Iroko (Chlorophora excelsa)
Iroko (Milicia excelsa)

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Common Name(s): Iroko

Scientific Name: Milicia excelsa, M. regia (syn. Chlorophora excelsa, C. regia)

Distribution: Tropical Africa

Tree Size: 100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall, 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 41 lbs/ft3 (660 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .55, .66

Janka Hardness: 1,260 lbf (5,610 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 12,700 lbf/in2 (87.6 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,360,000 lbf/in2 (9.38 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 7,840 lbf/in2 (54.0 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 2.8%, Tangential: 3.8%, Volumetric: 8.8%, T/R Ratio: 1.4

Color/Appearance: Heartwood is usually a yellow to golden or medium brown, with color tending to darken over time. Pale yellow sapwood is clearly demarcated from the heartwood.

Grain/Texture: Iroko has a medium to coarse texture, with open pores and an interlocked grain.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; large to very large pores in no specific arrangement, very few to few; solitary and radial multiples of 2-3; tyloses common; growth rings indistinct; medium rays visible without lens, spacing wide to normal; parenchyma banded, paratracheal parenchyma vasicentric, aliform (winged and lozenge), and confluent.

Rot Resistance: Iroko is very durable, and is resistant to both rot and insect attack; it’s sometimes used as a substitute for Teak.

Workability: Generally easy to work, with the exception of its interlocked grain, which may cause some tearout during surfacing operations. Also, deposits of calcium carbonate are sometimes present, which can have a significant dulling effect on cutters. Iroko glues and finishes well.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Iroko has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions simply include eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. Iroko can  also cause other health effects in sensitive individuals, such as asthma-like symptoms, boils, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Iroko is imported and available for a moderate price. Veneer can also be seen for sale, and is likewise affordably priced.

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, flooring, furniture, cabinetry, boatbuilding, turned items, and other small specialty wood items.

Comments: Given the high prices of genuine Teak, Iroko could be considered a low-cost alternative. The wood is stable, durable, and has an overall look that somewhat resembles Teak.

Related Species:

None available.

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures: A special thanks to Justin Holden for providing a wood sample (quartersawn), and also to Steve Earis for providing a wood sample and the turned photo of this wood species.

Iroko (sanded)
Iroko (sanded)
Iroko (sealed)
Iroko (sealed)
Iroko (endgrain)
Iroko (endgrain)
Iroko (endgrain 10x)
Iroko (endgrain 10x)
Iroko (quartersawn)
Iroko (quartersawn)
Iroko (turned)
Iroko (turned)
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Harvey Flinder

My experience of using Iroko outside is that it is not as rot resistant as, for example, Teak. I have found that when subjected to continuously damp conditions, such as a British Winter, it will rot from the end grain inwards. This is especially liable to happen if it is in contact with, for example, a softwood that has begun to rot. No amount of oil or coating prevents this from happening.

Charlotte Player

The governments allowing the cutting down of Iroko in west Africa are corrupt. I don’t think we should be importing Iroko. When you see the disappearance for yourself its very sad. These tress are not sustained. And they are so grand and beautiful like home tree in Avatar.

jan sveen

Hello. I got a Kylix 27, built in England in 79, now situated in Copenhagen. It is painted. I just wonder, would it be possible to leave it without paint? I find the wood color very nice looking. I read that some people kept furniture in the garden for almost 30 years without oiling it, made from iroko. The furniture are still good. I will strip it for paint anyways, remove the crap that they put between the boards, and put in cotton tread with tar. It has not been maintained well the last 30 years. It was on land… Read more »

Lillian

My boat has an iroko rub rail and cockpit coamings, which I think originally had Decks Olje applied but after 30 years without refinishing much of that has worn away. There is severe checking in the rubrail, and some in the coamings too (which were better maintained). I don’t recommend you leave your exterior iroko bare without some sort of paint or topcoat.

Lillian

Forgot to mention: my boat has been in Seattle, USA, and British Columbia, Canada, so 9-10 months cool and drizzly each year, with 2-3 months of arid but not hot summer.

Reg Seward

I was cutting a fairly short length on my bandsaw, the grain however, over the short length already cut, firmly closed up and trapped the blade. I had one terrific job extracting the blade, eventually it snapped, so it was a tough old hombre to cut. Cross grain is as easy as pastry cutting, but I ended up cutting many crossgrain actions to ease the length cutting. It didn’t make much difference to be fair. I finished the cut with a Japanese saw by hand, and planed the thing down, a much easier option…

James

when it close up its because it is not dried properly, called case hardening, if you suspect wood like that keep a wooden wedge handy and right after you start the cut add the wood wedge so it will not close up

zaky

about iroko odor, yes it has a good smell the same as i found it in teak while working with

zaky

any advice about gluing iroko i intent to make some glulam with polyurethane adhesive

Josh Marten

We glued iroko with Tightbond III, which is water proof after curing. Worked great and resulted in the wood, not the joint, breaking on stress test.

