A Marquetry Idol
Avodireâs buttery-rich color makes it a specialty sensation.
By Jo-Ann Kaiser
The wood is easily worked with both hand and machine tools; some experts recommend a reduced cutting angle to avoid tearouts when planing material with an interlocked grain.
Experts recommend that the veneer be covered, as it is sensitive to light.
Avodire ranges from a light yellow to a tan, or golden brown, and is one of the plain and fancy woods. The so-called plain material is a popular choice for plywood, high-end joinery, and office and shop fittings, while the figured wood yields an array of interesting figures.
Home for this relatively lightweight, light-toned wood is tropical West Africa, including the Ivory Coast, Gold Coast and Liberia. Available in lumber and veneer form, avodire has been popular for use in store fixtures and furniture as well as architectural millwork applications. Another widespread use has been in the manufacture of marquetry. While at 20 pounds per cubic foot it is somewhat of a lightweight, the wood has relatively impressive strength properties.
According to Doug Newhouse, owner of Newhouse Wood & Veneer in Hartford, CT, avodire is used primarily in veneer form in the U.S. market.
âThe figured material tends to be ropey to block mottled. Thereâs not a lot of demand for it in high production applications. It is used in some small furniture jobs in the Carolinas, but more for custom work, millwork and architectural uses. Itâs one of the blonde woods, but avodire has a warmth to it. As veneer goes, it is often competitively priced with figured anigre,â Newhouse said.
Ben Barrett, president of Berkshire Veneer Co. in Great Barrington, MA, also sells avodire veneer, which is used mostly by high-end furniture makers for tables and cabinetry and for architectural millwork in paneling and door.
âIt isnât one of those woods used on a large scale. It is more âoff the radar,â but itâs a very pretty wood. While it comes in plain and a variety of figures, our clients prefer the figured avodire. A popular look is a mottled figure that runs on a bias,â Barrett said.
Mike Nuppnau, vice president of sales for Danzer Specialty Veneer in Edinburgh, IN, also noted that avodire is not a high volume wood, but added, âOur clients are using it for millwork and architectural projects like paneling. It could be used for anything.â
Nuppnau also said he sees greater demand for the figured veneer versus a plain material. âWe sell fiddleback, block mottled and more. Thereâs little demand for the plain look.â
Jim Dumas, owner of Certainly Wood, East Aurora, NY, said his company has carried avodire veneer for the past 25-30 years. âThe premiere look in veneer, what I think avodire veneer is famous for, is the barber pole figure, which is a big, rolling diagonal curl. We also carry a crotch and swirl figure,â he said.
Dumas added a small percentage of what he sells is avodire crotch, which is sometimes picked as a substitute for satinwood crotch. âWe have had pommele and birdâs-eye figures, but they had little interest for clients who preferred the barber pole look.â
âI see sales going in cycles,â Dumas said. âFour months ago it was being requested heavily. Two years ago there seemed to be a big run where we went through many flitches. Itâs not one of those woods requested steadily, but it is one we keep on hand because it will be requested, whether for elevator cabs, hotel lobbies, plane interiors, small architectural jobs, paneling or kitchen rehabs.â
Avodire lumber and veneer had a heyday of sorts from the 1950s to 1970s. âAvodire was frequently imported along with African mahogany and the two were sometimes combined most often in bedroom furniture,â said Dumas. âNowadays, it is used in interiors in homes primarily in the South â Florida, Louisiana, Texas and Southern California â where light, bright woods with a sheen are popular. Other applications have been private jet interiors and small scale architectural projects. Itâs also a long-time favorite for marquetry. It has a buttery yellow color, but its luster is its main selling point. Avodire will darken slightly if not UV treated, but if covered, it will be pretty true to the original color.â
Gary Myers, treasurer of the Milwaukie, OR-based American Marquetry Society, said avodire is still a popular wood with artists âwho use it for skies or anytime they want a yellow tone.â The AMS also lists avodire as a good choice for âdistant fields, floral subjects and skies.â
âThe figure takes the flatness out of the wood and works very well in certain applications,â Myers said. âMottled figures are especially good for sky and cloud effects. The mottled look adds interest because, depending on how you look at the piece, you get a different look. Itâs hard to describe, but the way the light hits the piece, from one angle you see one look and from another angle, another.â
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