Wenge (Millettia laurentii)

Wenge (Millettia laurentii)

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Common Name(s): Wenge

Scientific Name: Millettia laurentii

Distribution: Central Africa

Tree Size: 60-90 ft (18-27 m) tall, 3-4 ft (1-1.2 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 54 lbs/ft3 (870 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .72, .87

Janka Hardness: 1,930 lbf (8,600 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 21,990 lbf/in2 (151.7 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 2,550,000 lbf/in2 (17.59 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 11,710 lbf/in2 (80.7 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 4.8%, Tangential: 8.1%, Volumetric: 12.9%, T/R Ratio: 1.7

Color/Appearance: Heartwood is medium brown, sometimes with a reddish or yellowish hue, with nearly black streaks. Upon application of a wood finish (particularly an oil finish) the wood can become nearly black.

Grain/Texture: Grain is straight, with a very coarse texture. Low natural luster.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; large to very large pores in no specific arrangement, very few; solitary and radial multiples of 2-3; dark brown mineral deposits occasionally present; medium rays not visible without lens, normal spacing; parenchyma vasicentric, confluent, with wide bands of parenchyma typically as thick as the pores.

Rot Resistance: Very durable, and resistant to termite attack.

Workability: Can be difficult to work with hand and machine tools. Blunts tool edges. Sands unevenly due to differences in density between light and dark areas. Very splintery—care must be used when handling unfinished wood with bare hands, as splinters have an increased risk of infection. Very large pores can be difficult to fill if a perfectly smooth/level finish is desired.

Odor: Wenge has a faint, slightly bitter scent when being worked.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon,  breathing Wenge wood dust has been reported to cause central nervous system effects, abdominal cramps, irritation of the skin and eyes, and is a sensitizer. Also, Wenge splinters tend to take longer to heal and  are more likely to go septic (get infected) than splinters from other woods. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Available in wide boards and veneer sheets. Prices are high, and are likely to remain so as supplies dwindle.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, but is on the IUCN Red List. It is listed as endangered due to a population reduction of over 50% in the past three generations, caused by a decline in its natural range, and exploitation.

Common Uses: Veneer, paneling, furniture, turned objects, and musical instruments.

Comments: Usually pronounced WHEN-gii or WHEN-ghay, the wood has excellent strength and hardness properties, and is also dark enough to be used as a substitute for ebony.

Related Species:

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures: A special thanks to Steve Earis for providing the turned photo of this wood species.

Wenge (sanded)

Wenge (sanded)

Wenge (sealed)

Wenge (sealed)

Wenge (endgrain)

Wenge (endgrain)

Wenge (endgrain 10x)

Wenge (endgrain 10x)

Wenge (turned)

Wenge (turned)

Wenge (bookmatched)

Wenge (bookmatched)

48 Comments

  1. Printable Calendar September 12, 2018 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    why would wenge have a blond center similar to sap wood

  2. JOHN BLAHUT July 17, 2018 at 11:23 pm - Reply

    CAN WENGE BE USED IN CUTTING BOARD

  3. Jeremy Leclerc July 11, 2018 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    Hey I’m trying to make a tabletop of 22″x30″ how should I proceed to laminate 10 planks of 2″ 1/2 x 32
    I’ve heard I need to clean the edged with acétone and uses titebond 3 glue.

  4. Angelika July 2, 2018 at 10:44 am - Reply

    Hi!
    Is there someone that are able to tell if this is Wenge or Pangapanga (or something else?)? This is varnished…

    • louis August 19, 2018 at 5:45 am - Reply

      Its difficult to say but generally Wenge is darker than that when sealed so its more likely panga panga

  5. EframGoldberg June 15, 2018 at 2:51 am - Reply

    I’ve noticed a variety of species note they are difficult to machine and dull cutters, but Wenge has given me the most problems so far. I dimensioned a 3X24X1 board to make a 3/8″ thick small box for a paid of dividers. Sawing it felt like the teeth would rather slide instead of digging in, and my plane irons required sharpening at least several times If this wood is going to be worked by hand, the workability and harpoon like spiinters should definitely be taken into account when planning a project.

  6. Tim S May 22, 2018 at 9:49 am - Reply

    How about wenge or panga panga for outside stems on a strip canoe? The curved stems typically consist of three laminated layers starting at 1/4″ x 7/8″ each. Finished product is ‘glassed. Will these exotics steam and bend?

  7. Joshua Kuehn May 17, 2018 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    I just put a block onto my CNC machine (Taig CR2019 converted to Arduino driven CNC) and milling machine (Grizzly G704) to cut a wedding ring box for my upcoming wedding and I am happy to report that wenge machines beautifully! Once I got everything set up proper, I was getting beautiful and consistent sized chips. It’s definitely my favorite wood so far to machine.

