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A rosewood by another name, pau ferro, also known as santos rosewood or Bolivian rosewood, is a beautiful wood. From the Machaerium species, it has stepped in as a substitute for the traditional rosewoods (Dalbergia) when that species became endangered.
Its uses include fine furniture, musical instruments, flooring, architectural millwork, and decorative veneer. It’s also an excellent species for turnings and cabinetry, said James Griffin of Griffin Exotic Wood LLC.
“It has a very fine grain and takes a very high polish, similar to African ebony or African blackwood,” he said. “I have made turnings that are sanded up to 12,000 grit with micromesh in which I can see a reflection of my face in bare, unfinished wood. That is very unusual and explains the wonderful polishing characteristics of this wood.”
Another fan of the species, Craig Thibodeaux, owner CT Fine Furniture, has worked with pau ferro veneer in a few Art Deco-inspired designs. Thibodeaux said he has found working with pau ferro veneer similar to experiences working with other veneer. “It behaves well during glue up and sands easily.”
Pau ferro offers a wide range of colors from medium to light browns through to almost black brown purplish tones, on top of which there is frequent black striping. While Machaerium scleroxylon and Machaerium acutifolium, two species of note for pau ferro, are on CITES’ list, Machaerium villosum, also a source of the wood and veneer, is “considered vulnerable” due to deforestation.
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