By Jo-Ann Kaiser
By Jo-Ann Kaiser
COMMON NAMES HEIGHT/WEIGHT PROPERTIES Wood is hard to cut and has severe blunting effect on tools. Wood has a low luster. No natural odor or taste. Wood has good weathering properties. As woods go, ekki is a workhorse. It is noted more for its impressive strength and difficulty in working than its appearance. These characteristics have resulted in a long list of practical rather than decorative uses.
Wood is hard to cut and has severe blunting effect on tools. Wood has a low luster. No natural odor or taste. Wood has good weathering properties.
As woods go, ekki is a workhorse. It is noted more for its impressive strength and difficulty in working than its appearance. These characteristics have resulted in a long list of practical rather than decorative uses.
Ekki grows principally on the West Coast of Africa, from Sierra Leone to Nigeria and the Cameroons in the heavy rain forests and swamps.
The wood's most common names are ekki and azobe, but it is also called red ironwood, likely due to its extreme hardness and strength and the tendency for the dark-colored wood to have a red tinge.
Tough Enough for Building Stuff
In the book Know Your Woods, Albert Constantine sums up the wood's dual personality, writing that ekki is used "when great strength is required, as in flooring, where the wood is subject to a good deal of wear. It is extremely difficult to season, however, because of the tendency to warp and split."
Ekki's properties make it a perfect material for heavy construction or other uses where great strength and durability is needed. Typical applications for ekki include wharfs, bridges, sea fences and river pilings because of the wood's strength and resistance to decay. It is also used for other forms of heavy-duty construction such as decking, railway sleepers, railroad crossties, mine shaft guides, heavy-duty and parquet flooring, rollers, wagons and joinery. In addition to being durable, the wood is very acid-resistant, which makes it good for use in filter press plates and frames.
Other reasons that the wood is so well suited to heavy construction and marine uses is that the wood is resistant to insect and fungal attack.
One of its more interesting uses, according to The Encyclopedia of Wood, is as the running track for the rubber-wheeled trains of the Paris Metro.
Putting the 'Hard' in Hardwood
On the other hand, ekki does offer some desirable properties in addition to its strength. The wood takes finish well and has good gluing properties. The wood has medium movement in service.
Ekki's grain is usually interlocked and can be irregular. It has a coarse and uneven texture. Ekki has high bending strength and stiffness, high crushing strength and extremely high resistance to shock loads. The wood is not recommended for steam bending.
A Slow Drier
Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder
Ekki's weight varies from 59 to 70 pounds per cubic foot making it exceptionally heavy and dense. To put the weight into perspective, other woods' average weight include: white oak, with an average weight of 47 pounds per cubic foot; hard maple, with an average weight of 45 pounds per cubic foot; and teak, with an average weight of 41 pounds per cubic foot. Lignum vitae, which is considered one of the hardest and heaviest of commercial timbers, has an average weight of 77 pounds per cubic foot.
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