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Makore: valued for consistency and beauty.

Makore is a large West African tree principally found in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Makore, Tieghemella heckelii, is closely related to a tree called douka (Mieghlemella africana) which is also known as ukola. The two species share the same growing range from Sierra Leone to Cameroon, Gabon and south to Cabinda and thrive in the high rain forests.

Makore trees can grow very tall, averaging heights of 120 feet to 150 feet, but growing as tall as 180 feet to 200 feet with straight, cylindrical boles that remain clear for up to 100 feet. The trees average diameters of 4 feet, but can be as wide as 10 feet in diameter.

Cutting a fine figure

Makore wood ranges in color from a deep red-brown to a pale pink. It has a fine texture and mostly straight grain, although the grain is sometimes interlocked or wavy or has a broken stripe or mottle, which results in very interesting figures. The figured makore is considered one of the finest of the African woods. Figured makore has been compared to a moire or watered-silk figure that is quite striking. The wood has a deep natural luster that adds to its beauty.

Jim Dumas of Certainly Wood in East Aurora, N.Y., said makore is very popular as a high-end architectural wood -- especially figured makore. "Makore is such a large tree that it can produce large amounts of figured veneer that is also consistent," Dumas said. He added that this type of consistency is unusual in a figured exotic, but the large size of the log allows customers to complete entire architectural installations. "That is rare. You have to look hard and long for uniformity. But it is common to have a makore log that produces 40,000 to 50,000 square feet that is uniform, bundle to bundle." Although the veneer can often be highly figured, the lumber tends to be less figured, he said.

Dumas added that the wood, with its deep sienna or russet color, has a natural luster that is quite beautiful. "Mahogany is dull and relies on its finish for the luster. But even without a finish, makore has a beautiful luster," he said. "Makore has a higher percentage of figure per log which allows designers and architects to do large areas -- boardroom tables, office furniture and paneling -- in long runs and in sequence." Dumas said one of his clients recently paneled six floors of a law firm in makore.

Dumas said makore has been a popular wood for some time but is really enjoying its "day in the sun now. The higher the figure, the better," he explained. Makore's many figures include mottled, moire, blistered or quilted and pommele or welted.

"We deal with clients who like a distinctive look," he explained. "Makore has been growing in popularity despite the fact that it is not a light colored wood. Makore is more popular than other exotics like rosewood and ebony right now."

A cherry by another name

Makore is known by a series of African names but is also referred to as African cherry. The name most likely results from its similarities to cherry. The wood is often compared to mahogany, but its growth line and pores remind some of our domestic cherry.

Al Matulevich of the David R. Webb Co., Inc. in Edinburgh, Ind., said the name African cherry also could be due to makore's reddish cast, which tends to be slightly darker than American or European cherry.

Matulevich said makore has been a steady seller with mostly architectural uses. His company inventories the veneer in both flat cut and quartered cut in fiddleback, block mottle and plain. Matulevich said they also carry a pommele figure that is peeled, not sliced. He said another species, moabi, yields a pommele figure that is aesthetically similar to makore pommele.

"Makore is a popular architectural wood. It comes to us with clean veneers without character marks and little or no sap," he said.

Makore has a long list of uses. It is very durable, making it a good choice for marine uses such as boatbuilding and marine plywood. It is also used for flooring and vehicle construction. The wood is popular for furniture and architectural uses. It is used for paneling, high-class joinery, furniture and cabinetwork. Other uses include doors, table legs, chairs, fittings, interior and exterior joinery. Also used for framing for vehicles, boat building and flooring. It is a popular choice for decorative veneers and for turnery and is used to make marine quality plywood.

Makore has some drawbacks as a commercial timber. For one, it has a very high silica content that causes problems with cutting tools. The fine dust that results from working with the wood during machining and sanding is highly irritating to workers, bothering eyes, nose and throat and also causing dermatitis.

However, makore is an extremely durable wood and is resistant to termites but susceptible to attack from the powderpost beetle. It is liable to stain blue if it comes in contact with iron when wet. Makore works well with machine and hand tools; tungsten carbide-tipped saws are recommended. The wood may split when nailed although it glues well and finishes well.

Family Names

Tieghemella heckelii of the Family Sapotaceae

Other names Baku, agamokwe, abaku, African cherry.

Height/weight

Trees range in height from 120 to 200 feet with an average weight of 39 pounds per cubic foot and a specific gravity of 0.55 with an air-dry density of 42 pcf.

Properties

Wood dries at a slow to moderate rate with little degrade. USDA Forest Service recommends a kiln schedule of T10-D4S for 4/4 stock and T8-D3S for 8/4 stock. High silica count causes severe blunting on cutting surfaces and irritation to workers from dust contact. Veneering properties rated good. Makore is stable in use.
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Title Annotation:Wood of the Month: Makore
Author:Kaiser, Jo-Ann
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Nov 1, 1993
Words:976
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