Distinctive fragrance and multiple figures are common for imbuya.
Low steam bending classification.
If you are looking for a wood that will give you anything but the âsame old, same old,â imbuya might do the trick.
âImbuya is the wood of many faces,â according to Rick Banas, vice president of Interwood Forest Products Veneer in Shelbyville, KY, of the Brazilian hardwood species Phoebe porosa. âVery seldom do you find two trees looking remotely similar. Colors, grains and figure types run rampant in this species. Fiddlebacks, mottles, clusters, burls, leopard skins [also known as chicken scratch] are only a few descriptions to describe the many grain and figure types, not to mention the wide color range from dark brown to olive green to yellows with an abundance of contrast.â
Imbuyaâs uses include fine furniture and cabinetry work, high-grade flooring, high-end joinery, paneling and other architectural woodworking projects, and gunstocks.
Banas said that over the years his company has sold many unique veneer faces for the architectural, aircraft and yacht industries. âIâve never heard of any [production] furniture group using imbuya, which Iâm assuming is due to its inconsistencies of character,â he said. However, Banas added, âThe trees are big and usually the figure types, colors and grains run fairly consistent within each tree, allowing this species to be very useful as veneer for high-end projects.â
Doug Newhouse, owner of Newhouse Wood & Veneer, West Hartford, CT, agreed that variation is a big part of imbuyaâs identity. âThe heartwood color of the Brazilian native imbuya [also frequently known as imbuia] covers a wide range of colors. Imbuyaâs heartwood can be brown to yellow, and olive to shades of chocolate. In addition, there is significant difference in appearance, with each log being unique,â he said.
The heartwood of imbuya is considered resistant to attack by decay fungi. The sapwood is gray and clearly marked. Although a slow kiln drying schedule is recommended, in general the wood works well with machines or hand tools.
Newhouse said the tree logs typically yield 2,000 to 10,000 feet and lengths of 8 to 10 feet. It often is available in flat and quarter cuts.
Imbuya can be used in both solid wood and veneer form; the veneer is available in a wide variety of figures, including burl. The book, Veneers, a Fritz Kohl Handbook, describes imbuya burl as a very rare veneer, exclusively used for choice architectural work.
According to the book, âIt is especially popular for accentuating wood for fillings in combination with other high-quality ones. To produce smooth, non-checked surfaces, imbuya burl must be very carefully worked due to its burl formation. When cleanly machined the surfaces have a beautiful luster, which can also facilitate further treatment.â
Imbuya is one of the top commercial timbers of Brazil, while thriving in the high altitude areas of the southern portion of the country.
Brazilians have a variety of names for the wood, among them imbuia and imbuya phoebe. âImbuya trees are usually found growing in the Brazilian pine forests, but can also be found in the rainforests of the States of Sao Paulo, Santo Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, where the rainforest trees can grow to heights of 15 to 20 meters,â according to facts provided by the Brazilian embassy in Washington, DC.
While the commercial market has a long list of names for Phoebe porosa, including imbuya, imbuia, amarela, canela imbuia, embuia, it has historically been referred to as Brazilian walnut. Although the name Brazilian walnut is believed to derive from the woodâs similarities to walnut, some people consider it misleading because the wood is not a true walnut.
Spice Can Be Nice
According to Newhouse, âImbuya has a distinctive, âspicyâ odor that is evident years after the veneer or lumber is cut.â
Banas agreed. âThe most consistent property of imbuya might just be the fragrance, which is very unique to the tree,â he said. âIf I were blindfolded and walked into a factory producing imbuya, it would be immediately evident to me what they were using.â
Yet while the wood is well-known for its spicy aroma, it is also infamous for being an irritant. When cut or sanded, the wood gives off a dust that can be highly irritating to some woodworkers.
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