August 14, 2011 | 10:35 pm UTC

Pterocarpus angolensis of the family Leguminosae

Muninga, mninga, ambila, mukwa, kiaat, kajat, kajatenhout, mutete, mtumbati, bloodwood, sealing-wax tree, Angola padauk, African brown padauk and Transvaal teak

Average height of tree is from 40 to 60 feet. Weight varies considerably from 30 to 49 pounds per cubic foot.

Wood dries well but slowly. Experts recommend a kiln schedule of T10-D5S for 4/4 stock and T8-D4S for 8/4 stock. Movement in service is rated as small. Works well with hand or machine tools. Experts recommend a reduced cutting angle for material with interlocked grain. Wood has good turning properties, glues satisfactorily. Pre-drilling recommended for nails and screws.

Muninga is one of many names for a tree that grows in Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa. A rough translation of its botanical name, Pterocarpus angolensis, is winged fruit from Angola.

The long list of names for muninga includes the colorful bloodwood, Transvaal teak, and sealing-wax tree. It is also called Angola padauk and brown African padauk, most likely because closely related species include African padauk (Pterocarpus soyauxii), Andaman padauk (Pterocarpus dalbergiodes) and Burma padauk (Pterocarpus macrocarpus). Various countries have favored commercial names for muninga. One of its names in Angola is mutete while in Zimbabwe, the tree is known as mukwa. Kiatt and kajat are names the tree goes by in South Africa and in Tanzania it is called mtumbati.

Striking Appearance
Greg Engle, sales manager for Certainly Wood in East Aurora, NY, says he does not get a lot of calls for muninga, a veneer his company sometimes carries. "The material I have seen was very similar in looks to its relative African padauk and also like the Asian padauk, which is also known as narra. The veneer we had was a lustrous golden dark orange with some veining. Our material was quarter cut and average-priced for an imported veneer," Engle says.

Daniel Gordon of Flamingo Veneer Specialty Co., East Organge, NJ, says his company has carried muninga veneer in the past, but it is not a big seller. "We carry it sometimes. It is an extremely nice looking veneer. We generally carry figured veneers as opposed to the more plain looks a tree offers so we featured muninga veneer with a prominent figure. Our customers are generally furniture and cabinetmakers and they prefer striking figures and bold colors. For muninga, we were able to obtain a very tight fiddleback figure in a rich color." Gordon says muninga can look like koa, although koa is lighter in color.

Valued In Africa
Albert Constantine Jr. writes in his book Know Your Woods, "This (muninga) is a very popular wood and much in demand in Africa as a fine wood for furniture and quality cabinets. A good example of its use is the railroad station in Johannesburg, which is entirely paneled in this wood, as well as all the furniture in it."

Muninga's uses include fancy turnery, high-end furniture and cabinetry, architectural millwork and paneling, domestic flooring, boat building, joinery, and furniture components.

Color Variations
The wood from muninga is stable, durable and attractive. The color of the heartwood varies widely, according to the U.S. Forest Service, from "pale uniform brown to golden brown, chocolate brown, brick red or purplish brown with darker or redder streaks that tone down on exposure." The sapwood is yellow to pale gray.

Muninga can range from plain material but often will yield an attractive figure, especially on quarter sawn material. The wood has a straight to interlocked grain and a coarse, uneven texture. About the only downside to the wood is that fact that dry sawdust can cause irritation to woodworker's nasal passages, especially for those with asthma or breathing problems.

Muninga is an easy to dry wood, according to experts, no matter what method is used. For both air and kiln drying, experts caution that the process will be slow, especially if the material being dried is thick. The U.S. Forest Service reports that the wood will dry well with little warping and no tendency to check or split.

An interesting footnote about muninga is that its weight varies from country to country. Timber from Zimbabwe is generally lighter than timber from other countries. For that reason, its weight range is very broad-30 to 49 pounds per cubic foot.

Uses for muninga include boatbuilding and the wood is considered durable with a high resistance to termites and marine borers.


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