

    Janka hardness says to be 23340N on this page, But if you click on “Top ten hardest woods”, it says 20340N. Wich is correct?

    • ejmeier

      Hmm, looks like a typo. Got it fixed, thanks. The correct value is 20,340 N.

  • Kevin Bowles

    Somebody know the calorific power of quebracho? thanks

  • Fabian Reeves Whymark

    Cut up a random pallet where I am in the uk made from some tropical wood, didn’t know where it came from but was wondering why it was so heavy. I sanded it and it turns out they used this wood to make this pallet! Interestingly the small amount of sapwood had some rot but the heartwood was perfectly intact after being outdoors for who knows how long. I had to run it through the sander thicknesser as it has interlocked grain that would tear out with a planer. From tapping it, it sounds like it’ll be a great tonewood.