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A marquetry idol: avodire's buttery-rich color makes it a specialty sensation.


Avodire ranges from a light yellow to a tan, or golden brown, and is one of the plain and fancy woods. The so-called plain material is a popular choice for plywood, high-end joinery, and office and shop fittings, while the figured wood yields an array of interesting figures.

Home for this relatively lightweight, light-toned wood is tropical West Africa, including the Ivory Coast, Gold Coast and Liberia. Available in lumber and veneer form, avodire has been popular for use in store fixtures and furniture as well as architectural millwork applications. Another widespread use has been in the manufacture of marquetry. While at 20 pounds per cubic foot it is somewhat of a lightweight, the wood has relatively impressive strength properties.

According to Doug Newhouse, owner of Newhouse Wood & Veneer in Hartford, CT, avodire is used primarily in veneer form in the U.S. market.

"The figured material tends to be ropey to block mottled. There's not a lot of demand for it in high production applications. It is used in some small furniture jobs in the Carolinas, but more for custom work, millwork and architectural uses. It's one of the blonde woods, but avodire has a warmth to it. As veneer goes, it is often competitively priced with figured anigre," Newhouse said.

Ben Barrett, president of Berkshire Veneer Co. in Great Barrington, MA, also sells avodire veneer, which is used mostly by high-end furniture makers for tables and cabinetry and for architectural millwork in paneling and door.

"It isn't one of those woods used on a large scale. It is more 'off the radar,' but it's a very pretty wood. While it comes in plain and a variety of figures, our clients prefer the figured avodire. A popular look is a mottled figure that runs on a bias," Barrett said.

Mike Nuppnau, vice president of sales for Danzer Specialty Veneer in Edinburgh, IN, also noted that avodire is not a high volume wood, but added, "Our clients are using it for millwork and architectural projects like paneling. It could be used for anything."

Nuppnau also said he sees greater demand for the figured veneer versus a plain material. "We sell fiddleback, block mottled and more. There's little demand for the plain look."

Jim Dumas, owner of Certainly Wood, East Aurora, NY, said his company has carried avodire veneer for the past 25-30 years. "The premiere look in veneer, what I think avodire veneer is famous for, is the barber pole figure, which is a big, rolling diagonal curl. We also carry a crotch and swirl figure," he said.

Dumas added a small percentage of what he sells is avodire crotch, which is sometimes picked as a substitute for satinwood crotch. "We have had pommele and bird's-eye figures, but they had little interest for clients who preferred the barber pole look."

"I see sales going in cycles," Dumas said. "Four months ago it was being requested heavily. Two years ago there seemed to be a big run where we went through many flitches. It's not one of those woods requested steadily, but it is one we keep on hand because it will be requested, whether for elevator cabs, hotel lobbies, plane interiors, small architectural jobs, paneling or kitchen rehabs."

Heyday Past

Avodire lumber and veneer had a heyday of sorts from the 1950s to 1970s. "Avodire was frequently imported along with African mahogany and the two were sometimes combined most often in bedroom furniture," said Dumas. "Nowadays, it is used in interiors in homes primarily in the South--Florida, Louisiana, Texas and Southern California -where light, bright woods with a sheen are popular. Other applications have been private jet interiors and small scale architectural projects. It's also a long-time favorite for marquetry. It has a buttery yellow color, but its luster is its main selling point. Avodire will darken slightly if not UV treated, but if covered, it will be pretty true to the original color."

Gary Myers, treasurer of the Milwaukie, OR-based American Marquetry Society, said avodire is still a popular wood with artists "who use it for skies or anytime they want a yellow tone." The AMS also Lists avodire as a good choice for "distant fields, floral subjects and skies."

"The figure takes the flatness out of the wood and works very well in certain applications," Myers said. "Mottled figures are especially good for sky and cloud effects. The mottled look adds interest because, depending on how you look at the piece, you get a different look. It's hard to describe, but the way the light hits the piece, from one angle you see one look and from another angle, another."


Family Name

Turraeanthus africanus, Turraeanthus zenkeri and Turraeanthus vignei of the Family Meliaceae

Common Names

Avodire, apaya, apeya, appayia, engan, lusamba, agbe, esu, olon, African satinwood, African white mahogany


Height averages from 90 feet to 110 feet, with diameters of 2 feet to 3 feet, sometimes up to 5 feet wide. Average weight is 34 pounds per cubic foot, with a specific gravity of 0.55.


The wood dries easily and quickly, but the material may check and twist.

The wood is easily worked with both hand and machine tools; some experts recommend a reduced cutting angle to avoid tearouts when planing material with an interlocked grain.

Experts recommend that the veneer be covered, as it is sensitive to light.
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Title Annotation:WOOD OF THE MONTH: Avodire
Comment:A marquetry idol: avodire's buttery-rich color makes it a specialty sensation.(WOOD OF THE MONTH: Avodire)
Author:Kaiser, Jo-Ann
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Aug 1, 2008
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