Some woods are incredibly expensive, others unbelievably rare, but African Blackwood is a timber that satisfies both categories, renowned for its exotically dark finish, extraordinary properties and scarcity in the world.
Woodshop Direct will examine why this wood is so desirable, where you can find one and what makes African Blackwood one of the most valuable materials on the planet.
What Do African Blackwood Trees Look Like?
African Blackwood trees are relatively short in comparison to other trees - growing to about 25 - 40 feet high. The distinctive trunk of an African Blackwood tree makes it easy to identify thanks to the irregular tubular grooves that run around its circumference.
Where Can African Blackwood Be Found?
African Blackwood can be found in 26 countries in central and southern Africa, growing in deciduous forest, savannas and other rock covered locations.
Why Is African Blackwood So Rare?
There are a number of reasons, but it is believed that over-harvesting, bad conservation planning and agricultural development have meant there are simply fewer trees and habitat areas that are sustainable for growing Blackwood. The trees themselves also typically have a low yield. This combination of factors has resulted in these trees being labelled as 'near threatened'.
What Are The Properties Of African Blackwood?
The timber itself is incredibly dark, with little or no visual grain, with a very fine, straight and even grain. It's an incredibly hard, stiff, tough and stable wood that can be difficult to work with due to its dense and heavy physical properties. Blackwood polishes well, leaving a stunning lustrous finish.
What Is African Blackwood Used For?
Due to its dense yet easy-to-machine qualities and moisture protection properties, African Blackwood is perfect for making high-end musical woodwind instruments such as clarinets, oboes and flutes. The wood can also be used to create everything from knife hilt to walking sticks, pool cues, fine furniture and general carving work.
How Expensive Is African Blackwood?
It typically sells for around £8,000 per kilogram or £7,000 per log, whereas processed timber can sell for over £10,000 per cubic metre.
Other rivals include Agar Wood and Ebony which both command £8,000 Per Kilogram.