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:

Scans/Pictures:

Katalox (Swartzia cubensis)
Katalox (sanded)
Katalox (sealed)
Katalox (sealed)
Katalox (endgrain)
Katalox (endgrain)
Katalox (endgrain 10x)
Katalox (endgrain 10x)
Katalox (turned)
Katalox (turned)
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Jacob Strauss

I have two katalox guitar neck blanks, bot with a slight bow. Do any of you guys know of any good ways to straighten these things out without having to remove any material? The blanks are about 40 inches long, and around 3/4 of an inch thick. Any help would be greatly appreciated

Steve

Steam bending. Check YouTube videos

Ron Reynolds

Just turned this Katalox bowl yesterday; smells like bacon bits and definitely called for a respirator (nose lining started burning when I first rounded the blank without a respirator). Cuts wonderfully (smooth and no tear out) but it does dull tools about as quickly as purpleheart, cocobolo or teak. This bowl is sanded to 600 and then wax+rottenstone polished but no finish was applied.

Frank Canonica

I will testify this is a difficult wood to work with. Dried, it chipped my brand new gouge, it wore my sander so far that the sander went on vacation in Mexico.Sand paper cowered, but I tamed it. Hardest wood I’ve worked with.

Jacob

Would you be able to use Katalox for a cutting board? Or even an end grain cutting board?

Ing. Enrique Cantu

The mexican EBANO its the “Ebenopsis ebano”, localy known as Ebano or Mahuacata.you can find it in the north-east estates of México (San Luis Potosi, Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas and the south Texas area. The hearth of the tree its dark brown almost black and the sapwood its yelow-cream color. Its very dense and durable.

Alex

Hello I’m building a 35×90 butcher block table top desk with drawers on either side I want to use katalox for the table top but I want a different wood for the drawers it needs to be tough not yellowish and with an interesting grain pattern any suggestions? Thank you

By the way this is my first butcher block tabletop I’ve made butcher block cutting boards before and there usually between 2 and 1 inch thick will it be okay If I make it between 1/2 an inch and an inch in thickness
Thanks

Alex

Hello I’m building a 35x90x1 butcher block table top desk with drawers on either side I want to use katalox for the table top but I want a different wood for the drawers it needs to be tough not yellowish and with an interesting grain pattern any suggestions? Thank you

By the way this is my first butcher block tabletop I’ve made butcher block cutting boards before and there usually between 2 and 1 inch thick will it be okay If I make it between 1/2 an inch and an inch in thickness
Thanks

Juergen

Ebano is Spanish for Ebony

Mark King

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?

Vladimir Gorbachev

aka Mexican purpleheart

Chava Flores Vida

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)

Chava Flores Vida

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??

Scoot Fetgatter

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. Thanks Scott… Read more »

Chava Flores Vida

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

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

I can vouch for this!