Louro Presto Chango

With a little bit of work, louro preto can substitute for Brazilian rosewood.

By Jo-Ann Kaiser

Every now and then, a name is used simultaneously for a variety of species. Ironwood, especially, has been claimed by a variety of woods that are extremely hard, heavy and strong. Louro preto is a name that has also been chosen by several different genera, among them Cordia, Nectandra and Ocotea.

If you look up Louro preto in the Fine Hardwoods Selectorama, the wood is listed as coming from Cordia species. Several other reference books, including William A. Lincoln's World Woods in Color, give credit to several species of Nectandra.

Veneers, a Fritz Kohl Handbook, solves the mystery by listing all three genera along with this explanation: "A number of different botanical genera are produced and traded as louro preto. This is why it is not possible to isolate one single species of this wood to be the very first to carry this name."

Family Name

Nectandra mollis, Nectandra villosa and Nectandra panamensis of the Family Lauraceae. Cordia species of the Family Boroganaceae. Ocotea species of the Family Lauraceae.

Common Names

Louro preto, louro pardo, lauro pardo, canaletta, canalete, cordia, canela foreta, canella preta, canela ferrugem, canela parda.

Height/Weight

Height depends on species; can grow to height of 100 feet. Average weight for Nectandra species is 43 pounds per cubic foot with specific gravity of 0.70.

Properties

  • Material from the Nectandra species should be dried slowly to avoid checking and degrading.
  • Wood works well with hand and machine tools except for slight blunting effect on cutting surfaces. Finishes smoothly when sanded.
  • Experts recommend a reduced cutting angle when planing or moulding material with irregular grain. Presence of crystalline deposits can also dull cutting tools. Some recommend the use of carbide-tipped blades.
  • Material nails and holds screws well. Good gluing properties. Poor steam bending classification.

The Nectandra species believed to be sold as louro preto include Nectandra molllis, Nectandra villosa and Nectandra panamensis of the Family Lauraceae. The Cordia species among those sold as louro preto reportedly include Cordia sebestena and Cordia glabrata of the Family Boraganaceae. Louro preto is also said to come from the species Ocotea baturitensi, Ocotea caudata, and Ocotea cinerea of the Family Lauraceae although it is likely that other species from each genera also may be sold as louro preto or its various commercial names.

Louro preto grows in Tropical, Central and South America and is especially common in Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico.

Jim Dumas, purchaser for Certainly Wood Inc., East Aurora, NY, has been purchasing and selling louro preto for close to 30 years, and says the veneers come primarily from Venezuala and South-Central America. "Louro preto is a pretty wood with decent contrast. It resembles a brown and gold rosewood and can be dyed red or orange to look like a Brazilian rosewood."

Louro preto, also commonly known as louro pardo, has a tendency to darken with age, explained Dumas.

Dumas said louro preto is not a widely used veneer. His customers most often are using it for high-end custom furniture. "It's not a huge tree; we buy logs that we can use for 8-foot panels." Other uses for louro preto include architectural woodworking, furniture, deck planking and veneers.

Dumas said louro preto will occasionally yield an attractive bird's-eye figure and very rarely a curly figure. Dumas sells flat cut louro preto that yields a rosewood grain, but has recently had calls for quartered material. "I think people are probably using it as a border."

Ben Clift of Renaissance Specialty Veneer Products (RSVP) in Columbus, IN, agrees that louro preto is used as a stand in for Brazilian rosewood. "Louro preto is a secondary species that is sometimes used as Brazilian rosewood substitute because of the similar grain structure in some logs. It develops a grain pattern we refer to as G�ÿmonkey ears.' And if the species is stained red like Brazilian rosewood, it looks like the real McCoy."

Louro preto is a fairly heavy and hard wood, but it does not cut it as good steam bending material. The wood is used for decorative veneer but the durable wood is also used for external joinery and construction work, decking, planks and shipbuilding.

Louro preto is often praised for its attractive grain, and its heartwood can range in color from light grey-brown to a darker brown, often with black streaking. In Veneers, A Fritz Kohl Handbook, the wood is described as "a beautiful medium brown to olive brown color in which the different textures, from regular to extremely wild, come into their own."

The wood earns very high marks for its ability to take stains and finishes beautifully. Some experts recommend filling planed surfaces before applying any type of finish for the best results.

                                                                                                                                                                                           

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