Common Name(s): Kingwood, violetta
Scientific Name: Dalbergia cearensis
Distribution: Brazil (and occasionally from Mexico)
Tree Size: 30-60 ft (10-20 m) tall,
less than 2 ft (.6 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 74.9 lbs/ft3 (1,200 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): 0.98, 1.2
Janka Hardness: 3,340 lbf (17,240 N)
Modulus of Rupture: No data available
Elastic Modulus: No data available
Crushing Strength: No data available
Shrinkage: No data available
Color/Appearance: Heartwood is a dark purplish or reddish brown with darker black streaks. Sapwood is pale yellow and sharply demarcated from the heartwood.
Grain/Texture: Grain is usually straight or occasionally interlocked. Fine, uniform texture and a high natural luster.
Rot Resistance: Reported as being very durable in decay resistance, and is also resistant to termites.
Workability: Tends to be difficult to work due to its high density. Kingwood has a moderate blunting effect on cutters, and tearout can occur during planing if interlocked grain is present. Can be difficult to glue due to natural oils and high density. Turns very well and takes a high polish.
Odor: Distinct, rosewood-like odor when being worked.
Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, kingwood has been reported as a sensitizer. Can cause eye and skin irritation, as well as pink eye. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
Pricing/Availability: Likely to be very expensive, and seldom available as lumber due to the small size of the tree itself. Kingwood is most often seen as smaller turning stock, with its cost being on par with other scarce rosewoods in the Dalbergia genus.
Sustainability: Although kingwood is not evaluated on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, it is listed on CITES appendix II under the genus-wide restriction on all Dalbergia species—which also includes finished products made of the wood (though finished items under 10 kilograms are exempted).
Common Uses: Inlays, veneers, tool handles, and other small turned and/or specialty items.
Comments: So named from several French kings (Louis XIV and Louis XV) in the 17th and 18th centuries that preferred the wood in the use of fine furniture. Kingwood is considered a
true rosewood in the Dalbergia genus, and is among the densest of all rosewoods, with African blackwood (D. melanoxylon) being the only species with a higher average dried weight. There is very little mechanical data available on kingwood, though given its weight and its relation to other rosewoods, it’s likely to be extremely stiff, strong, and stable.
Another closely related species found in Mexico, D. congestiflora, bears a very close resemblance to kingwood and is sometimes called camatillo or Mexican kingwood. Information on how to distinguish between these two species can be found in the identification section below.
Images: Drag the slider up/down to toggle between raw and finished wood. The first sample shows a flatsawn section with cathedral-type grain, while the second sample is a quartersawn sample with some sapwood for reference.
A special thanks to Steve Earis for providing a wood sample of this wood species.
Porosity: diffuse porous (occasionally appearing semi-ring-porous due to a subtle variation in pore size from earlywood to latewood)
Arrangement: solitary and radial multiples
Vessels: medium to large, few to moderately numerous; reddish-brown deposits occasionally present
Parenchyma: vasicentric, aliform, diffuse-in-aggregates, and banded (marginal)
Rays: narrow width; close spacing
Lookalikes/Substitutes: Another very similar species, Dalbergia congestiflora, is sometimes sold interchangeably as kingwood—though it’s more commonly called camatillo. The two woods have a very similar appearance and density, though they can usually be separated based on the parenchyma. True kingwood usually has more sparse and thin parenchyma bands (usually at the annual growth margins), while camatillo tends to have wider parenchyma bands that can be several cells wide.
Notes: Because of the very dark color of the heartwood, it can be helpful to use the lighter sapwood to look at the wood anatomy.