Jequitiba: A 'Royal' Substitute for Furniture & Cabinetry

By Jo-Ann Kaiser | Posted: 06/04/2012 1:05PM


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click image to zoomJequitibaFamily Name:
Cariniana pyriformis and Cariniana legalis of the Family Lecythidaceae

Common Names
Jequitiba, jequitiba rosa, abarco, albarco, bacu, South American mahogany, yesquero, estopeiro, jequitiba branco, jequitiba.

Weight varies from 31 to 43 pounds per cubic foot, with an average weight of 36 pounds per cubic foot and a specific gravity of 0.58.

• The wood dries quickly and well without problems and is considered fairly easy to kiln dry without degrade.
• Jequitiba works well with hand and machine tools. Experts recommend cutting tools be kept sharp to avoid problems of raised grain. Pre-boring is recommended.
• The heartwood is reportedly durable, especially with deeply colored material, and has good resistance to termite attack.
Known also as royal mahogany, jequitiba was first introduced to the U.S. wood products market approximately ten years ago. Since then, this South and Central American species’ growth in popularity has been relatively slow as it fights for a share of the marketplace.

Although there is no relation, “jequitiba was seen as a replacement for mahogany,” said Jim Martin of Marwood Veneer, Jeffersonville, IN. He also noted that for paneling and architectural woodwork, “It has a very pleasing cathedral figure and its color is a little lighter than mahogany.”

Rick Banas, vice president at Interwood Forest Products Inc., Shelbyville, IN, also commented on jequitiba’s characteristics. “Jequitiba has a very pleasing and clear grain structure as well as a color ranging from caramel tan, to dark brown. Although it was never successful in replacing Swietenia on the veneer and lumber markets, it has found its way into various projects,” he said.

Jequitiba is widely used in its native range of South and Central America. In Brazil, Colombia and Peru, jequitiba is often used in residential and contract furniture, cabinetry, component and dimension parts, construction, shipbuilding, flooring, panelling, moulding, veneer and turnery. It is also used for windows and doors. Because the wood has no odor or taste, one of its specialty uses is in the production of vats or barrels for aging rum.

Studio SaccaroJequitiba offers a pleasing grain pattern and color, as shown in this desk/nightstand designed by Studio Saccaro. Photo: Saccaro USA But in North America, its uses have been limited. “Personally, I believe that it is an under-utilized species [despite] its consistency in appearance and availability,” Banas said.

Gary Parker, director of sales at Dooge Veneers Inc. in Grand Rapids, MI, agreed. “When it came into the U.S. market it was used as a mahogany substitute, but South American mahogany from Mexico seems to be used in the applications that might have used royal mahogany,” he said.

Parker added that South American mahogany is certified, which can be an important factor in some markets. “The logs from South American mahogany also tend to be much larger, which is another factor to consider, especially in a high end architectural market.”

Studio SaccaroJequitiba is ideal for use in high-end furniture. Designed by Ana Vasquez, this Cartona Drawer Chest has jequitiba wood and leather stripes. Photo: Saccaro USA Many Names & Characteristics

Jequitiba is one of those woods with a wide range of names, many tied to the country of origin. In Colombia, jequitiba is commonly known as abarco. In Venezuela the tree is called bacu and in Brazil its names include ceru, jequitiba rosa, jequitiba amarelle and tauary. Jequitiba is also called jequitiba de agulheiro, jequitiba branco, jequitiba cedro, jequitiba grande, jequitiba vermelho, pau carga, pau caixaw and sapucaia de apito. In the U.S. market, the two most common names are jequitiba and royal mahogany.

The USDA Forest Products Laboratory describes Cariniana as a genus of about 10 species. Its heartwood is typically reddish or purplish brown, sometimes with dark streaks and usually not sharply demarcated from the more pale sapwood. The wood is said to have a medium luster and a grain that is straight to interlocked.

Trees from the species can range in height from 100 to 130 feet tall with trunk diameters that can be as wide as 4 to 6 feet in diameter. According to the Forest Products Lab, the wood air-dries rapidly with only a slight tendency to warp or check; a kiln schedule of T3-D2 for 4/4 stock and a schedule of T3-D1 for 8/4 stock is recommended. The lumber also is reported to have “good dimensional stability after manufacture.”

The working properties for Cariniana pyriformis and some of the other Cariniana species are generally regarded as satisfactory, although some material will have a slight blunting effect on cutting edges and some species in the group reportedly cause rapid dulling of cutting tools.

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About the Author

Jo-Ann Kaiser

Jo-Ann Kaiser

Jo-Ann Kaiser has been covering the woodworking industry for 31+ years. She is a contributing editor for the Woodworking Network and has been writing the Wood of the Month column since its inception in 1986.

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