Brazilwood (Caesalpinia echinata)

Brazilwood (Paubrasilia echinata)

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Common Name(s): Brazilwood, Pernambuco

Scientific Name: Paubrasilia echinata (syn. Caesalpinia echinata)

Distribution: Brazil

Tree Size: 30-50 ft (9-15 m) tall, 2-3 ft (.6-1 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 61 lbs/ft3 (980 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .76, .98

Janka Hardness: 2,820 lbf (12,540 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 26,010 lbf/in2 (179.4 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 2,544,000 lbf/in2 (17.55 GPa)

Crushing Strength: No data available

Shrinkage: Radial: 5.1%, Tangential: 8.1%, Volumetric: 13.3%, T/R Ratio: 1.6

Color/Appearance: Heartwood is a yellowish orange, sometimes a darker reddish brown. Whitish yellow sapwood is clearly demarcated.

Grain/Texture: Grain is usually straight, though sometimes interlocked. Has a fine, even texture with a good natural luster.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; solitary and radial multiples; medium pores in no specific arrangement, moderately numerous; heartwood mineral/gum deposits occasionally present; parenchyma vasicentric, aliform (lozenge), confluent, and marginal; narrow rays, spacing normal.

Rot Resistance: Brazilwood is rated as very durable regarding decay resistance.

Workability: Despite its high density, Brazilwood is reported to have good workability, responding well to machining and shaping operations.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Brazilwood has been reported to cause skin irritation, as well as a number of other effects, such as headache, nausea, swelling skin, and blisters. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Unfortunately, Brazilwood has been exploited in centuries past, and is now listed as an endangered species, with international trade being tightly restricted. Prices are likely to be very high, and from dubious sources. No plantations or sustainable sources for this wood are known to exist at the time of this writing (2012).

Sustainability: This wood species is in CITES Appendix II, and 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: Stringed instrument bows (violin, viola, cello, etc.), veneers, inlay, carvings, and turned  objects.

Comments: Perhaps the only wood that was so famous, it was responsible for the naming of an entire nation. When Portuguese ships discovered the trees on the coast of South America, they found that the wood yielded a red dye—which made for a very valuable and lucrative trading commodity. They named the tree pau brasil, the term pau meaning wood, and brasil meaning red/ember-like. Such a vigourous trade resulted from this wood that early sailors and merchants referred to the land itself as Terra do Brasil, or simply, the “Land of Brazil”—and the name stuck.

Brazilwood is also known as “Pernambuco” to bow-makers. With Brazilwood already at a historically depleted level from the exploitation for its dye wood, today’s global demand for violin bows have pushed the tree species to dangerously low levels in its natural range. There’s no other known wood that matches Brazilwood’s quality and acoustic properties in bow-making, creating a dilemma for bow-makers.

Related Species:

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures:

Brazilwood (Caesalpinia echinata)

Brazilwood (sanded)

Brazilwood (sealed)

Brazilwood (sealed)

Brazilwood (endgrain)

Brazilwood (endgrain)

Brazilwood (endgrain 10x)

Brazilwood (endgrain 10x)

Brazilwood (full board scan)

Brazilwood (30″ x 5.1″)

 

7 Comments

  1. Steven Batkin April 24, 2017 at 8:52 am - Reply

    More work should be done to expose the people who financed the destruction of Brazilwood trees!

  2. Tim Le March 29, 2017 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    Just some information about the work ability of Pernambuco my friend Dan Maloney, a guitar builder discovered:

    Pernambuco is very is very easy to shape using scrapers and shaves off pieces very well. When sanding it however, he found it easily clog sandpapers. He also said it is somewhat of a brittle wood, so care must be taken when routing Pernambuco.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/dda5dddce001ccabe45a87a38065d3c770d4a389a955b8236350680d4818035a.jpg

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/49fe3c14d9b722cb33141aef08cac204b4a405cc9bc7a71ec27eec8429bb7af5.jpg

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5b5827c4fe28d67772227542d8b432344ea0960792b057f02c8abbaf12dd59b6.jpg

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/82ae0318c145d0359844b29e8137bc037a4d627466e3bcedef79a18b958e0c8e.jpg

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ae17bb40206b107d29276f10ebdf6c651b20119ffc3694be54c4264301bccbf5.jpg

  3. nyönyö December 26, 2016 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    Hello! Any ideas of a substitute for making instrument bows? I guess it’s a matter of weight, hardness and elasticity?

    • Tim Le March 29, 2017 at 7:46 pm - Reply

      Ipe, which is much cheaper, but not as pretty. It is sold as flooring and can be had for as little as $4.00 per bf.

      • nyönyö March 31, 2017 at 2:55 am - Reply

        Thanks, I’ll try!
        It seems to be much less responsive to steam bending though, from what I read.
        Pernambuco also has the unique ability to bend by heating.

  4. Ame March 23, 2015 at 2:03 pm - Reply

    oh dear,I’ve just bought a bow made of this wood.Am I adding to this species’s demise,I wouldnt have done so had I cheked the database first

    • Nathan Foster September 11, 2015 at 9:00 pm - Reply

      I just picked up a piece from a local shop, I didn’t even know what it was.

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