Common Name(s): Katalox, Mexican ebony
Scientific Name: Swartzia 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): 0.94, 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.
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.
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.
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Porosity: diffuse porous
Arrangement: solitary and radial multiples
Vessels: medium to large, moderately few to few; amber and reddish brown heartwood deposits common
Parenchyma: winged, confluent, and banded
Rays: narrow (only visible with magnification); fairly close spacing
Lookalikes/Substitutes: Darker pieces of katalox can sometimes be confused with (and used in place of) true ebony (Diospyros spp.).
Notes: Growth rings not apparent.