Suggested Uses for Rosewood
I just acquired about 100 pieces of rosewood cuttoffs that my deceased neighbor got from a musical instrument maker. These boards are 2 1/2″ x 1″ x about 15″ each. There are another 50 boards that are 1 1/2″ x 1″ by 60-80″.
I wouldn’t normally buy this type of wood, but it is beautiful.
What do I need to know about working with rosewood, besides that it is heavy and hard. I have made small tables, cabinets and some intricate, laminated cutting boards. I have only used maple, oak, cherry and walnut. Would this be a safe wood to use in laminated cutting boards with intricate designs? What other uses would lend themselves to this type of wood?
There are many species of rosewood (genus Dalbergia), and the best uses vary somewhat from species to species, so it would help if we knew what kind of rosewood you have. (If you can post some photos, that would be good.)
In general, rosewoods contain extractives that interfere with gluing. The best approach seems to be to glue only freshly planed or sanded surfaces. (Cocobolo--Dalbergia retusa--is notorious for being virtually unglueable.) The same extractives also interfere with finishing. Penetrating oil finishes generally work well. If you want to use a film-forming finish like lacquer or varnish, an initial sealer coat of shellac should help prevent the extractives from inhibiting curing of the finish.
One other thing: If it's Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra, also called Rio Rosewood), it's a CITES I endangered species, and commercial trade is prohibited unless you can document that its provenance predates the CITES listing. And even then there's a mountain of paperwork to fill out.
Of course, you could just send it all to me and all of your problems would be solved. ;-)
Here are pictures of the wood. I also added a picture of a couple of cutting boards I've made. The rosewood I have would make some beautiful accents. I'm worried about how it would glue-up.
VERY nice cutting boards. You have an artistic eye.
I have some cherished pieces of Rosewood like yours that I got from my Grandfathers stash and it is saved for only very special pieces and only as accent strips like you have done. With the exception of a few pens that were given to family members as a remembrance of Grandpa. My Dad cried when I gave him one of the pens.Work Safe, Count to 10 when your done for the day !!
Hmmm. That could be Brazilian rosewood. If you look closely at a cleanly cut end grain surface, are the pores randomly scattered across the surface, or do they tend to be bunched along the grain lines? That would help narrow it down.
I'd be a bit leery about using it in a cutting board, partly because of the gluing/finishing problem, and partly because many rosewoods will bleed color and stain any adjacent light-colored wood.
I do agree with Bruce that your cutting boards look very nice.
Thanks for the feedback. Here's a picture of an end grain cut. It probably won't be sharp enough to tell how the pores are distributed. At first I thought they were spread pretty evenly, but that was on a piece with very even grain. Then, I cut a piece with more figure and it looks like there are fewer pores along the darkest grain lines.Using this wood to make knobs and handles is a good idea. I may try to make one cutting board for my neighbor's widow. I will use Titebond III on freshly cut pieces and take my chances. My inclination is to use maple as a contrasting color, but I will experiment first to see how much it bleeds. Thanks also for the warning about rosewood being an irritant. I had looked up rosewood in a couple of books I own, but didn't find that information. I'll take precautions.
Well, at least your keyboard is in pretty good focus in the photo. ;-)
There's not enough detail to see the end grain pores, I'm afraid.
The pores in Brazilian rosewood are loosely clustered along the grain lines, while those of some other rosewoods are more evenly distributed.
Maybe I should have focused my camera on the keyboard and the wood pores would show up ;-)Thanks for your help! I think it might be Brazilian Rosewood and suddenly I am feeling unworthy. And now I have the added concern that if I ever use it on a piece that I want to sell (not that I'm that skilled, yet), I have some hurdles to jump. I'll use it for very special pieces. I better find a good place to store it, because there's far more than I can imagine using.
handymom ,use asetone before glueing to ensure the glue will stick to the rosewood. I have used simullar mixed with maple to make pool cues looks great together. I have turned rollingpins out ofit for many freinds wifes witch I finish with walnut oil no complants so far(20years or so),but a cutting board is risky as this wood can be all most toxic if injested.nice find,I would likelly make myself a nice little jewellry box if I be you. enjoy!
Thanks for pointing out that a cutting board could be toxic to use. I will attempt a nice box of some sort.
!!!!!! What you have is undeniably Brazilian Rosewood. Its trade was banned in about the year 2000 because of a CITES section III listing, and existing stock cannot be traded across country boundaries.
