Leopardwood (Roupala spp.)

Leopardwood (Roupala montana)

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Common Name(s): Leopardwood

Scientific Name: Roupala montana (syn. R. brasiliense)

Distribution: Central and South America

Tree Size: 100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall, 2-3 ft (.6-1.0 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 55 lbs/ft3 (885 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .73, .89

Janka Hardness: 2,150 lbf (9,560 N)

Modulus of Rupture: No data available

Elastic Modulus: 2,887,000 lbf/in2 (19.91 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 7,280 lbf/in2 (50.2 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 3.5%, Tangential: 8.8%, Volumetric: 11.5%, T/R Ratio: 2.5

Color/Appearance: Has a very conspicuous flecking that gives this wood its namesake. The wood itself is a medium to dark reddish brown with grey or light brown rays, which resemble the spots of a leopard. Like other woods that exhibit the strongest figure in quartersawn pieces, (such as Sycamore), Leopardwood has the most pronounced figure and displays the largest flecks when perfectly quartersawn; this is due to the wood’s wide medullary rays, whose layout can be seen the clearest when looking at the endgrain.

Grain/Texture: Has a fairly coarse texture and straight grain.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; small to medium pores in tangential rows; solitary and tangential multiples of 2-3; deposits in heartwood occasionally present; growth rings indistinct; very wide rays easily visible without lens; parenchyma banded, diffuse-in-aggregates.

Rot Resistance: Most species are reported to be very durable regarding decay resistance.

Workability: Fairly difficult to work because of its high density and tendency to tearout during planing. Leopardwood glues and finishes well.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although there have been no adverse health effects reported for Lacewood in the Roupala genus, several other genera in the Proteaceae family have been reported to cause eye and skin irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Prices for Leopardwood tend to be medium to high for an imported wood.

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

Common Uses: Veneer, cabinetry, fine furniture, musical instruments (guitars), and turned objects.

Comments: Leopardwood is frequently confused with Lacewood, and is sometimes referred to as such. In its vaguest sense, the term “lacewood” is used to describe any wood that displays figuring that resembles lace, (which would technically include Leopardwood). Attempts to identify a specific board macroscopically may be difficult. Two Australian species, Northern Silky Oak (Cardwellia sublimis), and Southern Silky Oak (Grevillea robusta) can both look very similar, and are sometimes sold as Australian Lacewood.

Leopardwood (Roupala spp.) can usually be separated from most species of Lacewood (Panopsis spp.) based upon its darker color and higher density. Additionally, when comparing the endgrain of these two genera, Leopardwood has wider spaced parenchyma bands: approximately 3-4 per mm versus 5-6 per mm with Lacewood.

Related Species:

Proteaceae family:

Scans/Pictures: Note the pair of pictures demonstrating the use of a bandsaw in resawing a small piece of Leopardwood to fully display the ray flecks in the wood.

Leopardwood (sanded)

Leopardwood (sanded)

Leopardwood (sealed)

Leopardwood (sealed)

Leopardwood (endgrain)

Leopardwood (endgrain)

Leopardwood (endgrain 10x)

Leopardwood (endgrain 10x)

Leopardwood (resawing)

Leopardwood (resawing)

Leopardwood (quartersawn)

Leopardwood (quartersawn)

9 Comments

  1. Phil September 17, 2018 at 6:27 am - Reply

    A little confused…. “Leopardwood has wider spaced parenchyma bands: approximately 3-4 per mm versus 5-6 per mm with Lacewood.” 3-4mm doesn’t seem to be wider than 5-6mm.

    • Eric September 17, 2018 at 10:56 am - Reply

      You have to keep in mind that the number is “per mm”. For reference on a road or walking path, if I said that there are 4 distance markers per mile, that would mean that the markers on the path were spaced wider than if I said that there were 6 distance markers per mile. Think of the parenchyma bands as “distance markers” — but on a much smaller (mm) scale. Hopefully that makes sense.

  2. David M. Moore April 2, 2018 at 7:55 pm - Reply

    Hello, I recently tried to turn a bowl out of Leopardwood. At first the results were beautiful. I left to go to the store and when I returned the bowl, which was only about 60% complete, had cracks all around the outside but not on the inside. I don’t know why this happened. Any ideas?

  3. Chad K. March 15, 2018 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    Hey Eric, I’m a small shop knife maker and stumbled across your website a couple years back and have been referring to it since. I just saw the posters and bought two, one for myself and one for my mentor. And just now came across the link and what led me to the page titled, ‘The Most Valuable Wood in the History of Mankind.” Nice!

    Great site. Good man.

  4. Rickey Bryan April 2, 2017 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    How stable is South American Leopard Wood? It has a T/R ratio of 2.5 which seems vey high! How stable will or would it be musical instruments? Would it cause shrinking or expansion problems, which would or could lead to cracks & or warpage in Guitars & Dobros ?

  5. Guido Masoero January 2, 2016 at 11:41 am - Reply

    bowl empty pockets

  6. fungus amungus May 12, 2014 at 9:21 pm - Reply

    I’m doing my first Stave Drum Shell with it & it is a strange but wonderful species! Very unique texture & has a really cool 3D appearance, will definitely be using it again!

    • T. Edward Price March 29, 2017 at 8:04 pm - Reply

      Did you ever get to build this? If so how did it turn out? Any pics?

  7. K P December 3, 2013 at 8:39 am - Reply

    Is Leopardwood good for counter top?

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