Chechen (Metopium brownei)

Chechen (Metopium brownei)

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Common Name(s): Chechen, Chechem, Black Poisonwood, Caribbean Rosewood

Scientific Name: Metopium brownei

Distribution: Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, Guatemala, Belize, and southeastern Mexico

Tree Size: 50-115 ft (15-35 m) tall, 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 62 lbs/ft3 (990 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .78, .99

Janka Hardness: 2,250 lbf (10,010 N)

Modulus of Rupture: No data available

Elastic Modulus: No data available

Crushing Strength: No data available

Shrinkage: Radial: 4.1%, Tangential: 6.7%, Volumetric: 10.8%, T/R Ratio: 1.6

Color/Appearance: Heartwood color is highly varied, with red, orange, and brown contrasted with darker stripes of blackish brown. Color tends to shift to a darker reddish brown with age. Well defined sapwood is a pale yellow

Grain/Texture: Grain is usually straight, but may be wild or interlocked. With a uniform medium to fine texture and good natural luster.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; medium to large pores in no specific arrangement; solitary and radial multiples of 2-4; tyloses and other heartwood deposits abundant; growth rings indistinct; rays not visible without lens; parenchyma vasicentric, and aliform (lozenge).

Rot Resistance: Rated as being very durable, and moderately resistant to most insect attacks.

Workability: Fairly easy to work, but tearout may occur when machining pieces with interlocked grain. Glues and finishes well, though because of its density and tendency to split, nails and screws should be pre-bored.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Chechen has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions simply include eye and skin irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Generally available as lumber, though turning blanks and thin craft lumber is also sold. Chechen is touted as a low-cost substitute for more expensive tropical woods, and prices should be moderate for an imported hardwood.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Common Uses: Veneer, furniture, cabinetry, flooring, turned objects, and small specialty wood items.

Comments: Its alternate name, Black Poisonwood, comes from its toxic sap, which turns black and causes severe skin reactions similar to poison ivy—and both are classified in the same family: Anacardiaceæ. However, the wood itself is safe to handle, though there are some allergenic reactions associated with the wood dust.

Because of its density, natural luster, and beautiful coloration, Chechen is sometimes referred to as Caribbean Rosewood, though it is not a true rosewood in the Dalbergia genus.

Related Species:

None available.

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures: In addition to the pictures, there is also a video about wood density where one of the test subjects is Chechen.

Chechen (sanded)

Chechen (sanded)

Chechen (sealed)

Chechen (sealed)

Chechen (endgrain)

Chechen (endgrain)

Chechen (endgrain 10x)

Chechen (endgrain 10x)

Chechen (turned)

Chechen (turned)

Chechen (bookmatched)

Chechen (bookmatched)


  1. Illbay November 18, 2017 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    I had a notion to use this for the back/bowl of a lute. Any opinions? How would you think it would work as the back-and-sides of a plucked instrument such as a guitar?

  2. Ben January 14, 2016 at 12:49 am - Reply

    Chechen is definitely dense and heavy. This is a snare drum that I built using the stave build method. Despite the hardness of the wood it worked very nicely with clean saw cuts no issues of tear out from the router. The toughest part was the finishing process. I think this wood should be included in the Finishing Exotic And Tropical Hardwoods” article here on the database. I had to strip my first attempt at applying water based polyurethane clear gloss. My first coat went on ok but anything after that would bead up like a freshly waxed car hood. I would imagine that the woods oils were rising to the surface of the water based finish and remaining on the surface after the finish dried causing the next coat to reject adhesion to the first. But please, correct me if I’m wrong. I sanded it back to bare wood and applied a couple of coats of Zinsser SealCoat dewaxed shellac thanks to the advice here on the database and that fixed the problem. I love the wood and will be making more drums from this beautiful rosewood substitute. Thank you Eric for all of this great information. Your work is a great service to all who come here and also to the environment itself by raising awareness to those trees that might not otherwise make it through another century.

    • JoaquinSpandex™ ?Deplorable September 29, 2016 at 2:30 pm - Reply

      Beautiful drum Ben!

  3. Rob June 5, 2014 at 6:38 am - Reply

    Anyone think I can run it a plainer?

    • bobj July 27, 2015 at 8:11 pm - Reply

      It planes very well

  4. SansJeux May 3, 2014 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    Somewhat from what I have see. Tighter grain and heavier as are most rosewoods.

  5. qurll March 13, 2014 at 2:30 pm - Reply

    Can someone please explain why this kind of wood is called Chechen?

  6. Andy January 22, 2014 at 1:13 pm - Reply

    One of the heaviest woods I’ve encountered, and just about impossible to laser cut on a mid-range machine.

  7. foxdendecor01 November 28, 2013 at 1:42 am - Reply

    The wood itself is safe to handle, though there are some
    allergenic reactions associated with the wood dust.

    • Huong Ngo July 21, 2017 at 11:55 pm - Reply

      Dear sir

      we are A DONG FINE ART COMPANY. Present, we’d like to buy Chechen timber and balsamo timber.. so if you can supply for us or you know who can supply us. pls kindly feedback us by

      we wait your feedback
      Ms Hao
      +84 914283590

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