Wood of the Month:
Carver's Delight: Red-toned Rauli Easy to Work

By Jo-Ann Kaiser

Nothofagus procera of the Family Fagaceae.

Rauli, Chilean beech, South American beech, raoul, coigue, lenga and Patagonian or Chilean cherry.

Tree grows to 130 feet with average diameters of 21?2 feet. Average weight is 34 lbs per cubic foot.

Experts recommend slow drying to avoid any problems with rauli. The timber has medium density, bending and crushing strengths; very low stiffness and resistance to shock; moderate steam-bending qualities (it cannot be bent if pin knots are present); and is easy to glue and finish. The wood may be worked easily with hand and machine tools. Heartwood durability is variable, and sapwood is vulnerable to attack by powder post beetles.

Rauli is a red-toned hardwood from Chile used as lumber and veneer. Though its popularity in the U.S. market has waxed and waned over the years, rauli has remained a popular all-around wood in South America due to its durability and flexibility.

The beech-like rauli is used in many of the same applications as beech and often goes by the name Chilean beech or South American beech. In some markets, rauli's commercial name is Patagonian or Chilean cherry.

Rauli trees routinely grow to heights of 130 feet, with diameters of 2 to 21?2 feet, offering timber that has clear, straight boles up to 60 feet.

A Versatile Tree

A popular choice for cabinetry, furniture and flooring, rauli also is used for interior trim, joinery, doors and window frames, with most of the supplies used in Chile and other parts of South America. Myles Gilmer of Gilmer Wood Co. in Portland, OR, sells rauli, but does not see a big demand for it in the United States.

"Rauli was getting used for furniture in the U.S. a decade ago when solid wood pieces were very popular, but today I would describe the demand as scant," Gilmer says.

Gilmer still sees rauli being used for architectural woodworking and specialty items, such as Danish modern dining room sets. "What rauli we have is usually sold to carvers," he says. "It is a popular choice for wood turning and sculpture because it is an attractive wood and easy to work."

In Veneers, A Fritz Kohl Handbook, rauli is described as a wood and veneer used primarily for furniture and sometimes for interior architectural work: "At the beginning of the '90s, when solid wood was totally in, rauli lumber was very much in demand in Central Europe. In South America, it is a good and popular commercial wood for many uses. In the past, rauli was used as a substitute veneer for cherry. Today, it is seen as a veneer wood of its own."

Though rauli is a red-toned wood, its color can vary from a yellowish pink to a deep red. The highest priced veneers made from rauli are devoid of the dark spots sometimes found in lesser grades.

Los Andes Imports, a company based in Santiago, Chile, sells a line of rauli kitchenware. A spokesman for the company says they buy products from artisans in Chile, which they sell in the United States via the Web and showrooms in Seattle and Denver.

"The wood carvers we work with are from two families. They carve our wood products from one piece of wood using hand tools, chisels and a small tool that resembles a one-hand adz," says Bill Hayes, the company's owner. "I also have seen rauli used as flooring in Chile. It is a very durable hardwood, so it is a good material to use when making reusable items."

Similar Species

Several related species of Nothofagus are very similar to the true beeches, Fagus species, from the Northern hemisphere. Southern beeches can be found all across the hemisphere from Australia and Tasmania to New Caledonia and New Guinea.

Myrtle beeches, also known as red myrtle and Tasmanian myrtle (Nothofagus cunninghamii), are similar to rauli, but the trees that grow in many of the same areas include coigue and roble.

In some areas, the woods are grouped together and referred to as Nothofagus species, with common names that include anis, coihue, coyan, roble ruili, lengue, nire and robe in addition to the names rauli, Chilean beech, South American beech, raoul, coigue and Patagonian cherry.

Coigue (Nothofagus dombeyi) and roble (Nothofagus obliqua) are similar to rauli. Roble, also known as coyam, roble-pellin and hualle, is a decidous tree from Chile and Argentina. Coigue is considered more difficult to dry than rauli, and coigue has a "pronounced tendency to distort and collapse," according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Experts recommend a kiln schedule of T2-C2 for 4/4 stock and T2-C1 for 8/4 stock. A T6-D2 kiln schedule is suggested for 4/4 material and T3-D1 for 8/4.

All of the woods mentioned are used for furniture components, cabinet work, flooring, millwork, cooperage and a general purpose timber. Though all of the woods are easy to work and finish well, rauli is considered the best of the closely related species for working properties, drying ease and all-purpose timber.


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