Like an aging rock star, once hugely popular but now relegated to smaller venues, anigre still has a fan base. In a market dominated by darker woods, anigre is still inspiring a lively discussion.

Anigre seasons well without degrade. Experts
recommend a kiln schedule of T6-D2 for 4/4
stock and T3-D1 for 8/4 stock.
The wood is usually considered easy to work
with hand and power tools, although some
material with high silicate deposits has a dulling
effect on tools.
Anigre takes a stain well and is available in several
figure types, including plain, medium, heavy,
fiddleback, ropey and mottled.
Family Name:
Aningeria robusta, Aningeria altissima and various
species of Anengeria of the Family Sapotaceae.
Common Names:
Anigre, anegre, aningre, aniegre, anengre blanc,
longhi, agnegre, aningeria, landosan, mukali, kali,
mugangu, muna, osan, anegre blanc, longhi,
Tanganyika nuss, tutu, m’boul, n’kali, landojan.
Anigre grows to heights of 180 feet with, trunk
diameters of 36 to 48 inches. Weight averages 35
pounds per cubic foot, but trees can grow to 130
feet or taller. The average weight is 32 pounds
per cubic foot.

Ben Barrett, president of Berkshire Veneer Co. Inc., Great Barrington, MA, said anigre really did not come into use until the late 1960s. “The silica content in it has enough of a blunting effect on tooling that it was overlooked in favor of more easily worked woods. But when it was discovered to be a very attractive plain veneer, it grew in popularity. And then when some logs were found to be figured, it really took off, especially in the 1980s and into the 1990s. Today, the fiddleback figured flitches command a significant premium,” said Barrett.

Barrett noted that the preponderance of anigre veneer comes in as quarter sliced, ranging from totally plain, to highly fiddleback figured, as well as block mottled and broken striped. “The plain sliced veneers can be very nice, but due to the speed at which anigre grows, the growth rings are often spaced out so far apart that aesthetically matching the veneers can be a challenge.”

Jeff Behnke, furniture designer/co-owner of Altura Furniture Inc., Portland, OR, used quite a bit of anigre veneer in the 1990s. “The color and figure worked with the design sensibilities during that time — there was interest in figured, light-toned woods. Since 2000, there has been a shift to darker tones and more intricate, interesting stains, finishes and textures. However, you never know what the next trend will be,” he said.

“We liked pairing the anigre veneer with solid wood frames and table legs, especially in maple. We also stained cherry and mahogany and used natural anigre insets, which is a very striking combination,” Behnke added.

“The veneer usually is very thin, so you had to be extremely careful sanding it and flushing any solid wood to it. The color, figure and cut varied quite a bit so if you wanted to keep consistent with the look of a product line it was a fair amount of work to get consistent looking veneer, especially if you were buying stock panels. Buying flitches of your own veneer was a better way to stay consistent and do custom veneer layups.”

“It’s that ‘Famous World Figure’ everyone talks about,” said Doug Newhouse, owner of Newhouse Wood & Veneer, West Hartford, CT. “It is big logs that can do big jobs. Although it is more difficult to come by in recent years, when you come across [a really big log] it is something special. It has generous dimensions and can be very consistent throughout the log.”

An African wood, anigre was first introduced as Tanzanian walnut. “This is deceptive since it is neither walnut nor did it come from Tanzania, though it does grow there,” Newhouse said. “The wood takes a stain beautifully. So when it was introduced, they put a walnut stain on it to use as a walnut substitute. It’s only in the 80s, and on, that the blond nature of the wood become popular and it was sought after on its own.”

Stephen Cramer, owner of Cramer Wood Products, High Point, NC, also noted how anigre’s chameleon-like color ability helped grow its popularity. “It is one of those woods that can be easily stained to look like another wood. If you want cherry, stain anigre red and if you want walnut, give it a walnut color.”

It also offers high yields, making it popular for architectural uses. “You can do an entire hotel lobby and not worry about the sequencing [for grain pattern],” he added.

Anigre is an ideal accent and the veneer can be paired
with solid wood. It also takes a stain well.
Photo courtesy of Altura Furniture.

Fiddleback & Figures
Newhouse noted anigre has several figure types, from plain to medium, and heavy, mottled, and ropey. But, he believes, “it is the fiddleback figure, like that in sycamore, that is most prized.”

Commercial shipments often originate from West Africa to Kenya. However, Newhouse added, “There are several species of the tree but they are never separated, so the color can range from light cream to dark tan, sometimes with a pinkish touch.”

Jim Dumas, owner of Certainly Wood, East Aurora, NY, said when he started in the veneer business, anigre was considered an interesting wood, then it suddenly got a lot of call and turned into one of the hottest species. “Interest is still there, but it has slowed down. Traditionally, the office furniture industry has been the biggest user of anigre, but it was also popular in furniture suites in High Point.” Dumas did note a slight shift in what customers are asking for regarding anigre. “It used to be that if a client wanted plain anigre, it had to be completely plain. If they wanted fiddleback anigre, it had to be totally fiddleback. Now they seem to be accepting of fiddleback with some mottling.”

While fiddleback is the most popular of the figures, Dumas has seen it in bird’s-eye and crotch. However, he added, “Neither the bird’s-eye nor crotch figure ‘pops’ the way it does in other species. It just doesn’t have the iridescence that you expect.”

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