East Indian Satinwood

Ceylon Satinwood (Chloroxylon swietenia)
Ceylon Satinwood (Chloroxylon swietenia)

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Common Name(s): East Indian Satinwood, Ceylon Satinwood

Scientific Name: Chloroxylon swietenia

Distribution: Central and southern India, and Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon)

Tree Size: 40-50 ft (12-15 m) tall, 1-1.5 ft (.3-.5 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 61 lbs/ft3 (975 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .80, .98

Janka Hardness: 2,620 lbf (11,650 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 21,080 lbf/in2 (145.4 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 2,111,000 lbf/in2 (14.56 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 10,410 lbf/in2 (71.8 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 5.7%, Tangential: 8.1%, Volumetric: 13.9%, T/R Ratio: 1.4

Color/Appearance: Heartwood ranges from light to golden yellow, to orangish brown. Whitish yellow sapwood generally paler than heartwood, but not always clearly demarcated from heartwood. Frequently seen with a mottled or rippled grain pattern, resembling ripples in satin fabric, lending to its name satinwood.

Grain/Texture: Grain is interlocked, producing an attractive mottle figure, as well as striped or roey patterns on quartersawn surfaces. Texture is fine and even, with a very high natural luster.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; medium pores in no specific arrangement, numerous; solitary and primarily radial multiples of 2-6; heartwood deposits occasionally present; growth rings distinct; narrow rays not visible without lens, spacing normal; parenchyma marginal.

Rot Resistance: Rated as very durable regarding decay resistance, though susceptible to insect attack.

Workability: Difficult to work on account of its high density and interlocked grain. Most surfacing and planing operations result in tearout, especially on quartersawn surfaces. Pronounced blunting effect on cutters. Turns superbly. Glues and finishes well—able to take a high natural polish.

Odor: Has a faint, pleasing scent when being worked.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, East Indian Satinwood has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions include respiratory, eye and skin irritation, as well as other effects, such as headaches and diarrhea. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Increasingly scarce, with prices very high. Typically only available in veneer form, though some boards (mostly unfigured) are occasionally available. Figured pieces (particularly solid lumber) are likely to be extremely expensive.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, but is on the IUCN Red List. It is listed 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: Veneer, inlays, fine furniture, turned objects, and other small specialty items.

Comments: The original satinwood. The sole species in the Chloroxylon genus: besides being botanically separate, this wood also has a unique combination of hardness, density, smooth texture, natural luster, grain figure, and color that’s unmatched. Only West Indian Satinwood (Zanthoxylum flavum) in the related Rutaceae family has been historically accepted as a peer and equal that’s deserving of the satinwood title.

Related Species:

None available.

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures: A special thanks to Steve Earis for providing the wood sample (veneer) of this wood species.

Ceylon Satinwood (Chloroxylon swietenia)
Ceylon Satinwood (sanded)
Ceylon Satinwood (sealed)
Ceylon Satinwood (sealed)
Ceylon Satinwood (endgrain)
Ceylon Satinwood (endgrain)
Ceylon Satinwood (endgrain 10x)
Ceylon Satinwood (endgrain 10x)
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roger newton

A very difficult wood to work, but when ones does the results can be fantastic. Even when shellacked and the ends waxed and air dried for ten years this wood will bend, curl and torque dramatically. Then one will need to use hand planes to straighten. That would be fine, but even with ultra sharp low angle planes there will be horrible tearout. A thickness sander will be very helpful in surfacing these boards to useability. The dimensional losses will be significant. The anger that will be released in you by using this wood will work against you; allow an… Read more »

Paul Furman

I found a dozen 8 foot 1×4’s from a discarded crate with a from address in New Delhi. I’ve been milling the rough sawn 3/4 x 3-1/2 boards on a table saw then lots of power sanding to get to the bottom of that rippled grain. There is a lot of scrap with nail holes and split pieces which makes nice firewood with fragrant smoke and is supposed to make you sleepy, and it makes excellent charcoal for drawing with. It’s in the same family as citrus.