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The Pros and Cons of Using Obeche Wood in Your Projects

Timber Knowledge
18 July 2023 min read

The Pros and Cons of Using Obeche Wood in Your Projects

Obeche wood’s unique characteristics make it a highly versatile option, suitable for various uses, from delicate instruments to lightweight furniture and intricate models.

Each type of wood possesses unique qualities, making selecting the right material based on the desired outcome essential. With its distinct characteristics, obeche has caught the attention of many woodworkers in recent years. 

This article will explore the pros and cons of using obeche wood in your projects, allowing you to make an informed decision that best suits your needs.


What is Obeche Wood?

Obeche wood, scientifically known as Triplochiton scleroxylon, comes from the obeche tree, native to West and Central Africa. 

Also referred to as Abachi or Wawa, this timber is lightweight, usually pale yellow, and features a straight grain. Obeche is increasingly popular in various woodworking projects due to its versatility and unique properties.

Working with Obeche Wood's Unique Grain

While the straight grain of obeche wood is generally a pro, it may challenge woodworkers unaccustomed to this feature. The straight grain can make it more prone to tear out during the planing process, mainly when dealing with interlocked grain patterns. However, this can be mitigated using sharp tools and appropriate woodworking techniques.


Pros of Using Obeche Wood

1. Lightweight and Easy to Work With

Obeche's lightweight nature allows for effortless handling and machining. Unlike heavier types of wood, working with obeche requires less effort, making it ideal for intricate designs, cabinetry, and delicate projects. 

Obeche's lightness also makes it a preferred choice for novice woodworkers who may find heavier wood more challenging.


2. Excellent Stability and Durability

Although not as dense or hard as other woods, obeche is known for its stability. It resists warping, shrinking, and splitting, which can be crucial in ensuring the longevity of your projects. 

This characteristic makes it an excellent choice for interior joinery, furniture making, and millwork applications.


3. Availability and Cost

Obeche wood is relatively abundant, making it readily available for purchase. Its affordability compared to other high-quality woods makes it an attractive option, especially for those working within a budget. 

So, whether you're a hobbyist or a professional, the accessibility and cost-effectiveness of obeche can save you money without compromising on quality.


4. Attractive Aesthetic Qualities

The pale yellow hue of obeche wood gives it a subtle and elegant appearance. This light colouration provides a neutral base, allowing it to complement various design styles and adapt to different finishes. Additionally, the straight grain pattern enhances its visual appeal, making it suitable for contemporary and traditional projects.


Cons of Using Obeche Wood

1. Limited Natural Resistance to Decay and Insects

Like other lightweight timbers, obeche wood isn’t naturally resistant to decay or insect attacks. This means it may not be suitable for exterior applications or moisture-prone areas without proper treatment or protective coatings. However, if appropriately maintained and finished, obeche wood can still perform satisfactorily in indoor settings.


2. Vulnerability to Scratches and Dents

While obeche is durable and stable, it’s not as hard as other woods. As a result, it may be more susceptible to scratches, dents, or further surface damage. 

Extra care must be taken when handling and using obeche to avoid compromising its aesthetic appeal. Protective coatings or finishes can enhance its durability and minimise the risk of scratches.


3. Limited Availability of Wide Boards

Obeche trees often have smaller trunk diameters, resulting in narrower boards than other woods. If your project requires wide boards, sourcing obeche wood in the desired dimensions may be more challenging. However, this limitation can be overcome with careful planning and exploring different sourcing options.


Obeche Wood in Musical Instruments and Other Applications

As woodworkers broaden their repertoire and delve into other applications, the versatility of obeche becomes increasingly apparent. The wood has found favour in the manufacture of musical instruments, specifically wind instruments like flutes and recorders, and in the interiors of pianos. 

Its lightness and excellent resonance make it suitable for these delicate applications. Still, special consideration should be given to appropriate finishing and maintenance due to the wood's soft nature to ensure the instrument's longevity.

Further, obeche's lightweight characteristic makes it ideal for crafting model aeroplanes and boats, light furniture, and even sculpting. Its ease of carving allows detailed work to be executed flawlessly, a feature treasured by artists and hobbyists alike.


Considerations in Sustainable Use of Obeche Wood

Despite its advantages, using obeche also brings a significant responsibility to use this resource sustainably. 

As its popularity grows, so does the demand, which can pressure the natural stands of obeche trees in West and Central Africa. 

Although the obeche tree isn’t currently considered a non-threatened species, the continuous, unchecked harvesting of this wood could lead to future sustainability issues. Therefore, it’s paramount to source obeche wood from suppliers who adhere to responsible forest management practices, ensuring the long-term availability of this species. 

It’s true that purchasing certified sustainable timber may be a bit pricier, but it contributes to the conservation of forest ecosystems and promotes fair trade in the timber industry.


Wood Solutions Provided by Woodshop Direct

Obeche wood offers numerous advantages for woodworking projects, such as its lightweight nature, excellent stability, availability, affordability, and attractive appearance. However, it’s essential to consider its vulnerabilities, including limited natural resistance to decay and insects, susceptibility to scratches and dents, and potential difficulty sourcing wide boards.

Ultimately, deciding to use obeche wood depends on your specific project requirements and preferences. While it may not be suitable for all applications, obeche's unique qualities make it an excellent choice for interior joinery, furniture making, cabinetry, and delicate designs. 

By carefully weighing the pros and cons discussed in this article, you can determine whether obeche is the right material to bring your woodworking projects to life.

Woodshop Direct offers a wide range of high-quality obeche wood to cater to your woodworking needs. Browse our website or contact our expert team to explore the possibilities and find the perfect wood for your next project.