By Jo-Ann Kaiser
By Jo-Ann Kaiser
OTHER NAMES HEIGHT/WEIGHT PROPERTIES "What do you know about jatoba?" a reader asks. That is a good question, and a timely one, since this Brazilian wood has been attracting a lot of interest among consumers lately.
"What do you know about jatoba?" a reader asks. That is a good question, and a timely one, since this Brazilian wood has been attracting a lot of interest among consumers lately.
In addition to growing in Brazil, jatoba is found throughout Central America, in southern Mexico, and the West Indies to Bolivia and Peru.
James Carse, general manager of A & M Wood Specialty Inc. of Cambridge, ONT, says he sells a small amount of jatoba, though his customers know it by a different name. "The name nine out of 10 of them refer to jatoba by is Brazilian cherry," says Carse. "However, I prefer calling it jatoba. It is not cherrywood or a species of Prunus."
Toughness Lends Jatoba to Heavy-Duty Uses
Natural Inner Glow
"The wood is an attractive burgundy, deep red; some of it has dark stripes, but not all," Carse says. "The wood has a texture similar to bloodwood and it is not as porous as mahogany, but it is harder and denser than mahogany." Carse adds that jatoba is moderately priced.
Jatoba's good looks and relatively low price have made it increasingly popular for use in fine furniture, cabinetry and architectural woodworking. Boston-area woodworker John Reed Fox says he likes jatoba for its luminescence. "It's a nice-looking wood," he says.
Jatoba has a heartwood that varies in color from a salmon red to an orange brown when it is freshly cut. The wood then darkens to a red brown color when seasoned. Jatoba frequently has dark streaks, its sapwood can be wide and is much lighter in color - either white or pink and sometimes gray. The wood has a natural luster and a "warm glow," especially when planed.
Albert J. Constantine, author of the book Know Your Woods, says that wood from this tree has "a characteristic of woods in the family of Leguminosae - when the wood is planed it seems to glow from within."
Gum Used by Some
Constantine says the wood is similar to the American species paper-bark birch in that the bark can be stripped off in large sheets and used in the construction of canoes.
Working With JatobaBecause of jatoba's density and toughness, experts recommend a reduced cutting angle of 20 degrees. The wood's interlocked grain also causes some difficulty in planing. The wood turns well and has good gluing and finishing properties, but it nails badly and must be pre-bored before nailing. The screw-holding ability of jatoba is considered good.
Jatoba is moderately durable, except when high proportion of sapwood is present. The wood is very resistant to insects such as termites and is highly resistant to preservative treatment.
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