By Jo-Ann Kaiser | Posted: 08/31/2011 12:15PM
Deck the Walls
Family Name: Tabebuia species of the Family Bignoniaceae.
Common Names: Ipe, lapacho, lapacho negro, Brazilian walnut, amapa, cortex, greenheart, madera negra, tahuari, ironwood, ebene vert, amata prieto pau lope, pau d’arco, ipe tabaco, bethabara, cortez, guayacan, guayacan polvillo, flor amarillo, and lapacho negro
Height/Weight: The average height is 100 feet, with diameters of 2 to 3 feet, but the tree can grow to heights of 200 feet. The average weight is 64 pounds per cubic foot, but it can weigh as much as 75 pounds per cubic foot, with a specific gravity of 1.08.
Properties: Ipe Heartwood, is typically reddish brown, sometimes with a greenish tinge, and often with striping.
Its hardness can cause a blunting effect on tool edges. High quality carbide or diamond tipped tools are suggested. Pre-drill when surface fastening.
Machining generates dust that may cause breathing problems and dermatitis. Hard, heavy, extremely durable and low maintenance are just some of the properties that have helped establish ipe as a great choice for decking, furniture and more.
“People see how it looks and performs for decking and are using it for outdoor furniture, fencing, outdoor kitchens, doors and even siding on home exteriors,” said Dan Ivancic, director of marketing at Advantage Trim and Lumber in Buffalo, NY. “Ipe is used for interior flooring, too.”
Marc Montgomery, managing director at New Hemisphere Ipe Furniture, and the website ipefurniture.com, based in Clearwater, FL, added that furniture is a natural progression for ipe. “We think furniture maximizes the properties of the wood and is one of its highest and best uses,” he said. The company sells wood outdoor furniture, including chairs, benches andtables from South America.
Ipe also is a hit with customers of Helmstown’s outdoor kitchens. “Ipe has been a great alternative to brick, stone and stainless steel,” said John Evans, vice president of the Arab, AL-based cabinetry manufacturer. “Ipe is available in long lengths and is relatively easy to season. It is particularly well suited as a material for grill surrounds because it has a Class A fire rating.”
Helmstown also has a partnership with Sub-Zero and Wolf. “We produce ipe displays for their products,” said Evans.
And the applications continue to grow. Steel-framed garden gates with weather-resistant ipe (or Brazilian walnut, as it is sometimes called) is popular for Texas homes and businesses, said Jim Thomas, owner of Thomas Studio & Foundry in Jonestown, TX. “Ipe is an interesting wood that is both challenging and rewarding. It is an extremely heavy wood, so heavy it doesn’t float in water. And as to durability, it is said that if an ipe tree falls in the forest, it will take 50 years for it to decompose. Ipe has natural oils that are similar to teak, and it handles bad weather well.”
About the Author
Jo-Ann KaiserJo-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.