    Since I couldn’t find any feeds or speeds or general milling tips, I had to do some guess work and nearly ruined my first block. So to spread some knowledge, here’s what I found:

    I got the best surface finish (better than 800 grit for sure, maybe even 1000 grit) with a 1/4 inch carbide end mill running 10,000 rpm at 10 to 12 inches per minute (ipm) for milling at half tool width cuts and 9-10 ipm lead in/lead out moves. Ramps and plunges for a quarter inch end mill were at 8-10 ipm.

    I also tried machining with a 1.25″ TiN roughing end mill at 2000 rpm and about half or the quarters of the above feed rates, but the lighter areas of the wood had more fiber tearing and left a rougher surface similar to 80 – 120 grit, I think my rpm’s were too fast by 750 or 500.

    For lead ins or lead outs use conventional milling, not climb milling. If you climb mill, on tool lead out, it will pull large slivers out of the under face and ruin it. Also I got a lot of chatter going over a half inch of cut depth when climb milling, but I have 5-10 thou of backlash on my G704 mill that I haven’t addressed yet that probably contributed.

    Also keep any pockets you mill into your work blown out and clear otherwise the chips will be blended into a done powder that I can definitely say suck to breathe in. It felt like inhaling Vick’s VapoRub, which started to suck after 5 minutes. (Don’t worry, I put a mask on after I noticed!) The effects subsided after 45 minutes.

    After I finish the wenge base of the box, I’m going to make a cap out of black palm, and I will report what I find for that wood.

    Hope this helps and if anyone has any other questions and I don’t respond on here, go to my website and contact me through the contact me section and I will respond through there! (joshuadavidkuehn dot com)

  8. CP April 3, 2018 at 8:19 am - Reply

    Thinking of using this as a single tread (more like a ‘kneeler’) in my bathroom at the tub. Can this be sanded and sealed well enough to protect barefoot children from the dreaded splinters?

    • Eric April 3, 2018 at 10:01 pm - Reply

      I think this could be done; you’d just have to be sure to sand it thoroughly and perhaps round over and sharp edges. But perhaps most importantly, use several coats of a film building finish like lacquer or polyurethane rather than a wax or oil finish.

      • Angelika July 3, 2018 at 2:01 am - Reply

        Wenge??

  9. jamie April 2, 2018 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    Hi is this wenge

    • Eric April 3, 2018 at 12:26 pm - Reply

      No.

    • Tracey July 20, 2018 at 4:24 pm - Reply

      I’m just guessing, but it look like walnut sapwood to me

    • Louis August 12, 2018 at 3:37 am - Reply

      You would need better pictures to have a shot at IDing it but its definitely not Wenge. Completely the wrong color.

  10. Grumpy Pan March 22, 2018 at 8:56 pm - Reply

    Talk about splinters.. it sure will hurt someone if the fretboard edges isn’t rolled properly and buff to smooth. Tho 1 thing i like about this wood is the texture, color and durability compared to some fretboards. I include the picture of the neck we are currently doing 5 piece canadian maple with wenge stripes plus a wenge headstock plate. I told my guys to use carbon fiber rods on all necks for more stability, not that i do not trust maple/wenge combo, a 5 piece neck alone is good enough.. plus an extra muscle by putting a wenge fretboard on all of them. Rosewoods are going to be a problem when shipping them to UK and probably some other places.. so far wenge is still ok… for now.

    https://www.facebook.com/GOCGuitars/photos/a.263966063734074.62729.263961627067851/1174576436006361/?type=1&theater

  11. David White March 10, 2018 at 11:20 pm - Reply

    This is a beautiful, heavy, sturdy, very dark wood with striking streaks that are nearly black. Interestingly, I’ve noticed that it can tend to have some sort of white granular deposit in its open grain after sawing or planing. Which reminds me, I meant to look that up but never did.

    I had none of the allergic or irritant problems mentioned, but the splinters are very long, very sharp, very jagged, very painful, and very real. These are the kind that go in one place and come out another! I quickly learned not to run my fingers along the edges of the wood until it was thoroughly rounded over, perhaps with a 1/4 or 3/8 inch roundover bit. Even after that, thorough sanding is essential.

    I made a shop stool seat and footrest out of wenge and was uncertain the entire time whether the punishing splinters that sprung up during the woodwork would show up in even less comfortable places upon its use for seating. But woodshop daredevil that I am, I couldn’t resist the striking contrast between maple legs and wenge horizontal surfaces.

    I needn’t have worried, as 20 yrs later the stool has lasted like a champ and I’ve collected nary another splinter from it.

    • Eric March 12, 2018 at 3:26 pm - Reply

      My hands hurt just reading your description of the splinters. I too am among the vicious-Wenge-splinter club. If anyone is planning on handling large amounts of unfinished Wenge boards or lumber that have square 90 degree edges, I’d recommend wearing gloves!

  12. george A March 8, 2018 at 9:29 am - Reply

    I find it to be a rather nasty wood to work with where the redeeming qualities of wenge do not overcome its characteristics.