It is indeed highly prized, and is ENORMOUSLY valuable - in the range of $100+ per board foot, depending on figure.
It's your wood, so do with it what you will, but in my opinion it's a serious waste of money to make cutting boards or even jewelry boxes out of it. So long as it's shipped inside the continental United States and you have some sort of records that indicated that it existed here as cut boards before the CITES ban, you can sell it. Any musical instrument maker or tool maker would pretty much kill to get it.
I'm pretty sure the proprietor of Blue Spruce Toolworks or possibly Chester Toolworks would pay you handsomely for it, and that would be the most efficient and highest value-added use for it, as very little would be wasted when turned into marking knife and chisel handles. Another possible buyer would be Wenzloff & Sons (sawmakers).
Another, definite buyer would be an exotic wood dealer like Tropical Latin American Hardwoods out of San Diego, or Gilmer Hardwoods, though selling it to a broker would not net you as much as selling it directly to an end user.
I was in my workroom, making sure all my blades were ready, studying a beautiful box that my father made, and selecting pieces of this wood to make a jewelry box. I don't think all of the wood is the same. Most is the darker purplish color, however, there a few that are lighter. These lighter ones create a dark orange red color when dipped in denatured alcohol. These lighter pieces must be honduran rosewood, as Talma noted in the above post.I took another picture of the wood as I had arranged them to select wood for the jewelry box. They are arranged from dark to light with the most figured pieces in the middle. Only a few of the pieces are the lighter color.Your information that this wood could be $100+ per board foot has caused me to hesitate. Is a board foot calculated as 12" x 1" x 12"? I'm not sure what to do with this wood.
Here's the picture -
Board feet are indeed calculated as 1b.f. = 1 sq. ft. X 1 inch thick. As to what to do with it, that's up to you, but I can garantee that you will not see it again in at least the next 30 years (the minimum time required to grow even a relatively wimpy tree on a plantation - there are a few plantations that are growing Dalbergia Nigra).
At least some of the wood you pictured is DEFINITELY brazilian rosewood, and there's a good chance all of it is. As with many rosewoods, there's a lot of variation in color and density from tree to tree, and even within the same tree.
One test is to use a file to scrape the ends of the board. Brazilian rosewood has a distinctive, sweet smell that very few (if any) of the other rosewood species have.
Were it mine, I would either sell it to an instrument or tool maker, or stash it and consider making instruments or tools myself - it's beautiful, there's no other species that has the same appearance, and it's irreplaceable. Spectacular cutting boards can be made of figured walnut or cherry, and it's far cheaper with no toxicity issues.
I have informed my neighbor's daughter about the valuable stash her dad had in his garage and all projects are on hold.Thanks for all the information.
When I saw the title of this thread, I immediately thought of this spa in Cost Rica.
The decking goes around 3 pools, a steam room, and a volcanic mud bath!
The wood is from trees on site, cut down to make room for the spa, and since they were there, used for the decking! Has to be the most valuable decking I have ever seen.
Wow! Next time you go there, can I hide out in your suitcase! That is truly amazing.
Hiding in my suitcase would be fine, but you have to negotiate rates with my wife!
We enjoyed Costa Rica, but would not likely go back- too many other places we have not been yet. Also, my wife was NOT impressed with the diving - I liked it, but not great. We were in the gulf of papagayo region on the Pacific side.
Don't let this intimidate you. Yes, Rosewood is expensive and you don't want to blow it, but it's just wood.
Make a prototype (or two) out of poplar, pine, or some inexpensive species and work out all the details of how you'll mill, cut, shape and assemble your jewelry box. When you have it figured out, break out your Rosewood and go for it - it will be easier than you think.
Saschafer don't be to greedy, handymom might like to share some pieces with ALL of us. You are right, beautiful cutting boards and the wood stash is worth drooling over.
I would make some nice handles and a marking guage with some of it myself. Always nice to have something purty to work with eh?
-------(*)/ (*) http://www.EarthArtLandscape.com
One thing you should know about real rosewood is that it can cause an allergic reaction, more so than any other species. It may be pulmonary or dermatological. You may want to take extra precautions when working with it. It's highly prized and rare. Personally, I'd save it for a special project.
Beat it to fit / Paint it to match
The Dalbergias are the only wood group that gives me troubles. I get violent rashes from it. I don't know if everyone reacts like that to it.
