August 15, 2011 | 10:13 pm UTC

Sponsored by: Columbia Forest Products

Family Name: Shorea species, Parashorea
species and Pentacme species of the Family

Common Names: Light red meranti, dark red
meranti, yellow meranti, white meranti, meranti
damar hitam, seraya, white lauan, red lauan,
lun, seraya kacha, selangan kacha, lun puteh,
melapi, tianong, almon, bagtikan and mayapis.

Height/Weight: Light red/dark red meranti,
seraya and lauan can reach heights of 200 to
225 feet with diameters of 3 to 5 feet. White,
yellow meranti and yellow seraya can grow to
200 feet tall with 3 to 5 foot diameters. The
typical dry weight for meranti is between
32-34 pounds per cubic foot with a
specific gravity around 0.50 - 0.55.

Properties: Seasons fairly well, but requires
close monitoring of drying schedules to avoid
stressing the wood.
Easy to work with hand and machine tools.
Good gluing and nailing properties. Takes a
good finish.
Meranti is generally rated as resistant to
preservative treatments. The sapwood is reported
to be moderately resistant to permeable, varying
with species.
Because of the wide number of species, some of the
properties and details are generalizations.

A Versatile Wood
Confusion is one word that often comes to mind when talking about meranti as the name refers to a number of related species.

“Meranti is a trade name for number of species from the family Dipterocarpaceae that grow along the Pacific Rim Islands including the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and some regions of mainland Southeast Asia,” said Ang Schramm, Columbia Forest Products’ Training Manager. “There are three genera from which almost all meranti originates: Shorea, Parashorea, and Pentacme. Depending upon color, the various species are often classified as red (sometimes dark red), light red, or white. Red merantis include Shorea negrosensis, S. polysperma and S. teysmaniana, while white merantis include S. eximia, S. contorta, Pentacme spp., and Parashorea spp.”

To add to the confusion, the same information may — and often is — also directly associated with the trade name lauan, said Schramm. “In fact, for years it was considered that if the wood was rotary cut it was called lauan, and if it was sliced [plane or quartered] it was called meranti.”

A Wide Range of Uses
“Regardless of the name, this group comprises one of the most abundant and widely used woods of the world,” added Schramm. “It can be, and frequently is, used for everything from construction grade plywood in utility rotary cut form to ribbon striped red meranti sequence matched and numbered wall panels. It is used for fine and intermediate grade furniture solids, for furniture framework, for structural applications, kitchen cabinetry, architectural millwork, flooring, utility panels, boat building, and even crating. It is produced as solid lumber and rotary and sliced veneer in a wide variety of grades,” Schramm continued.

Douglas Newhouse, president/owner of Newhouse Wood & Veneer, said meranti and all its variations from the Shorea spp. have long been popular for the rotary cut veneer market for crossband and cores.
Meranti’s texture is moderately coarse, but it can produce a somewhat lustrous finish for fine furniture, millwork, flooring, and cabinetry. It machines well, but experts say it may require special care in areas of interlocked grain, which produce the classic ribbon stripe effect when quarter slicing veneer. According to Schramm, proper surface preparation, including glue sizing or wash coating prior to the final finish application is also a must in order to make the ribbon stripe

Jim Summerlin, senior vice president of Robinson Lumber Co., said his company imports red meranti from Asia at the rate of a container or so a year. “What we sell is mainly sold as kiln-dried, rough sawn lumber. At one time, meranti or lauan, as it is frequently called, was extremely popular, but other woods such as okoume have eaten into the market.”

Summerlin said that meranti’s uses include decking, wall cladding, general joinery work, furniture and some flooring. “It was, and is, also a popular choice for plywood and veneer,” he said.

Porta Spas in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, uses meranti in many of its product lines, which include outdoor furniture, spas and hot tub frames. “It is a flexible hardwood, also used on door and window frames, with good expansion and contraction properties,” the company said.

Meranti table. Photo courtesy of Dillon Davis Inc., Selamat Designs

But despite its many benefits, there was a time when meranti was instead “falsely” marketed as Philippine mahogany because of its superficial resemblance to the species. “This practice has been scorned and even banned in some areas because, while there is a broad resemblance in general appearance, the differences in physical properties, depth of richness, luster and finish quality are significant,” Schramm said.

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