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Gaboon: the strong lightweight from Africa.

Gaboon is an important commercial wood. Currently, it is reported that the wood is the most exported of all the African woods.

Gaboon's uses are many and varied. Its chief use is as a constructional veneer for manufacturing plywood, particleboard and laminates, which are then used to make doors, cabinetry and paneling. Solid gaboon lumber is used for moulding and facing, as well as to make interior frames for furniture, sporting goods, cases and specialty items like cigar boxes. Occasionally, gaboon is used as a substitute for mahogany on trim pieces of furniture. The trees are tall and large, averaging heights up to 200 feet with clear cylindrical boles with diameters of 3 to 6 1/2 feet.

A utilitarian wood

"Gaboon is what we call a utilitarian wood," said Jim Dumas, owner of Certainly Wood, East Aurora, N.J. "It is widely used as a generic backing for woods like mahogany. Some of the face grade veneer gaboon has been marketed by some companies as a mahogany-like wood or 'mahogany' by some stores, but it is definitely not as fine a wood as mahogany. Gaboon is a 'stretcher' wood -- one that is combined with finer hardwoods," Dumas added.

Ekke Hoppe of M. Bohlke Veneer Corp., Fairfield, Ohio, knows of gaboon although it is not something his company features.

"Gaboon is more widely used in Africa, of course, and in England and France where it is mostly used for plywood, blockboard and for backing." Hoppe said gaboon trees are very large and can have diameters of up to 8 1/2 feet. It is a lightweight wood similar to American poplar.

Hoppe said the use of the term mahogany for gaboon should be discontinued as it is wrong.

"Look at the pores of gaboon, the color and the whole grain and then look at Khaya, the true mahogany. The difference is very apparent. Still you occasionally get really good gaboon logs worth slicing for flatcutting veneer," Hoppe said, adding, "Gaboon can have a problem with the wooly grain that stands up and open pores."

Hoppe said that gaboon's use for plywood and blockboard, a grade of plywood with high stability, makes it an important wood on the world market.

Decorative applications

Gaboon can play a starring role, however. Some selected logs are sliced and can produce a very attractive mottled and striped patter that is then used for decorative applications such as cabinetry and fine paneling.

Gaboon is a light-colored wood from the African West Coast, most prominantly Gabon, Rio Muni, Congo-Brazzaville and the Congo Republic and Equitorial Guinea. The heartwood is salmon pink to light pinkish brown with a narrow sapwood that is a pale gray and not clearly distinguished from the heartwood. The wood has a medium texture and a straight grain that can sometimes be wavy. If properly prepared, the wood will offer a naturally lustrous appearance.

The wood is plentiful and replanted in areas where it grows naturally. Gaboon is the name most used in the United States and Europe. Another name reported to be often used for Aucoumea klaineana is Okoume.

The silica problem

Gaboon's chief "problem" is its silica content which tends to cause moderate to severe blunting on cutting surfaces. Experts recommend keeping cutting edges very sharp to minimize problems. When planing gaboon lumber, a reduced angle of 20 degrees is recommended to prevent tearouts. Gaboon should nail, glue and finish very well, although the wood can get a woolly finish when machined.

Gaboon seasons easily, drying rapidly without problems for both air and kiln drying. A kiln schedule of T6-D2 for 4/4 stock is recommended by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service. Use a kiln schedule of T3-D1 for 8/4 stock.

Gaboon is vulnerable to attact by a variety of insects -- the powder post beetle-marine borers, the forest longhorn beetle, and termites.

The heartwood is not resistant to attack by decay fungi. A non-durable wood, it is not recommended for preservative treatment.

Occasionally, people refer to another entirely different wood by the term Gaboon ebony. This wood is also called African ebony, and it grows in the areas of Southern Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Zaire. This tree is from the Family Ebenaceae, Diospyrus crassiflora, and is extremely dark in color.

Family names

Aucoumea klaineana of the Family Burseraceae

Other names

Okoume, combogala, angouma, mofoumou, n'goumi


Weight varies from 23 to 35 pounds per cubic foot but average is 27 pounds per cubic foot

200 feet tall with slightly curved but cylindrical bole with 3-foot to 6 1/2-foot diameters

0.43 specific gravity

Mechanical properties

Gaboon: A weak wood with light density and features poor steam bending properties and low bending strength. It has low stiffness and medium crushing strength. Silica content is about 0.12 percent to 0.16 percent. This affects cutting surfaces, especially blunting to saw teeth.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Wood of the Month
Author:Kaiser, Jo-Ann
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Nov 1, 1992
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