Quebracho (Schinopsis balansae)
Quebracho (Schinopsis balansae)

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Common Name(s): Quebracho, Quebracho Colorado, Red Quebracho

Scientific Name: Schinopsis spp.
(S. balansae, S. brasiliensis, S. lorentzii, S. quebracho-colorado)

Distribution: Tropical South America

Tree Size: 30-50 ft (9-15 m) tall, 1-3 ft (.3-1 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 77 lbs/ft3 (1,235 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): 1.03, 1.24

Janka Hardness: 4,570 lbf (20,340 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 20,540lbf/in2 (141.7 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 2,407,000 lbf/in2 (16.60 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 12,080 lbf/in2 (83.3 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 4.3%, Tangential: 8.2%, Volumetric: 13.1%, T/R Ratio: 1.9

Color/Appearance: Heartwood color typically a light to medium reddish brown, sometimes with darker blackish streaks. Color darkens upon prolonged exposure to light. Pale yellow sapwood distinct from heartwood, though transition is gradual.

Grain/Texture: Quebracho has a fine, uniform texture with a high natural luster. Grain tends to be irregular, roey, and interlocked.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; medium to large pores in no specific arrangement, few to moderately numerous; primarily in radial multiples of 2-3; tyloses and other heartwood deposits present; narrow rays not visible without lens, normal spacing; parenchyma vasicentric and unilateral.

Rot Resistance: Quebracho is rated as very durable, and is also resistant to insect attacks. Quebracho also has excellent weathering characteristics.

Workability: Difficult to work on account of its density and irregular grain. High cutting resistance, as well as pronounced blunting effect on cutters. Dries slowly—and tends to crack, check, and warp while drying. Turns and finishes well, and also able to take on a high natural polish without any finishing agents.

Odor: There is no characteristic odor associated with this wood species, though it is reported to have a bitter taste.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Quebracho has been reported to cause respiratory irritation, as well as nausea. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Very seldom available in the United States, Quebracho is somewhat elusive as an imported hardwood. Expect prices to be in the medium to high range for an exotic wood.

Sustainability: Quebracho is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and  the IUCN reports that Schinopsis quebracho-colorado and S. balansae are species of least concern, though S. haenkeana is on the Red List 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: Heavy construction, railroad cross-ties, and fence posts (within its natural range), as well as furniture, and turned objects (when exported).

Comments: The name Quebracho is from the Spanish quebrar hacha, which literally means “axe breaker.” Aptly named, wood in the Schinopsis genus is among the heaviest and hardest in the world. 

Quebracho was heavily exploited in the late 1800s for use in leather tanning. The tanin-rich heartwood (up to 20-30%) is cut into small chips, where the tanins can subsequently be extracted.

Related Species:

None available.

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures:

Quebracho (Schinopsis balansae)
Quebracho (sanded)
Quebracho (sealed)
Quebracho (sealed)
Quebracho (endgrain)
Quebracho (endgrain)
Quebracho (endgrain 10x)
Quebracho (endgrain 10x)
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Matías

I am from Uruguay and bought a house some months ago, it was covered all by lower ceilings. I took them out and discovered my ceiling/roof made out of this wood, holding brick. This building style is called “a la porteña” here, and “alla toscana” in Italy.
Anyway, this wood has been resting in these roofs for 140 years, and they still hold the whole roof. It’s majestic, not that hard to cut in my experience, but very very heavy. Sometimes I can’t believe it’s wood, it seems more like some kind of rock.

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Matías

Yes it’s fresh. The black part is where I used the angle grinder (which I learned is a big mistake to use that tool). The red part in the center is where I cracked it by standing on it, so really the colour is the one you can see in the stripe in the middle.

Alex

I have been spending all day researching hard woods for a base wood to use for personal chopsticks. After being tempted with the idea of buying a set, and I prefer no metal in my mouth, and real real chopsticks go from 130-380 dollars here in US because were idiots, I decided to make my own. Seems to me this wood only causes problems when inhaled dust wise, but I figured if anyone would throw in on taste and tannin results.

