Rubberwood Bounces Back: Components & Furniture Usage Grows
By Jo-Ann Kaiser | Posted: 07/08/2014 11:00AM
Sponsored by: Northwest Hardwoods: Lumber that’s Graded For Yield®.
click image to zoomFamily Name:
Hevea brasiliensis of the Family Euphorbiaceae
Rubberwood, para wood, hevea, rubber tree, caoutchouc tree, arbol de caucho, sibi-sibi, mapalapa, seringa, seringuera, capi, jeve, shiringa, jaang, kayu geta, pokok, getah para, hule, lao, hevea caucho, mpira, cao sau, kyetpaung, lastik bara.
Tree size varies, with taller trees typically in the wild vs. plantation grown. Trees in the wild can grow up to 130 feet tall. Average weight is 37 pounds per cubic foot with a specific gravity of 0.49. It has a Janka hardness rating of 960.
• The heartwood is whitish to cream colored when freshly cut, turning light brown on exposure. It is not distinct from the sapwood.
• The wood is easy to work with both hand and machine tools. It can warp or twist during drying but is stable once seasoned.
• Rubberwood glues well and takes stains and finishes nicely.
Rubberwood’s claim to fame was once the latex it produces. While that is still an important product, the tree, typically plantation grown, is now also valued for its lumber. Rubberwood is used in a wide range of wood products, including furniture, cabinetry, components, flooring, turnery, vases, stair treads, knife blocks, sofa legs, and more. In a 2011 survey of the top five favorite hardwoods used at the High Point Furniture Market, mahogany and rubberwood were named favorites for entertainment centers.
Grown on plantations, rubberwood matures in seven years and usually is tapped for its rubber for another 20 to 25 years. While Malaysia is one of the major locations of rubber tree plantations in the world, the wood is actually a native of the Amazon basin.
Rubberwood is one of many woods used by Osborne Wood Products, says Lane Taylor. The company offers a variety of carved components in rubberwood including corbels, island posts and furniture feet. “Rubberwood is a great paint grade option that is both beautiful and cost effective for our customers,” Taylor said, adding that it can be finished in a number of ways.
Taylor said rubberwood has characteristics similar to maple, although rubberwood tends to be more porous. “Because of the pores, we recommend that a good primer be applied to our rubberwood products before painting. This allows for an ideal painting surface and an impressive finish.”
Its good staining properties were also noted by Jayakas President Jason Cheng, who has more than 20 years of experience working exclusively with rubberwood. “Rubberwood is one of the most ecologically friendly types of lumber used in today’s furniture industry. Compared to other hardwoods, rubberwood is more cost effective and just as durable, making it a great wood choice,” added Cheng. In addition to components, Jayakas sells rubberwood panels and squares.
Luis Juarez and Mike Helper, wood specialists at Jayakas, added the wood cuts and sands well, and is suited to carving applications. They noted that it is comparable in hardness to the mid range of maples, but with a more consistent color.
“Rubberwood has much to offer, but for woodworking applications, probably the top plus is that when staining the wood, rubberwood can be made to look like many other woods,” said Juarez. “When you add in durability and sustainability, it becomes an attractive choice.”
Osborne Wood Products
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.