Bob Magowan

Iroko is an excellent tone wood. I have constructed two mountain dulcimers from Iroko and they sound great. Good tonewoods do not need to be extremely dense; Koa is not and it is probably the best tonewood that you can get.

Pete Kovalcik

would it be suitable for a guitar neck?

theuns

Hi ,

If Iroko that is air dried is transported by ship in a container ,would the wood have any damage in any way due to the moisture content at sea .Will the planks go skew or change colour ,would like to know please

Simon Borg

Does anyone know if this wood would be suitable as kitchen bench tops, if adequately varnished? I read the comments below about chopping boards, but the application I have in mind would mean that the wood is treated so that it is not exposed to water and other liquids. Any comments would be most welcome.

arron

Iroko is more than appropriate for this application. The material is commonly used in creation of exterior timber gates, benches and decking with or without treatment as it is very durable. I’m a hardwood trader btw.

Ali Sadaqat

I’m building my new home this year 2015. Someone recommend me Iroko for doors. I’m looking for advise that can i use Iroko for my doors in indoor and outdoor. I want to know should it behave good of shrinkage durabilty and termite resistant?
Looking for your advise..
Regards

john warner

Does anybody know whether Iroko works for xylophones or Marimbas? I know Ipe has a very resonant ring, but I’m reluctant to use it because of its endangered status.

Thanks. John Warner.
Murrumbateman. NSW. Australia

Avner Tzur

John,
Ipe: where did you see it is endangered?
We sell it to various destinations duly authorised by the Govt.
Thanks/Avner

Joseph palas

Iroko is not a tone wood. Ipe is 2 or 3 times as hard as iroko.

Joseph palas

Ipe is not endangered

Yair

the local Africans making a Djembe drum out of it and it consider as a good quality wood for that purpose.
there is a wood they call ‘balawood’ they make their local marimba keys out of it.
it looks like rosewood/cocobolo to me.

John Dickie

I have been making outdoor furniture with Iroko for 24 years

John Dickie

For exposed condititions I would say a Max of 100mm wide planks, preferably quarter sawn

John Robinson

I am working on a new construction of a large beautiful home, as a paint contractor for over 40 years of experience. The mill work contractor built exterior stairs steps and at the top a large top deck step/platform of Iroka wood, about four foot wide and five foot long, 1 1/2 thick, to fit into the metal stair Skelton. I researched what exterior stain would be best suited for application that not only sealed but you where able to walk on surface. Was informed by paint supplier that a product called Sikkens in whitch I am very familiar with… Read more »

James

Did you read the Sikkens can very carefully. Usually it is not recommended for horizontal surfaces ,says right on can. Other causes probably the wood not properly acclimated to site conditions, did you check it with a moisture meter ?. Also always need to coat all the surfaces of the wood and needs to be screwed down from underneath because it is a very strong wood. Good luck with repair it.

Lizzie Speed

When we built our house over ten years ago, we had iroko wood work surfaces in the kitchen. Oiled with Danish oil, it looked fantastic and survived anything we could throw at it. I’d certainly use it again.

Lizzie

John Dickie

Investigate a floor finish called Bona-really tough

Helen Botha

I need to send a specification to an architect of how one would coat Iroka on a staircase to keep it from getting damaged. Do you have any recommendations. Also to the walls which will be Iroka veneer what coating should be used ?

Regards
Helen

Ryan

Iv been recomended iroko for a project at home by carpenter i generally use but was just looking for adtional opinions and experiences. im basically re pebbledashing the front of our house as existing has had it, in the centre is what i think you would call a mock tudor frame decorative pattern that is presently made up of pine planks but these have rotted twisted and shrunk into oblivion. theyre about 2 inch think and are 6 3/4 inch to 7 3/4 wide and will be painted black to put match how it was built in the twentys. so… Read more »

Mike

Keith;

In answer to your question I would say no. It has an oil which can also be toxic and the open pores make a nice home for bacteria.

I use this is boat building and it is great for cockpits, rails, etc resisting rot and bugs but I would not use it near any food prep.

Peter

Hi Mike

Using IROKO in boat structures, can you also recommend using it for deck plank on Mahogany classic boat?

Keith Gibson

Is this wood suitable for chopping boards/butchers blocks…?

John Dickie

internal stresses can cause difficulties.mild steam bending possible.