  13. Garth February 28, 2018 at 5:49 am - Reply

    Is Wenge and Ebony the same thing? If I order Wenge from a supplier will I get what I know to be Ebony?

    • Eric February 28, 2018 at 3:34 pm - Reply

      Definitely not the same wood. They are both very dark colored, but different woods.

  14. Jim Zhu February 15, 2018 at 6:44 pm - Reply

    This makes a good handmade slingshot.

  15. Mark King January 13, 2018 at 10:02 pm - Reply

    Would it be possible to make a butcher block desk out of katalox and wenge wood ?

  16. Ján Bakoš December 4, 2017 at 6:05 pm - Reply

    is it possible to use this wood as a building material for a house?

    • Ron L May 11, 2018 at 9:56 am - Reply

      This is an exotic hardwood from Africa which is considered endangered and is usually very expensive. Most applications are small pieces. With that said, I just finished making a small counter top using this wood and it is gorgeous.

  17. Shane Walton September 19, 2017 at 1:05 am - Reply

    Nothing better, in my opinion, than a wenge neck. Strong, beautiful, it sounds incredible and feels amazing! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bde4fdd2b08f97ae87b95b3b06e4a3e45ab7582fef08997ad404dadd0058512e.jpg

  18. Juggernaut1969 October 20, 2015 at 4:14 am - Reply

    I use Wenge often in guitars I build often in the neck laminate or in the fret board. I find it to be easy enough to work with as long as you are aware that it will splinter on the edges and you can crack it if you try to bend it too much.
    This is a bass I built where the neck and body are carved out of a single piece of Bubinga. I then glued a Wenge fret board to the neck.

    • Rob Paschall November 29, 2015 at 11:37 am - Reply

      can you get in contact with me on facebook about a wenge bass?

    • pios February 20, 2018 at 1:12 pm - Reply

      pour les petites pièces il existe un procédé qui améliore les qualités acoustiques du wengé , impregnation à l’huile puis passages très brefs au micro onde

  19. matthew mclachlan January 4, 2015 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    I was looking at a few pieces of wenge & noticed how straight the grain is. Was wondering since I have been having trouble finding hickory in my area if making a hammer handle from wenge would be a good idea. Any thoughts? (Hammer would be for construction work so very hard on the hammer so any thoughts would be appreciated, if I should just save my money and search harder for some hickory :P

    • Mario Cargol September 15, 2015 at 9:37 am - Reply

      It would be nice looking but watch out with the splinters !!!

    • TownCalendars November 30, 2017 at 10:45 am - Reply

      Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, breathing Wenge wood dust has been reported to cause central nervous system effects, abdominal cramps, irritation of the skin and eyes, and is a sensitizer. Also, Wenge splinters tend to take longer to heal and are more likely to go septic (get infected) than splinters from other woods. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

  20. Astralan June 21, 2014 at 11:32 am - Reply

    I am currently looking at an electric bass that has a neck of this material with a rosewood fretboard. Never seen anything like this and wondered how hardy it would be having strings putting stress on the wood?

    • ejmeier June 21, 2014 at 5:28 pm - Reply

      Wenge should be plenty strong for this.

    • 2018 January December 15, 2017 at 5:00 pm - Reply

      is it possible to use this wood as a building material for a house?

      • Louis August 12, 2018 at 3:46 am - Reply

        Wenge is an exotic hardwood and is exponentially more expensive than the type of woods used as building materials. The cost would be staggering.

  21. CFU January 24, 2014 at 5:27 pm - Reply

    why would wenge have a blond center similar to sap wood

    • treetard March 17, 2014 at 12:23 am - Reply

      The white color will disappear as the air gets to it. It’s common when the wood is cut from the log to see white color which fades with time.

  22. JosephD November 18, 2013 at 9:55 pm - Reply

    Found that cracks easy if not careful when giving pressure from point to point on lathe

  23. blair hohn September 16, 2013 at 6:45 pm - Reply

    Wenge handle hand turned by Berkhouse Knifeworks

  24. Bernard TAILLEFER March 28, 2013 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    Dans la province du Bandundu, village de Intswem Labwi sur la route d’Idiofa j’ai rencontré un jardinier qui utilise la fleur de l’arbre comme engrais naturel

    • Grey Wolf April 29, 2016 at 9:38 am - Reply

      Say what!!!!

    • clip art May 29, 2017 at 6:56 pm - Reply

      Comments: Usually pronounced WHEN-gii or WHEN-ghay, the wood has excellent strength and hardness properties, and is also dark enough to be used as a substitute for ebony.

    • kevin love instagram September 27, 2017 at 6:12 pm - Reply

      Crushing Strength: 11,710 lbf/in2 (80.7 MPa)

    • blank calendar October 28, 2017 at 4:21 pm - Reply

      Odor: Wenge has a faint, slightly bitter scent when being worked.

  25. blair hohn March 26, 2013 at 9:26 pm - Reply

    Wenge handle hand turned by Berkhouse Knifeworks

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