If you are the type of woodworker who loves to work with hardwood lumber, it will be best to familiarize yourself with this exotic wood called Wenge wood. This beautiful wood comes from a tree native to West and Central Africa. This tree is called Millettia Laurentii and is commonly known as African Rosewood, Dikela, Faux Ebony, Bokonge, Mibotu, and Awong.
Wenge has a very dark color characterized by distinctive grain patterns and figures. This wood is hard and heavy and is best for staircases and flooring. Millettia Laurentii ranges in height from 23 to 30 meters and can even have a maximum height of fifty meters. The tree may have a trunk uninterrupted by side branches up to twenty meters.
Characteristics and Properties of Wenge Wood
Wenge wood has a distinctive appearance and color that is definitive in its elegance and beauty. It features a rich and deep chocolate brown tone, interlaced with dark lines. This exotic color of Wenge Wood makes it a highly sought-after wood. If you intend to use Wenge wood for your woodworking projects, it will be best to be cognizant of its properties and characteristics:
Color and Appearance
The heartwood of Wenge wood carries a medium brown tone tinged with a yellowish or reddish hue and streaks of nearly black color. Its sapwood, on the other hand, has a light-yellow tone. Once you apply a wood finish, this wood turns almost black. Nevertheless, its blackness usually turns light when exposed to UV light.
Grain and Texture
Wenge wood’s grain is straight and characterized by coarseness. It also exhibits less natural luster. Its grain patterns are highly patented and predictable, which are pleasing to behold. Its texture, however, carries tan lines alongside its black lines, depending on how it got cut.
You can provide it with a perfectly black look by tinging it with simple oil. Imbued with oil, it can rival that of the Ebony in appearance.
When you buy several lumber pieces of Wenge, you will notice too that they exhibit uniform color, especially right after they got cut. Besides, their color shifts to deep dark chocolate or black-brown colors within a few months.
Resistance to Rot and Decay
Wenge wood is characterized by durability and strength. It is termite resistant and exhibits high resistance to decay and rot. Besides, it has natural chemical compounds that provide it with protection from termite attack and decay.
For this reason, you don’t need to treat it chemically to make it decay and termite resistant. Moreover, it doesn’t let moisture penetrate its fibers because it has dense grains. Nevertheless, you can provide additional protection by finishing or painting it.
Advantages of Using Wenge Wood
Aside from knowing the properties and characteristics of Wenge wood, it will also help if you know the advantages of its use. This way, you can decide if it is the ideal wood for your future woodworking project:
It Comes with an Exquisite and Exotic Appearance
Wenge wood is remarkable for its exotic appearance, which endears those who see it. It has a rich dark color that could rival that of Ebony wood. Its grain patterns and texture likewise are commendable. Thus, if you want a wood that exudes elegance and beauty, you should not think twice about going for Wenge wood.
It’s Very Durable
Wenge wood is undoubtedly one of the most durable wood types out there. The Janka Hardness rating of Wenge wood is 1,620 lbf which is relatively higher than other hardwoods like Hard Maple, Australian Cypress, White Oak, White Ash, etc.
Regarding its durability, it is decay and rot resistant. Besides, it has natural compounds that protect it from insect attacks. Its grains are also quite tight, preventing it from absorbing wood. Thus, it does not readily succumb to rotting even if it gets exposed to moisture and water.
It Has Medicinal Properties
Central African natives use this wood as traditional medicine for healing fever, skin issues, hernia, and rheumatism.
Although an exotic wood, Wenge wood is not rare and difficult to find. It is available in different sizes and ranges, and its use is sustainable. Wenge wood, of course, is listed as “endangered” because of the absence or the lack of new trees. But it is still pretty much available.
Suitable for Most Woodworking Applications
Wenge wood has many uses and applications. Because of its sterling characteristics, it is a highly sought-after wood. You can use it for making paneling, furniture, and veneer. You can also use it for flooring, staircases, and many other applications.
Disadvantages of Using Wenge Wood
After knowing the advantages of its use, you can now decide whether Wenge is the best wood for your upcoming projects. Nevertheless, it will also help to know the following disadvantages concomitant with its use:
Its Dust is Dangerous to Your Health
Of course, all types of dust can harm your respiratory system and cause allergic reactions. But Wenge wood contains compounds that could be detrimental to the health of your nervous system. Its dust can also cause abdominal cramps and eye and skin irritation. So, when working with this wood, ensure you wear your safety gear, like your dust mask.
It is Not Easy to Work With
Wenge wood has high density and can be very hard. Thus, you might experience dulling your cutting tools when working with it. Besides, you will need enough patience when working with it because of its high density. Moreover, you must use sharp tools to facilitate the working process.
It is Heavy
Since it is dense and hard, it is also heavy. Thus, if you transport it from one place to another, you might get exhausted real quick. Besides, if you carry it to a higher level or altitude, you might also have a hard time.
It is Expensive
Since it is an exotic wood listed as endangered, it is also expensive. Compared to other hardwoods, this wood comes at a higher price, and using it can be costly for you.
Applications and Uses of Wenge Wood
The exotic Wenge wood comes with many uses and applications. Aside from its use for making furniture and cabinets, it gets also used for flooring and other construction purposes. Moreover, it gets used for handles of sporting products because of its remarkable strength, stiffness, and high shock resistance. Thus, you will find it used as handles for many sporting tools. Its elasticity value (MOE) is around 1.97 million psi, which is perfect for applications requiring high shock-resistance levels.
Wenge wood is also known for its use in several musical instruments. Mosrite, for example, utilizes it for their Brass Rail models’ bodies. On the other hand, Cort and Ibanez used it for their electric basses’ five-piece necks. Moreover, Warwick uses it in their electric basses as necks and fingerboards. Yamaha, likewise, utilized it for the center ply of its Hybrid Maple drums.
Other applications of Wenge wood include its use for making archery bows, specifically in the flatbows production. It gets likewise utilized to produce pin blocks or rails on hammered dulcimers.
How to Work with Wenge Wood?
Wenge wood is so durable and robust that it is not easy to work with it. It can quickly blunt your tool’s cutting edges. Thus, you need to resharpen your tools more often when working with this wood, especially if you’re using non-carbide blades. Besides, if you sand it, you need to sanitize the surface real fast because Wenge wood has a natural oil that could soon harden its surface. You will also have issues when staining it.
Another thing to consider is that this wood is very splintery, which can splinter quickly. So, you need to take extra care when working with this wood, for you might get wounded. Besides, if you would fill in its large pores, you might find it challenging to achieve the desired smoothness of finish.
Another thing is the health hazard posed by its dust. Its dust is poisonous and can cause damage to the nervous system, skin, respiratory system, and other organs of your body. As such, you should take extra care and be mindful of wearing your safety gear when working with this wood.
If you are a beginner in woodworking, it will be best not to work with Wenge wood. The reason is that it is tough, and if you are just learning the rudiments of woodworking, you will find it hard to cut and finish. Besides, Wenge wood is expensive. You don’t want to waste enough money on elegant wood like this for trial-and-error works.
Wenge wood, of course, is a beautiful wood. It is an exotic wood that is sought-after for its exquisite beauty that could rival that of Ebony. You can produce some of the world’s best furniture and woodworking projects with this wood. Thus, if you’re an expert woodworker, you will indeed treasure the moment you work with this wood.
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.