Katalox (Swartzia cubensis)

Katalox (Swartzia cubensis)

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Common Name(s): Katalox, Mexican Royal Ebony

Scientific Name: Swartzia spp. (S. cubensis)

Distribution: Southern Mexico, Central America, and northern South America

Tree Size: 100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall, 2-4 ft (.6-1.2 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 72 lbs/ft3 (1,150 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .94, 1.15

Janka Hardness: 3,660 lbf (16,260 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 28,010 lbf/in2 (193.2 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 3,715,000 lbf/in2 (25.62 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 15,240 lbf/in2 (105.1 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 3.9%, Tangential: 7.6%, Volumetric: 11.2%, T/R Ratio: 1.9

Color/Appearance: Heartwood is dark reddish brown to nearly black, sometimes with a strong purple hue. Sapwood is sharply demarcated and is pale yellowish white. Pieces with curly or wavy grain are not uncommon.

Grain/Texture: Grain is usually straight, but can also be irregular or interlocked. With a fine even texture and good natural luster.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; medium to large pores, very few to few; solitary and radial multiples of 2-3; mineral/gum deposits occasionally present; parenchyma winged, confluent, and banded; narrow rays, fairly close spacing.

Rot Resistance: Varies depending upon species, but generally very durable. Heartwood is usually considered to have a high resistance to decay and termites; though it is susceptible to marine borers.

Workability: Katalox is typically considered difficult to work on account of its high density. The wood has a moderate to high blunting effect on cutters, and if there is interlocked grain present, tearout can occur during planing. Can be troublesome to glue because of its high density and natural oils present.

Odor: Katalox has a very faint odor when being worked.

Allergies/Toxicity: Katalox has been reported to cause respiratory irritation in some individuals. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Usually available in turning squares or as figured lumber (generally with a large amount of sapwood present). Expect prices to be in the mid to upper range for an imported tropical hardwood.

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

Common Uses: Inlays, fine furniture and cabinetry, parquet flooring, guitars, turnings, and other small specialty items.

Comments: Katalox has exceptional strength properties, and is among the very stiffest and strongest woods available worldwide. Its dark color makes it a popular substitute for ebony, and the wood is sometimes called Mexican Royal Ebony, though it is not a true ebony in the Diospyros genus.

Related Species:

Related Articles:


Katalox (Swartzia cubensis)

Katalox (sanded)

Katalox (sealed)

Katalox (sealed)

Katalox (endgrain)

Katalox (endgrain)

Katalox (endgrain 10x)

Katalox (endgrain 10x)

Katalox (turned)

Katalox (turned)


  1. Juergen March 5, 2018 at 4:35 am - Reply

    Ebano is Spanish for Ebony

  2. Mark King January 13, 2018 at 10:45 pm - Reply

    Can you stain dark woods so that they have a blue purple or indigo stains so that they have a hue of one of the aforementioned colours?

  3. Vladimir Gorbachev December 5, 2015 at 9:44 pm - Reply

    aka Mexican purpleheart

  4. Chava Flores Vida August 26, 2015 at 11:54 am - Reply

    I have a document from the SEMARNAT (mexican office for environment and natural resources) Katalox is scarce and since 1997 is on the red list of endangered species of the IUCN (international Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources)

    • ejmeier August 27, 2015 at 1:12 pm - Reply

      Hmm, do you happen to know what species they are referring to? I can’t seem to find any hint that Katalox is endangered according to the IUCN. I can see a handful of obscurer species (mostly from Ecuador) that are endangered, but they don’t appear to be commercial species, and the threat comes from general habitat destruction and not through direct exploitation of the trees.

      • Chava Flores Vida August 28, 2015 at 12:39 pm - Reply

        Yes, it is clearly specified as: Swartzia cubensis.
        And I haven’t looked at it directly in the IUCN. The document I refer to is from 2006. May the status has already changed??

  5. Eric January 3, 2011 at 11:02 pm - Reply

    Scott, I’ve never heard of the name Ebono, and a search came up empty. Ebono does sound similar to the english word “ebony,” and Katalox is sometimes referred to as “Mexican Ebony.” It is, however, not a true ebony, and is not in the Diospyros genus as other ebonies.

    I did find a bunch of differing information for Limoncillo, all contradicting each other and using the common name for widely different species and genera of wood. Can’t be of too much help there!

  6. Scoot Fetgatter January 1, 2011 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    I have been importing a wood the locals in Mexico call Ebono it look alot like the photo for Katalox. Do you know if this is a comon name for the wood? I am also looking to buy larger quanities of this wood but have been told it is hard to find in the state of Tamaulipus MX. Do you know where this wood grows in more abundance and is this in the Ebony family? I could submit photos if that would help.

    I also use a wood called Limoncillo, any information on this would also be appreciated.

    Scott Fetgatter

    • Chava Flores Vida August 26, 2015 at 11:51 am - Reply

      According to a document from the SEMARNAT (mexican office for environment and natural resources) Katalox is scarce and since 1997 is on the red list of endangered species of the IUCN (international Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

    • Gabriel Mendoza Palma February 20, 2016 at 5:12 pm - Reply

      It’s ébano. It’s an African wood. Mexican ébano is actually katalox and it is not quite hard to find. You can find it in the Yucatan Peninsula and I believe Guatemala. Y have been working with katalox and it’s great.

      • Jorge February 26, 2018 at 9:24 pm - Reply

        I can vouch for this!

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