Wood of the Month:
Movingui a Good Satinwood Substitute

By Jo-Ann Kaiser

Distemonanthus benthamianus of the family Leguminosae

Movingui, ayan, eyen, ayanran, barre, bonsamdua, ogueminia, okpe, distemonanthus Nigerian satinwood, African satinwood

Average height for the tree is from 90 to 125 feet with diameters of 2-1/2 to 4-1/2 feet. Weight varies from 37 to 48 pounds per cubic foot with an average weight of 42 pounds per cubic foot (seasoned) and a specific gravity of 0.68.

The wood is durable and usually termite resistant. Slow, careful drying is recommended to reduce checking. Wood works well with machine and hand tools. Wood has some silica content and this can have a blunting effect on cutting surfaces. Gum from the wood can also result in buildup on cutting surfaces.The wood has a fine, even texture. Movingui finishes well when grain is filled when needed. Preboring is needed for screws and nails. Wood can be glued satisfactorily, has good dimensional stability, is dense, with medium bending strength, high crushing strength and low stiffness.

Movingui is a bright lemon- to orange-colored wood that originated in Africa and thrives in the high forests of western Africa. The first part of the tree's botanical name, Distemonanthus benthamianus, roughly translates to two-stamened flower, and it is named after Bentham, a 19th century English botanist.

Movingui's range includes Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Cameroon and Gabon. It is sometimes called African or Nigerian satinwood because its heartwood is very lustrous and some of the more highly figured wood resembles satinwood. In Know Your Woods, Albert Constantine Jr. says it is the grain, color and "general beauty" of movingui that have invited comparisons to Nigerian satinwood.

According to the Encyclopedia of Wood, the names movingui and Distemonanthus are commonly used in the United Kingdom, while Nigerian satinwood is most often used in the United States. In Togo, Ghana and Cameroon it is called okpe, bonsamdua and eyen, respectively.

Durability, Beauty Are Key Assets
Movingui wood is considered very durable, resilient and termite proof. Selected logs yield beautiful and striking figures.

Movingui's sapwood is pale yellow and not very different looking than the heartwood. The heartwood, which is deeper in color, sometimes has dark streaks. The grain can be irregular, interlocked or wavy. These traits produce some very interesting and bold figures.

"Movingui veneer can have black streaks and a mottled look which is definitely more wild than satinwood," says Judy Ison, sales assistant for Interwood Forest Products Inc., of Shelbyville, KY.

Some logs contain silica - up to 1.3% in some cases - which can affect tooling. "Veneers - A Fritz Kohl Handbook," describes the wood's workability.

"Light logs of movingui can be machined as a general rule without any great difficulty. The dark wood has a higher silicate content and as a result dulls tools quickly. The twisting fiber growth becomes a problem when planing at high feed speeds."

The wood also has yellow "extract" or dye deposits in its pores. These deposits are soluble in water and make the wood unsuitable for a variety of uses - kitchens, laundries and woodenware, for example - because the dye will cause yellow stains when wet.

Drying Procedures
Experts recommend extreme care during drying to reduce the risk of checking. According to the "Forest Service Handbook - Tropical Timbers of the World," from the USDA, "[Movingui] air-dries well, though slowly, with little degrade." A kiln schedule T6-D4 is suggested for 4/4 stock, and T3-D3 for 8/4 stock. Constantine says movingui is "easy to season, providing the lumber is not exposed to the full force of the wind or direct sunlight until it has dried."

Who Uses Movingui"
Ison says typical uses for movingui veneer include furniture and paneling. She adds that since supplies are plentiful, it costs considerably less than satinwood, which is similar in appearance. Movingui is currently selling for about $0.55 per foot compared to $2.25 to $2.50 per foot for satinwood.

Jim Kirby, owner of Sandy Pond Hardwoods Inc., in Quarryville, PA, has worked with figured movingui in his wood shop. "We used figured movingui that had been aniline dyed to make jewelry boxes and humidors," he says. The $1,500 jewelry boxes were made of figured movingui dyed pink.

Kirby describes the figured wood as having a broken striped, mottled look and as being reminiscent of African mahogany with its ribbon stripe and tight curl.

Movingui lumber is not stocked or sold as often as veneers. Jim Mills, marketing executive for Craig Lumber Inc. near Memphis, TN, said they don't get many calls for solid movingui. He had a recent request for it but the client ended up using avodire because of time constraints.

Movingui is used for exterior and interior joinery, window frames, and ship fittings. Because of its resiliency, it is a popular choice for flooring, including parquet floors in residences, gymnasiums and commercial buildings. Rotary cut logs are used for plywood.

Movingui trees yield boles that are straight and cylindrical. In addition to being compared to satinwood, the wood resembles citron wood. It is also sometimes used as an alternative for oak.


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