January 4, 2023
You might be familiar with Tiger Woods, the most popular golf player in the world today. But you might not be familiar with Tigerwood unless you are a woodworking aficionado. Tigerwood is an exotic hardwood species characterized by vibrant reddish-brown hues with unique black striping, similar to the tiger’s stripes. Moreover, these stripes vary in thickness from thick contours to fine strokes. Tigerwood gets commonly referred to as Goncalo Alves or Jobillo. Yet, its scientific name is Astronium spp.
Tigerwood inhabits the regions from Mexico down to Brazil. It can grow up to 130 feet high with a maximum trunk diameter of five feet. Tigerwood trees are towering, so you will often find them towering over lower trees. Besides, they don’t necessitate unique soil to grow, but because Tigerwood is a highly sought-after wood, some countries restrict the exportation of this wood.
Hardness Rating of Tigerwood
Tigerwood is a heavy and very dense wood with a 2,160 Janka Hardness rating. It is even harder than Purple Heart (1,860), Merbau (1,925), Hickory (1,820), Wenge (1,630), and many other commercial hardwoods. It is also harder than red oak by as much as 67%, and thus, you can gauge its toughness and hardness compared to these other hardwoods.
Tigerwood is highly resistant to decay and rot. Besides, it doesn’t attract fungi or mold growth. Thus, you can use it for outdoor furniture, flooring, veneers, and other exterior woodworking projects. Moreover, it features a unique and dramatic appearance that would add flair to your woodworking projects.
Tigerwood is easy to air dry, though checking and warping may happen during the drying process if the conditions are extreme. Once dried, it exhibits high resistance to expansion and contraction. Thus, you can expect dimensional stability from this wood.
Characteristics and Properties of Tigerwood
Knowing Tigerwood’s innate characteristics and properties will be best if you intend to use Tigerwood. Tigerwood’s heartwood is medium reddish brown, characterized by irregular black to dark brown streaks. Its color also darkens over time. Of course, its coloration is one of the endearing characteristics of Tigerwood.
Tigerwood got named after its longitudinal bands running through its length and resembling the stripes of tigers. Once cut, the fresh timber features an orange-brown hue with dark to medium brown stripes. This color, however, darkens over time, making the stripes look almost black.
Tigerwood has remarkable strength and durability. It has a 2,160 Janka rating, meaning it is tough. Besides, it is very dense and resistant to pests and fungi attacks. It also doesn’t exhibit splintering and splitting.
Tigerwood is also very durable. It can last for centuries, given proper care. Moreover, it is moisture-resistant, rot-resistant, and bug resistant.
Its grain appears straight with some variations and interlocking grains. Its texture is also fine and uniform, characterized by a natural luster.
The endbrain of Tigerwood comes with a diffuse-porous characteristic. The pores range from large to medium with no well-delineated arrangement. You will also see two to three solitary or radial multiples, with tyloses as well as heartwood deposits. Furthermore, its growth rings appear indistinct, and it has visible narrow rays. The narrow rays have normal spacing.
Tigerwood has quite a low MC. Thus, it is ideal for use as flooring. Nevertheless, it will be best if you allow the wood to get to its EMC before you use it for your projects. This way, you can avoid problems related to MC. Its rot-resistance property is commendable. It has remarkable weathering properties and has a very durable rating relative to rot and decay resistance.
Different Tigerwood Species
Aside from knowing the remarkable properties and characteristics of Tigerwood, it will also help if you are familiar with the following different Tigerwood species:
1) Lovoa Trichilioides
One of the most common species of Tigerwood is the Lovoa Trichilioides. This species belongs to the family of Meliaceae. This tree is an evergreen tree that can grow high. It features a dark-colored and heavy crown, and its average height is 45 meters.
Lovoa Trichilioides gets mainly found in Angola, Uganda, the Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Cameroon, Ghana, and Tanzania. This species is endangered, given the high exploitation of this tree, especially in Congo.
The heartwood of this Tigerwood species carries a yellowish-brown hue with gold and black markings. It has a distinctive 3-7-meter-wide bank of pale brown or grey sapwood. The texture of this wood is fine with interlocked grains. Besides, its appearance is highly lustrous and very attractive.
2) Astronium Fraxinifolium
Astornium Fraxinifolium is a highly-sought after timber. It is a species of Tigerwood famous for making furniture and cabinets. This species grows in the Atlantic Forest and Amazon Rainforest. It gets also called Kingwood and Zebrawood.
This wood is compact and heavy. Besides, you will find it hard to cut this wood because it is dense and hard. Its color ranges from light red to dark red.
At the onset, you’ll see that this wood is somewhat yellow-brown or yellowish-brown. Then, it takes on a dark brownish color with streaks of irregularly spaced black brown color.
3) Goncalo Alves
Goncalo Alves is another popular species of Tigerwood. It comes from the tropical regions of South America, specifically Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Its color ranges from reddish to golden brown, with streaks of dark and brown color. It has a beautiful appearance which you would indeed love.
Goncalo Alves is a tough wood, and it is heavy. It has tight interlocking grains with fine to medium textures. You will also find alternate layers of hard and soft wood in it. It is highly durable and offers a lovely glass-like finish. Thus, it is a popular choice for many affluent homeowners.
Advantages of Using Tigerwood
If you intend to use Tigerwood for your many woodworking projects, it will be best to know the following upsides of its use to figure out if it is the best wood for your projects:
Incredible Durability and Hardness
There is no doubt this wood is very hard, with a Janka Hardness rating of 2,160 lbf. As mentioned above, it is harder than many known wood species used in many woodworking projects. It features a very tough surface that resists dings and dents. Thus, it stays beautiful over time.