Oh, also, I found it to be a mess to glue, and oil type finishes tend to not cure on it.
Edited 5/21/2008 11:58 am ET by blewcrowe
I think I'll find out soon enough if I have the same kind of violent reaction that you described.If this wood truly can't be glued successfully, it seems like its use is really limited - knobs, handles, maybe spindles and pens. Does anyone have suggestions for incorporating rosewood into larger pieces?
I think I took the hit by doing a lot of hand sanding, and it was sweaty hot. It got me real good around waistbands and other unmentionables. Poison Ivy like reactions, only moreso.
It's commonly used for guitar fretboards. Beautiful wood, but I just can't work with it, and I've found nothing else that bothers me.
Edited 5/21/2008 1:17 pm ET by blewcrowe
I think it's one of the Honduran rosewoods. I have quite a bit of brazilian and mine is darker and more purple. Long pieces of brazilian are hard to get because the tree grows kind of gnarly. The honduran I have looks exactly like what you have. If you wet it with alcohol and it turns an orangey red it's probably honduran, if it turns a deep redish puirple it's might be brazilian.
Thanks for the info. I tried the alcohol and it turned dark purplish-red.
I am getting into this rather late - but I will second the Hondruan Rosewood (Dalbergia Stevensonii) guess. the purple tones are pretty typical for Stevensonii and not very common in Brazilian Rosewood (Dalbergia Nigra). One of the best ways to tell if it is true Dalbergia Nigra is by the smell. From my experience, this is the only rosewood that actually smells like roses - it is unforgetable. Honduran rosewood is also quite pleasant - but not as sweet and has a sorta tea-like smell (at least the stuff I have worked with). May of the other rosewood are quite sour - Cocobolo being one of the strongest. The physical weight would be another indicator - D. Stevensonii is quite a bit heavier than D. Nigra. Hardness too - D. Nigra will feel like a really hard walnut whereas D. Stevenonii will be harder than the hardest maple.There is also a difference between real Brazilian Rosewood (D. Nigra) and Rosewood that was grown in Brazil. Enjoy the wood - it is a rare and beautiful material. Konrad
"May of the other rosewood are quite sour - Cocobolo being one of the strongest."
I love the smell of cocobolo--very spicy. When I think of a sour-smelling wood, white oak comes to mind.
At least some of the wood I worked to create the small jewelry box had an amazingly beautiful aroma.
That stuff probably won't do anyone any good, not for anything, ever.
I think that you should ship it to me immediately. I'll dispose of it for you.
Seriously -- that would make some awesome looking boxes. Or maybe a desk set. Or some pens. Or......Oh never mind, just send it to me.
Politics is the antithesis of problem solving.
Not my wood and probably none of my business but you asked! If it was my new treasure.. I think I would donate it to a local or other school that makes musical instruments in his memory. Unless you can use it to it's true value..
At this point, I will just be helping my neighbor figure out what to do with this wood. I'll mention to her the option of donating the wood, but she could probably also use the money. We live in a suburb of Chicago. Anyone know of a music instrument making school or tool maker around here?
Local delivery would be easy, but I can assure you that any tool maker or instrument maker that wants/needs/appreciates Brazilian rosewood will consider trans-continental shipping to be non-consequential.
The toolmakers I can think of off-hand that might be interested are:
Wenzloff & Sons (ultra-quality boutique handsaw maker):
Blue Spruce Toolworks (superb marking tools and chisels):
Chester Toolworks (high-end marking knives and other tools):
And the heavy-weight in the high-end, high-quality tool market:
(Note that Lee-Valley/Veritas is out of the question - it's illegal to ship Brazilian Rosewood across a national border)
Can't help much with the musical instrument makers, but all you have to do is Google "custom guitar maker" or "custom violin maker"
Thanks. I've sent each of the tool makers you mentioned an email with pictures. I will probably make a small box for my neighbor as a keepsake. As for the rest of the rosewood, if the value of the wood is worth the bother of selling it, I'm sure we will pursue that option. If not, I'll make sure to appreciate it's value when I use it in future projects.
You're a woodworker. Keep it. You will most likely never get another chance to work with this beautiful species.
30 years ago I built myself a pair of speakers (6' tall) using Brazilian rosewood vernier. Tung oil, steel wool, wax. Absolutely gorgeous. Boy, I wish I hadn't got rid of them.