Jake McCracken

Considering the high concentrations of tannins, which can be irritating to skin if remember correctly, and the fact that it’s a pain in the ass to work with. I’d pass, unless you’re dead set about using it in particular. I have a few blanks I was thinking of turning into a pair of nunchucks lol.
I’d use a wood such as cherry, maple, most fruit woods, maybe rosewood if you’re not allergic like I am. Olive wood is a good hard hardwood for utensils I believe. Generally stay away from wood with open pores, high tannins, or toxins/allergens.

Jeffrey

Did you make the nunchucks?

HAMMER

Is it possible for me to make a walking/fighting cane out of this wood? Would I be successful? What kinds of tools would I need to work with this? Where can I get some?

Jake McCracken

If you can find a long section and have the patience. The weight and tendency to splinter isn’t best for a fighting cane though. Try looking at the section for Bow woods on this website(under “Articles”), woods with a decent hardness and a good ratio of modulus of rupture to elastic modulus. Bow woods like Osage orange and yew would make an awesome fighting cane! Janka hardness is not a big deal for fighting canes, Traditional fighting staffs use relatively soft woods

Wyatt Schmidt

I read that Quercus Myrsinifolia aka Japanese white oak is just perfect for staff type weapons, only problem is I can’t find the Janka hardness for it anywhere on the internet but I found out it’s density is around 54-60 lbs/ft3 from different sources But I can’t tell which one is the most reliable. One last thing the best source I found for how dense Japanese white oak is, is from a company who makes drumsticks called Promark and they say that their Japanese white oak drum sticks are 10% heavier then their hickory drumsticks But they don’t say what… Read more »

Rob

It sounds like seasoning is a major problem. Once the initial drying is over, how is the dimensional stability?

It’s a pity that the wood researchers mostly publish one shrinkage number for initial drying rather than also measuring movement in service.

I’m looking to challenge myself by making a luxury folding wooden rule. Movement in service is clearly an issue, so I was looking at desert ironwood, African blackwood, and other very hard woods. It’s hard to know which is best.

Nicolas

I made a guitar out of this wood (not recommended for people with back problems, it weights more than 7kg and you need a special strap, since the weight will break even a bass strap). This wood does have distinctive odour. The issue is its so hard that if you machine it, you will feel that odour mixed with the burning smell…..is not bitter, but more like a sweet-sour one and it’s very pleasent. The wood is also used in the wine industry (not for barrels but to use the tanines). It is better to work by hand than with… Read more »

Charles

Hi Nicolas,
How does this guitar’s neck fare in regards to stability? Was there a need to adjust it often depending on the climate and if so, what kind of climate is it subject to? Is it just as stable as other common guitar necks (mahogany, maple) or better? TIA

Rafael

Quebracho it’s for Quiebra Hacha, literally Axe Breaker.

Michael

I have an axe I keep breaking handles on would quebracho hold up as a handle

Paul

I made this video using Quebracho Colorado, enjoy :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_bAHQ7ev9E

Fabian Reeves Whymark

Cut up a random pallet where I am in the uk made from some tropical wood, didn’t know where it came from but was wondering why it was so heavy. I sanded it and it turns out they used this wood to make this pallet! Interestingly the small amount of sapwood had some rot but the heartwood was perfectly intact after being outdoors for who knows how long. I had to run it through the sander thicknesser as it has interlocked grain that would tear out with a planer. From tapping it, it sounds like it’ll be a great tonewood.

Kevin Bowles

Somebody know the calorific power of quebracho? thanks

Erik Larsen

Janka hardness says to be 23340N on this page, But if you click on “Top ten hardest woods”, it says 20340N. Wich is correct?

Andy

Just curious, would this be suitable for an inlay for a ring?

Richard Ellis

The cracking effect seems to happen primarily when exposed to the elements. The cracking originates on the outer exposed surfaces progressing over long periods into the inner structure. Common woodworking tools, drills, radial saws will work OK but must be used very slowly. Nails will not work at all because the hardness will only allow a nail to be driven 1/4 inch maximum. Pilot holes for screws again must be made almost at the screws diameter as the wood won’t deflect allowing the screw into the wood.

Luc

My grandfather carved a head into a log of quebracho while traveling on a tramp steamer in the ’50s.
The sculpture spent at least 15 years outdoors in new england with little ill effect, and was only brought indoors and treated better after ants moved in. I don’t know that they were feeding on the wood: it does not seem to have been significantly damaged by the ants.