It is undoubtedly an excellent choice for many woodworking projects. Of course, it is softer than Ipe, Bolivian Cherry, and Cumaru. Thus, it is easier on your foot than the hardwoods as mentioned earlier.
This wood’s incredible density makes it highly resistant to moisture. It also comes with natural oils that provide a high level of resistance to moisture. It is not going to warp or crack once you’ve applied a finish to this wood, even if you position this wood on a damp surface.
Tigerwood may not be the cheapest of all the exotic woods, yet it is still more affordable than Ebony, Teak, and Ipe. If you compare its price to other exotic hardwood, its price is within the range of the price of Cumaru and Mahogany. Thus, its use is more economical than other exotic woods, while providing sterling characteristics and properties.
Disadvantages of Using Tigerwood
It is not enough to know the advantages of the use of Tigerwood if you want to use this wood. It will also help to know the following downsides of its use:
Its Colors Darkens Over Time
Tigerwood offers a rich variation of colors. It is a lovely wood for many woodworking projects. Yet, over time, its sapwood, which has a lighter color tends to darken, turning dark to reddish brown. Hence, this darkening can create contrast between the darker heartwood, diminishing the dramatic effect of this wood over time.
Nevertheless, this color change may take time to become noticeable. It may take ten years. Besides, you can slow down the darkening process by using UV-filtering devices on your window to minimize the effects of UV rays on this wood.
It is Not Readily Available
Tigerwood is still not yet included in the list of endangered species of wood. However, soon, it may be. The rainforests they inhabit are slowly dwindling due to overlogging. Nevertheless, there is a growing interest in preserving this wood species, especially in some South American and African regions where it is native.
Restrictions on over-harvesting this wood are slowly being established to arrest the dwindling number of this wood species. Brazil, for example, has imposed tight control on the logging of this wood.
Tigerwood, however, is a fast-growing tree. Thus, it is more sustainable than other exotic wood species. You can select those Tigerwood timber tagged with Forest Stewardship Council certification to ensure the wood comes from a sustainable plantation.
Hard and Difficult to Cut
Tigerwood is also very difficult to cut because it is dense and hard. Thus, it will be best if you use professional-grade tools to work with this wood. It will also help if you use saw blades with carbon tips to ensure these blades will last. Besides, you must pre-drill the lumber when installing screws or nails and use carbide-tipped bits when drilling holes.
You can glue this wood, but it is challenging because it carries natural oils, making it difficult to glue. Moreover, you will find it hard to sand, and its dust can irritate eyes and skin.
Tigerwood is also challenging to stain. Remember, it resists water, and thus, it also resists stains and finishes. Therefore, you need to use low-viscosity products when finishing this wood. Besides, it is not ideal for use by beginners.
Not Often Commercially Available
If ever you decide to use this wood after reading this post, you might get frustrated once you try to avil of this wood because this wood is not readily available commercially. You need to pre-order this from major retailers, and have it shipped to you from another country, which could further pad up your expenses.
Workability Level of Tigerwood
Tigerwood is not the most difficult wood to work with. It is only rated moderately challenging to work with, even though it is very hard. All you need to do is use your professional hand tools and utilize suitable cutters. Of course, due to its hardness, it may wear down your cutting tools. Hence, it will be best to use carbide bits and tips. You must also predrill before nailing and screwing.
Sanding this wood is a challenge; thus, you must prepare well before sanding it, especially if you will sand a whole area of flooring.
You can seal this wood for enhanced durability. Yet, it weathers well even if it doesn’t have sealers or preservatives. Exposure to UV rays can alter its color, making it darken over time.
The Goncalo Alves, for example, is easier to work with compared to other species of Tigerwood. However, it might have irregular grain that can be challenging to machine and plane. It can also blunt your tools moderately. Moreover, it is challenging to glue, but it finishes nicely.
Tigerwood has natural oil and low porosity. This means it will not absorb stains well. Nevertheless, it doesn’t need staining to keep its appearance in good condition, for it stays beautiful even without stains. A transparent stain, however, can do the trick for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Aside from knowing the properties, pros and cons, and many other facts about Tigerwood, it will also help if you are cognizant of the following FAQs about this wood, for they may also be the questions playing on in your mind:
Is Tigerwood Sustainable?
Tigerwood, as mentioned above, is still not listed on the endangered species list. Yet, it is still over logged in some areas, though in Brazil and other countries, strict rules are imposed regarding the logging of this wood. Besides, export restrictions are in place in these countries.
The use of Tigerwood, therefore, is still sustainable. However, some rainforests where this wood thrives are slowly being deforested, which can spell a bad omen for this wood soon.
Where Do Tigerwood Species Thrive?
As mentioned above, Tigerwood has several species. The Lovoa Trichilioides, for example, thrives mostly in the African regions of Uganda, Ivory Coast, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Cameroon, Ghana, and Tanzania. Other species can be found in Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay.
Tigerwood might be one of the hardest woods in the market today. It has sterling qualities that many woodworkers love to have in wood. As such, it is a highly sought-after wood prized for its beauty and other characteristics.
However, Tigerwood is not recommended for beginners because it is hard and tough to cut. It is also difficult to sand and shape. So, if you’re a beginner, it will be best to choose another wood type that is easier to work with.
Liam is a 37-year-old woodworker and interior designer who loves to make every furniture project an art piece. He is very experienced in furniture design and woodworking project planning.