Common Name(s): Wenge
Scientific Name: Millettia laurentii
Distribution: Central Africa
Tree Size: 60-90 ft (18-27 m) tall, 3-4 ft (1-1.2 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 54 lbs/ft3 (870 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .72, .87
Janka Hardness: 1,930 lbf (8,600 N)
Modulus of Rupture: 21,990 lbf/in2 (151.7 MPa)
Elastic Modulus: 2,550,000 lbf/in2 (17.59 GPa)
Crushing Strength: 11,710 lbf/in2 (80.7 MPa)
Shrinkage: Radial: 4.8%, Tangential: 8.1%, Volumetric: 12.9%, T/R Ratio: 1.7
Color/Appearance: Heartwood is medium brown, sometimes with a reddish or yellowish hue, with nearly black streaks. Upon application of a wood finish (particularly an oil finish) the wood can become nearly black.
Grain/Texture: Grain is straight, with a very coarse texture. Low natural luster.
Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; large pores in no specific arrangement; solitary and radial multiples of 2-3; brown mineral deposits occasionally present; growth rings distinct; rays not visible without lens; parenchyma vasicentric to confluent, with wide bands of parenchyma typically as thick as the pores.
Rot Resistance: Very durable, and resistant to termite attack.
Workability: Can be difficult to work with hand and machine tools. Blunts tool edges. Sands unevenly due to differences in density between light and dark areas. Very splintery—care must be used when handling unfinished wood with bare hands, as splinters have an increased risk of infection. Very large pores can be difficult to fill if a perfectly smooth/level finish is desired.
Odor: Wenge has a faint, slightly bitter scent when being worked.
Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, breathing Wenge wood dust has been reported to cause central nervous system effects, abdominal cramps, irritation of the skin and eyes, and is a sensitizer. Also, Wenge splinters tend to take longer to heal and are more likely to go septic (get infected) than splinters from other woods. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
Pricing/Availability: Available in wide boards and veneer sheets. Prices are high, and are likely to remain so as supplies dwindle.
Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, but is on the IUCN Red List. It is listed as endangered due to a population reduction of over 50% in the past three generations, caused by a decline in its natural range, and exploitation.
Common Uses: Veneer, paneling, furniture, turned objects, and musical instruments.
Comments: Usually pronounced WHEN-gii or WHEN-ghay, the wood has excellent strength and hardness properties, and is also dark enough to be used as a substitute for ebony.
Scans/Pictures: A special thanks to Steve Earis for providing the turned photo of this wood species.