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Santos Rosewood -- Finding a Niche of Its Own.

AFTER DALBERGIA NIGRA (Brazilian Rosewood was classified as a species facing extinction at the Species Protection Conference in Montreal, QUE, in 1992, trading of the wood was prohibited.

The only material that can be sold legally is old stock, which has to display a Cites Certificate, noting special approval.

Wood from this species, also known as Rio Rosewood and Jacaranda, is considered by many to be among the most beautiful of all woods. It has been used for centuries in solid and veneer form for beautiful furniture and architectural purposes, pianos, parquet flooring, instruments, tool and knife handles, wood sculpture, carving and turney. But with the majority of supplies protected under Species Class Protection 1, it is very difficult to find supplies.

A Substitute for Rio Rosewood

Santos Rosewood, of the species Machaerium scleroxylon, was introduced to the market as a substitute for Rio Rosewood. While not a true rosewood of the Genus Dalbergia, the wood offers users the look of the endangered species, although not necessarily all of its properties.

Santos Rosewood is now considered a valuable wood on its own merits and is most often used for architectural woodworking and high-end furniture. Interwood Forest Products Inc. publishes a handbook of woods, "Veneers -- A Fritz Kohl Handbook," which explains the history of Santos Rosewood.

"Brought on the market earlier as a substitute wood for Rio Rosewood, this wood has established itself today as a highly decorative furniture wood. The lighter and more distinctive the red coloring is, the more valuable the wood."

Its Own Special Challenges

While Santos Rosewood looks similar to Brazilian Rosewood, it offers some drying and working challenges that the other wood does not. Brazilian Rosewood, for example, dried easily with only a small problem with end checking. Santos Rosewood, on the other hand, requires great care in drying as the wood has a tendency to check.

Brazilian Rosewood, an extremely hard wood, was easily worked with machine and hand tools. On the other hand, Santos Rosewood has an interlocking grain and can be difficult to work.

The high oil content of Santos Rosewood can make finishing difficult and can also complicate gluing. High oil content in Brazilian rosewood also added steps to working with the wood. Surfaces to be bonded should be wiped with a drying fluid to ald in adhesion, experts say.

Rick Banns of Interwood Forest Products Inc. of Shelbyville, KY, describes Santos Rosewood as a truly beautiful wood. "My Santos Rosewood customers tend to be custom furniture manufacturers or architectural woodworkers, using the veneer for small-sized projects. While it's a beautiful-looking wood, it is hard to find consistency in color and grain pattern.

"Santos Rosewood's color can vary from red to orange to yellow to blue and you have different looks due to varied grain patters from tree to tree," Banns says. "It is difficult to accumulate enough of one color and one grain pattern for use in quantities. I think it would have wider appeal with furniture manufacturers if it was more consistent. It's not. You have to go through a lot of veneer to come up with a large supply of one color. There is also a big contrast among the Santos rosewood supplies. You find plain logs next to ones with a prominent figure."

Banns says Santos Rosewood finishes beautifully. "Some trees do have a silica content that is present when the veneer is cut. Veneer with silica can be difficult to finish. I don't purchase trees with silica."

Banns said the supplies of Rio or Brazilian Rosewood still being sold predate the cutting ban of 1992. "There is some of the Rio Rosewood around, but certainly very little and the quality of veneer for panel manufacturers is not what it was before the supply problems. Santos Rosewood is readily available in 10foot lengths and some 12-foot lengths."

Other species of Macherium are also valued for uses similar to Brazilian Rosewood. One related species in particular, Machaerium villosum, is popular and yields jacaranda-related and other woods. Some sources call this species by the name Pau Ferro, however, that name is also used for another Brazilian wood.

William Lincoln in world Woods In Color describes jacarando pardo: "The heartwood is similar to Brazilian rosewood, except that it is lighter in hue between pink-brown to violet brown, and not so highly figured. It has an undulating grain, a coarse texture and is fibrous."

Unlike material from Santos Rosewood, the wood is usually straight grained. It has high strength properties and has a moderate steam bending classification.

Santos Rosewood grows in South America. Brazli supplies a great deal of the veneer to the U.S. market. The true rosewoods of commercial value include Honsuras rosewood (Dctlbergia stevensonii): coco bolo (Dalbergia retusa and related species): African blackwood, Madagascar rosewood and Indian rosewood.


Machaerium Scleroxylon of the Family Leguminosae


Santos Rosewood Pao Ferro, Santos palisandro


Height averages between 60, and 65 feet. Average weight is 53 ppunfd per cubic foot with a specific gravity of 85.


Careful drying is necessary due to the high risk of checking. Wood dust from Santos Rosewood is highly irritating and may cause contact dermatitis. Inertlocking grain poses problems with working. High oil content of the wood can make gluing difficult. Wood is rated durable. Heartwood is highly resistant to fungus attack. Experts recommend reducing the cutting angle to 20 degrees for a best results.
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Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2000
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