Wood of the Month:
Nyatoh Offers an Attractive Alternative to Teak

By Jo-Ann Kaiser

Palaquium and Payena species of the Family Sapotaceae

Nyatoh, bauvudi, njatuh, jangkar, padang

Trees grow to a height of 100 feet or more with diameters of 3 feet. Average weight of nyatoh is between 40 to 45 pounds per cubic foot but can be as low as 38 pounds per cubic weight or as high as 55 pounds per cubic weight.

Wood dries slowly, with a slight tendency to end split and warp. Experts recommend a kiln schedule of T6-D2 for 4/4 stock and T3-D1 for 8/4 stock. Surface checks may develop. Wood is stable in service. Wood has medium bending and crushing strength. Low stiffness and resistance to shock loads; moderate steam-bending rating. Experts recommend pre-boring before nailing. Wood glues and finishes extremely well. Sapwood is liable to attack by powder post beetle. Wood is generally rated as non-durable although heartwood can be durable. Heartwood is resistant to preservative treatments but sapwood can be treated.

When Restoration Hardware unveiled its line of wood outdoor furniture, it chose a distinctive red-tinged wood that weathers well outdoors. No, not teak: nyatoh.

Restoration Hardware is not the only company using nyatoh lately. A growing list of products is being made from the reddish tropical hardwood. Traditional uses for the wood include furniture (residential, office and outdoor), cabinetry, interior construction, doors, paneling, moulding, ship and boat decking, pallets, veneers, plywood, high class joinery, shingles, and flooring.

Restoration Hardware's line of outdoor furniture is made from Indonesian nyatoh. Dave Glassman, director of marketing, says the company specifically chose nyatoh rather than teak.

Nyatoh is similar to the distinctive teak coloring, although teak is more golden. Nyatoh weathers to gray, although its original color can be maintained by periodic applications of teak or linseed oil.

While nyatoh weathers well out of doors, is strong and resists wear, denting and marring, it doesn't equal teak in all properties. Teak sets a high standard as far as durability and other properties under all conditions.

Target stores feature a range of items made from nyatoh, including patio furniture, steps for a hot tub, an outdoor shower, and accessories like towel bars and outdoor umbrella poles. Fortunoff and Wal-Mart are also carrying items made from this wood. Among the most unique uses comes from Essence Eyewear, which features nyatoh wood temples in every one of its wood frames. A company brochure says "The wood originates in Indonesia and was chosen for its malleability. The wood is treated with a coating designed to prevent discoloration and further longevity."

Commercial Groupings
Nyatoh is the name given to a range of different woods, which can vary slightly in character. Various species of Palaquium and the closely related Payena are sold as nyatoh. The species most often used include Palaquium maingayi, Palaquium rostratrum, Palaquium xanthochymum, and Payene maingayii.

It's a confusing situation but in general, the trades names njatuh and padang are used for various species of the Sapotaceae family that produce light- to medium-weight logs and have a similar color and density. The name nyatoh is given to the timber that is up to 55 pounds per cubic foot. Timber weighing more than 55 pounds per cubic foot is given the trade name bitis or nyatoh batu. Bitis usually comes from Palaquium ridleyi, Palaquium stellatum and Madhuca utilis.

Working with Nyatoh
Because the name nyatoh covers a range of species, it is hard to make definitive statements about properties. It is generally rated easy to slightly difficult for planing. Some species have silica that will cause severe blunting of cutting tools; non-siliceous species saw easily. With all material, there can be a problem of gum buildup on cutting surfaces.

Nyatoh's Range
Most ads list nyatoh as Indonesian nyatoh, but the various species grow in a wide range from India to the Phillipines, New Guinea, and the Western Pacific Islands. The sapwood is not always clearly demarcated from the heartwood, although the sapwood ranges from yellow to a light pinkish brown while heartwood is pale pink to reddish brown to a purple brown. The grain is usually straight but can be shallowly interlocked. Some of the material has a distinctive moiré or watered silk figure.


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