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Iroko Wood: The African Teak Alternative for Your Projects

Timber Knowledge Tips & Guides
07 August 2023 min read

Iroko Wood: The African Teak Alternative for Your Projects

Choosing a suitable material is crucial to achieving exceptional results when it comes to woodworking. While teak is often considered the gold standard for quality and durability, it isn’t always readily available or affordable. 

This is where iroko wood comes in. 

Often referred to as the African teak, iroko wood offers a comparable alternative that combines the beauty and strength of teak at a more affordable price. 

This article will explore the advantages of iroko wood, its characteristics, applications, and why it should be your go-to choice for your next woodworking project.


The Origins and Characteristics of Iroko Wood

1. Origins

Iroko wood, scientifically known as Milicia excelsa, is native to the west coast of Africa, particularly in countries like Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon. It’s a large hardwood tree belonging to the Meliaceae family and is highly valued for its durability and aesthetic qualities.


2. Appearance

One of the most striking features of iroko wood is its varied colour palette that ranges from pale yellow to rich golden brown, often with dark streaks. Over time, the wood matures to a darker, more uniform shade, making it an excellent choice for contemporary and traditional designs. Additionally, iroko wood exhibits a pronounced grain pattern, adding depth and character to any woodworking project.


3. Durability and Density

Similar to teak, iroko wood is renowned for its exceptional durability. Its impressive resistance to moisture, rot, and insect attacks makes it an ideal choice for interior and exterior applications. 

Further, with a Janka hardness rating of 1,260 lbf (pound-force), iroko is notably dense and will withstand the test of time.


Applications of Iroko Wood

1. Outdoor Projects

With its outstanding durability and resistance to the elements, iroko wood is an excellent choice for outdoor projects such as decking, cladding, and garden furniture. Its natural oils provide inherent protection against moisture and help maintain its structural integrity even in harsh weather conditions. 

So, whether you’re building a garden bench, a pergola, or a delightful outdoor seating area, iroko wood will effortlessly enhance any outdoor living space.


2. Interior Projects

Iroko's innate beauty and warm glow make it an attractive option for various interior applications. Iroko can transform any space into a statement of elegance, from flooring and staircase construction to cabinetry and furniture. Moreover, its rich colour and distinctive grain patterns make it highly sought after by designers and artisans.


Working with Iroko Wood

1. Machining and Finishing

Although iroko is dense and durable, it can be machined and easily worked. Using sharp tools to achieve clean edges is advisable when cutting or planing. 

While sanding, avoiding excessive heat buildup is crucial to prevent the wood from gumming up the sandpaper. Once sanded smooth, iroko's natural lustre can be enhanced by applying an appropriate finish, such as teak oil, which will deepen and protect its colour over time.


2. Maintenance

Regular maintenance is essential to maintain the beauty and longevity of iroko wood. Cleaning the surface with a mild soap solution and a soft brush will remove dirt and grime without damaging the wood. It’s also recommended to reapply a protective finish every few years, depending on the level of exposure to the elements.


Innovations and Technological Developments with Iroko Wood

Technological advancements and growing demand have paved the way for innovative uses of iroko wood. It's not just a material to build furniture or flooring; it has found its place in many other areas where its unique properties can be harnessed effectively.


1. Musical Instruments

Luthiers worldwide have discovered the acoustic properties of iroko wood and now use it to produce musical instruments. Its density and durability make it ideal for crafting guitar necks and bodies, piano keys, and even drum shells. Iroko's distinct tonal qualities enhance the instrument's sound, making it a popular choice for musicians seeking an alternative to the more traditional woods used in instrument making.


2. Architectural Elements

In architecture, iroko is used not only for structural applications but also for its aesthetic appeal. Architects often use it in the design of doors, windows, and other architectural features, where its beautiful grain pattern and rich, warm colour provide a visual interest that complements both modern and traditional architectural styles. 

Moreover, its natural resistance to decay makes it a durable choice for structures exposed to extreme weather conditions.


3. Maritime Use

Given its excellent resistance to rot and moisture, iroko wood has become a favourite among boat builders. It’s used to construct hulls, decks, and interior fittings of boats and yachts. Its superior density ensures that these vessels remain durable and robust, even when exposed to the harsh conditions of the sea.


The Economic Impact of Iroko Wood

The iroko wood industry has had a significant economic impact in Africa, generating employment and contributing to the growth of local economies. Sustainable harvesting of iroko also promotes forest management practices, leading to carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation benefits.

In conclusion, iroko presents a versatile and durable alternative to teak. Its wide array of applications, unique aesthetic qualities, and affordability make it an excellent choice for diverse projects, from furniture making and architecture to instrument crafting and maritime use.

So, whether you're a woodworking novice or an experienced artisan, you will find iroko wood an invaluable addition to your collection of materials. 


High-quality Wood from Woodshop Direct

For those seeking the timeless beauty and exceptional durability of teak without the premium price tag, iroko wood is the African teak alternative. Its natural lustre, remarkable resistance to the elements, and diverse range of applications make it a standout choice for any woodworking project. 

In essence, whether you’re planning to build outdoor furniture, interior fittings, or unique home accents, iroko wood is a reliable and versatile option that will exceed your expectations.

At Woodshop Direct, we take pride in providing high-quality iroko wood and a wide selection of other premium hardwoods. Browse our website or contact our knowledgeable team to explore our range of wood products and start your next woodworking project with confidence.