The wood works well with hand or machine tools.
The wood is moderately hard and stiff. It is similar in density to ash and maple.
It needs preservative treatment for outdoor uses.
For years rubberwoodâs most famous byproduct had little to do with the wood, but that has been changing. Rubberwoodâs use for
woodworking has been steadily increasing and the tree that was once burned for fuel after it was no longer suitable for tapping, is now valued for its use in a variety of wood components as well as dimension wood.
The wood is often fingerjointed and edge-glued to produce panels, then processed into various furniture parts. Tom Zenger of Holland Hardwoods in Holland, MI, imports parts made of rubberwood, also known as parawood, for eco-friendly home
He and others stress the green story behind the species, which is often plantation grown. âThe trees that would otherwise be cut down and burned after their use as latex producers is over, are now being used in a variety of furniture applications. We import components for our eco-friendly stools and finish them with a milk paint or other water-based stain,â Zenger said.
In addition to furniture and furniture components, rubberwoodâs uses include: flooring, wood panels and indoor building components, particleboard and fiberboard, pulp and paper.
Doug Newhouse, president of Newhouse Wood & Veneer in West Hartford, CT, said rubberwood is not cut into veneer, because the plantation trees are never allowed to get big enough. âEven if they did get âbig enough,â the treeâs grain and texture are more suited to utility wood for furniture frames,â he said.
A report on rubberwood by Wulf Killman, director of the Forest Products Division, Food and Agriculture Organization, and Hong Lay Thong, also with Forest Research for the FAO, explores the rise of rubberwood as not only a valuable timber, but also one
with a green story and affordable price tag.
âThe inexpensive wood from plantation rubber trees, felled when they no longer yield adequate latex, is finding a market in high-value end products traditionally associated with more valuable hardwoods as teak,â said the authors of the study. However, although compared to teak in some respects, rubberwood has none of teakâs famous durability and is not suitable
for boat production or exterior construction.
On the plus side, they said, rubberwood is available in large quantities, in part because of the treesâ âundemanding site requirements.â
In addition to parawood, rubberwood has a long list of common names, including heveawood, para rubber, Malaysian oak and white teak â although its properties are not similar to oak or teak. Its characteristics have been compared to ramin.
In the book, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trees by Herbert Edlin and Maurice Nimmo, rubber trees are described as âa native of the Amazon forests in the Brazilian states of Para and Amazonas.â However, the editors note that the species has been planted on a large scale in several other countries hosting tropical climate areas. According to reports, more than 36 million acres of
rubber trees are now being grown in Asia, Africa and America.
Newhouse said the wood is typically a pale cream to yellowish brown color often with a pink tinge. The woodâs tendency to discolor from oxidation can be checked via rapid production and vacuum drying.
Hevea brasiliensis is considered by many to be the most important member of the Euphorbiaceae
family because its latex has been used in all parts of the world.
In the book, Know Your Woods, by Albert Constantine Jr., the structure of rubber tree bark is discussed for its importance, âbecause it contains the latex vessels which are the chief source of the worldâs rubber supply.â
Constantine adds that the tree is widely believed to be the âpurest and best source of para rubber.â According to Constantine, as early as 1834 Thomas Hancock, an English rubber manufacturer credited with discovering vulcanization, promoted the idea
of growing Hevea brasiliensis in other parts of the world. âThe hevea trees were established in Ceylon (now known as
Sri Lanka) and many are now growing in plantations in Malaysia and the Dutch East Indies,â Constantine writes.
Rubber trees can be tapped in the fifth to seventh year after planting and continue to be a source of latex for 25 to 30 years. When the latex production slows to the point that the trees are no longer profitable, they are cut and new seedlings are planted.
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