What is Black Palm Wood?: Properties, Uses, Workability

December 22, 2022

Wire-like grain patterns of black palm wood.

You might have already heard about Black Palm Wood, and you might be asking what type of wood it is. Is it hardwood or softwood? Is it dense and workable or not? Besides, is it suitable for various woodworking applications or not? If you want the answers to the abovementioned questions, it will be best to read through this post and learn more about Black Palm wood.

Many think Black Palm wood is hardwood, but it is technically not hardwood because it doesn’t have the other properties that would qualify it as hardwood. Instead, it falls under the monocot category, which includes plants like grass, bamboo, wheat, corn, and rice. This tree can grow up to 100 feet high and may have a maximum trunk diameter of three feet. It also has the scientific name Borassus flabellifer

Black palm wood is very hard. It has a Janka Hardness rating of 2,020 lbf, which is way above the hardness ratings of other hardwoods like Wenge, Highland Beech, Hard Maple, Hickory, Rosewood, White Oak, Red Oak, Teak, and many other hardwoods. As such, many think it is hardwood. However, Black Palm wood is neither a hardwood nor a softwood. It is grass, technically. Besides, it doesn’t have growth rings.

Properties and Characteristics of Black Palm Wood 

As mentioned above, Black Palm wood belongs to a monocot tree of the Arecaceae family. This wood consists of minute fibrous straw bundles. It doesn’t show knots and growth rings, nor does it have medullary rays and figure variations. Besides, its trunk doesn’t have branches, and you will not see a crotch figure in this wood. 

The best stock of this wood is found not in the heartwood but in the outer layers of this wood. It also doesn’t have any sapwood. Below are the distinctive characteristics and properties of this wood:

Color and Appearance

Black Palmwood has a light brown or light tan body. The outside part of the trunk exhibits fibers that are densely packed, while the fibers in the center get sparser and softer. The core of the wood is soft and doesn’t have the darker fiber bundles found in the outer part of its trunk. Hence, the only usable portion of this wood for woodworking is the outer portion of this wood.

Grain and Texture

The texture of this wood is fine, though it is not uniform and even because of the contrasting density of its fibers. Its grains are straight and have no knots, defects, or growth rings. If you closely examine this wood, you will notice quill-like streaks with a dark chocolate hue that blends naturally with the tan background. It also has an identical appearance on all four sides.

Because this wood comes from a monocot tree, its end grain has a non-typical characteristic in comparison to hardwood dicots. Its black fibers are also uniformly distributed and embedded into the soft brown parenchymal body. End grains also show a unique dotted pattern you will never see in hardwood.  

Rot Resistance

Black Palm wood exhibits high resistance to decay. Nevertheless, it is not entirely rot-proof like some of the hardwoods. Besides, it is vulnerable to insect attacks. 

Shrinkage and Expansion

Black Palm wood exhibits shrinkage after drying. It shows around 5.5% radial shrinkage and 5.5% tangential shrinkage. Its volumetric shrinkage percentage is at 11%. Its shrinkage and expansion, therefore, are acceptable and manageable. Besides, the shrinkage rate of this wood is fairly uniform because it doesn’t have growth rings. Thus, this wood exhibits good dimensional stability.

Toxicities and Allergic Reactions

The dust of the Black Palm wood might cause skin irritation and other side effects. Hence, when using this wood, you should wear your dust mask to protect yourself from dust. It also doesn’t exude any pungent odor when working with this wood.

How to Work with Black Palm Wood?

If it is your first time working with Black Palm Wood, you may find it hard to work with this wood using your hand and machine tools. This is because it has hard fibers that could splinter because they are brittle. Thus, you will need very sharp tools when working with this wood. Cutting angles should be exact to get excellent cutting results. Moreover, applying a sanding sealer before your final sanding will be best to get a smoother surface. 

You will also notice that the lighter-colored portion of this wood will absorb more stains or finish than the denser and darker color portion. Thus, you must take extra care when finishing and sanding this wood. 

You can use a very sharp chisel when making angled cuts, and you can use a 10-inch, with eighty teeth when crosscutting it. Nevertheless, this wood is easy to sand after using a sanding sealer. 

When you use this wood for woodturning, you should wear your dust mask to protect your lungs. Besides, it will be best to use a sharp tool with high-speed steel composition to facilitate woodturning. Cracking, however, usually occurs as this wood initially dries. Once it is dried, it is easy to turn, and cracking no longer occurs.  

To prevent tearing out, you can stabilize the wood using thin Cyanoacrylate (CA). It will be best likewise to finish this wood using polyurethane, lacquer, or friction polishes. Then, you can preserve it using a sanding sealer or clear shellac. If you apply oil to Black Palm Wood, it will tend to darken compared to other finishes.

Applications and Uses of Black Palm Wood

Black palm wood has a long history of usage in countries like India and Pakistan. It has long been used for rafters, boat parts, fence posts, and furniture. However, this wood is used in many countries like the United States for making tool handles, knife scales, pens, boxes, pool cues, and turned objects. Besides, its end grain can serve as very catchy inlays. 

The Black Palm wood is not expensive. You will typically find spindle stock and narrow boards of this wood, which are moderately priced.

Black Palmwood comes from trees found in Southeast Asia and South Asia. This wood grows in Cambodia, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. Nevertheless, it is not easy to pinpoint the place of origin of this wood because, throughout the centuries, Black Palmwood has spread and has been cultivated in many parts of the abovementioned countries. This species is not listed as endangered; thus, it is very much available. Besides, its use is sustainable. 


You will be surprised at the exceptional hardness of Black Palmwood, considering that it is not a hardwood but a Palm under the family of the Arecaceae family. It is a good wood for many applications, and if it is the first time using it, you will be surprised at its hardness even though it is not a hardwood. You can buy it in veneer or solid forms of 4/4, 5/4, or 8/4 thicknesses. 

Black Palmwood, without a doubt, is a block of solid and durable wood. It is, however, not recommended for use by beginners because it is very hard. However, if you are already an experienced woodworker, you can produce remarkable artifacts and wood products out of this wood.

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