Wood of the Month:
Bubinga and Kevazingo Offer
Beautiful Designer Options

By Jo-Ann Kaiser


FAMILY NAME
Guibourtia demeusei of the family Leguminosae. Other species called bubinga include Guibourtia pellegriniana and Guibourtia tessmannii.

COMMON NAMES
Bubinga, essingang, kevazingo, kevasingo, kewasingo, waka, ovang, African rosewood, buvenga

HEIGHT/WEIGHT
Trees grow from 130 feet to 150 feet. Weight ranges from 50 to 60 pounds per cubic foot with a specific gravity of 0.88.

PROPERTIES
Wood dries fairly easily but can have problems due to gum deposits. Experts recommend seasoning the wood slowly to avoid distortion or checking using kiln schedule T2-C2 for 4/4 stock and T2-C1 for 8/4 stock. Wood works well with hand and power tools despite being very hard. Pre-boring is necessary for nailing. Material may exude gum, causing wear of cutting tools. Experts recommend a cutting angle of 15 degrees when planing. Bubinga is excellent for turning, but not suitable for steam bending. The wood has a moderately coarse texture.

Bubinga grows in west Africa from East Nigeria through Gabon to Zaire. It ranges from medium to dark red-brown with purple veining, although some material is slightly lighter in color.

Rotary-cut bubinga veneer, often referred to by the name "kevazingo," is known for its wild swirls and bold figures. Rotary cutting follows a log's annual growth rings, yielding multi-patterned markings and a very wide veneer cut that looks altogether different than veneer cut by another method.

Greg Engle, sales manager for Certainly Wood of East Aurora, NY, says rotary cutting the material yields an exquisite grain pattern, sometimes with quilting or pommele figures. "Another popular name for rotary cut bubinga among designers is waterfall bubinga, describing the pattern of a waterfall," he says.

Engle says his company sells equal amounts of bubinga and kevazingo. "There are wide applications for both looks. Kevazingo is a popular choice for high-end kitchens, yacht interiors and boardroom interiors while the more conservative bubinga, typically quarter cut yielding a heavy, vivid block mottle figure, is used for applications such as conference tables and furniture. It's really up to the designer's preference," Engle says.

Supplies in Large Sizes
Engle says kevazingo with a waterfall look is an especially popular choice for high-end kitchens. "A single piece is big enough for a refrigerator panel. That's unheard of with most other trees."

Sam Talarico, owner of Talarico Hardwoods in Mohnton, PA, has worked with bubinga in solid form and describes it as a hard, dense and beautiful wood. In addition, he says, "Bubinga is available in a range of sizes and for an exotic wood, it is priced reasonably."

He chose bubinga for the dining room table he uses in his home. Talarico says the material he used has a beautiful curl figure. He made the top from two quarter-sawn boards, opened and book matched to 54 inches. "The logs are so big it is possible to get a single piece that's 50 to 54 inches wide," Talarico says.

"I think quarter sawing is a good way to cut bubinga solids because it yields material that is very stable," Talarico adds.

Works Well, with Care
The wood works well with both hand and machine tools, but material with interlocked grain or irregular patterns can cause tear or pick up and a reduced angle will help eliminate any problems.

While bubinga can exude gum, Engle says he has rarely seen gum pockets and when he did they were minimal and toward the center or pith of the tree. Material with gum pockets may be more difficult to glue, so care is needed.

Talarico says that bubinga requires extra time at the sanding stage because of its hardness and density, but the wood finishes to a beautiful luster. Engle adds that bubinga is excellent for turnery and is easy to finish.

Bubinga is considered moderately durable, but it is subject to attack by furniture beetles. Its sapwood is permeable and the heartwood is resistant to preservative treatment. It is said to have a bad odor when it is first cut, which fades when the material is dried.

A Rose(wood) by Any Other Name"
Some say bubinga bears a resemblance to rosewood. Some in the trade refer to it as African rosewood. The French call it Bois de Roe d'Afrique.

While Engle has heard the name African rosewood used for bubinga, he thinks bubinga bears little resemblance to rosewood. "Bubinga is sometimes used in place of rosewood, but the looks are very distinct. You would have to do some specific finishing to get the rosewood look from bubinga."

Engle said the term is probably a fourth or fifth choice name for the wood, similar to calling makore "African cherry."

"Bubinga may have been compared to rosewood at some point because it has a vivid purple veining. But to me they are two separate, distinct woods," Engle says.

                                                                                                                                                                                           

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