If it were entirely up to me, I would keep it and use it. Once I discovered how valuable the rosewood might be, my conscience wouldn't allow me to just keep the wood. I feel much better having let my neighbor know it's potential value and letting her decide what to do with it.I'm sure when all is said and done, I'll end up with at least some of it!
Oh. I see. I must have missed that detail.
You're doing the honorable thing. If you do end up with some of it, enjoy it. It really is special wood.
handymom ,there is no reason to give this wood away. just because some one says it is only good for instrument or tool making! in fact that is complette crap!!! I have a couple of freinds who are from Brazil and most of there furniture is solid Brazlin rose wood, infact they still use it in house biulding(mostlly the sap wood which is likelly the orange peices you mentioned. Also the average cost is $35per board foot !not $100. I sold It for years at my old company ABSOLUTE HARDWOODS,aswell as100s of other speices. DO NOT GIVE IT AWAY UNTIL YOU ATLEAST MAKE ONE THING FOR YOURSELF OR BETTER YET THE PERSON YOU GOT IT FROM. Dan the woodbug
Edited 5/24/2008 2:45 am ET by woodguydan
Dan - Brazilian rosewood has increased in value significantly since the CITES ban. Trust me - if you can find some true Brazilian Rosewood to sell at $35/bf, it will be gone by that afternoon.
And it matters not whether they use it in rough carpentry work in its native country - there are houses built with significant quantities of Koa wood in Hawaii, but that doesn't mean that Koa is any less valuable in the continental US. And using Koa or Brazilian rosewood for those uses in the continental US would be a real waste (and not too smart, besides). Sort of like building a deck out of ebony.
dkellernc , don't know if you caught it on the news a few month ago so scum bags got arrested for clear cutting thosands of brf . After talking to my old wholesaler he informed me that this wood will indeed be sold legally soon and not for crazy prices .I myself have made 6 differnt hand planes of it (there my favs!) tools and instruments made from brazien rose wood are amazing ,yet there is no waste in making say your mom ,wife ,daughter a super special little keepsake or jewelery box of it, I have seen one sell for over$800. . plus just because you would not do it .does not make it stupid! take care Dan thewoobug
Edited 5/24/2008 11:53 am ET by woodguydan
A note to those reading the thread - WoodGuyDan suggested that Brazilian Rosewood would soon be "sold legally again".
In a sense, it is still legal to sell Brazilian Rosewood - the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endagered Species) regulations specify that CITES listings and restrictions do not apply to EXISTING stocks of materials that were in-country before the listing took effect. This is why it is still legal to buy and sell antique ivory items.
What CITES Level III categorization for Brazilian Rosewood does do is make it illegal to cross national boundaries with materials. You cannot, therefore, import additional stocks of Brazilian Rosewood into the United States, whether it's existing cut wood or freshly timbered wood.
Another observation is that the CITES convention makes no allowances for the source of the banned materials - the same regulations apply whether timber was grown on a plantation, certified sustainable harvest tract, or virgin rainforest. For this reason, Brazilian Rosewood will remain exceptionally expensive in this country for the forseeable future - it will require de-listing from a category III to a category II designation for legal importation to resume.
After investigating a little, I found one tool maker and one local hardwood dealer who offered around $20bf. The good news for me is that my neighbor didn't feel it was worth it to sell the wood. She has given me half of the wood and the other half to her son-in-law. I am very pleased with how this all ended up. Thanks for all of your information and advice.Since then, I have made a little jewelry box for my neighbor as a thank you. First one I ever made. I hope I did the wood justice.
Unfortunately, the interested parties low-balled an offer to you by a significant amount. Last time I checked, the only company I know of with significant stocks of pre-ban Brazilian Rosewood (Tropical Latin American Hardwoods of South America, located in San Diego) was charging $125/b.f.
Even small pieces of Brazilian rosewood is worth significantly more than $20/b.f.
That said, it worked out for you as noted in your post. Enjoy it - you have a very rare and beautiful wood that none of us will likely see more of in our lifetimes.
Hey Mom, the box looks great! Excellent idea making it for your neighbor -- now, make something special for yourself.Woody
And the facts you stated are just one good reason why the whole ban is just dumb. If you look at it. I mean I can not buy the wood and import to the US to make (for instance) a hand plane. But I can set up a local company and make the plane then send it into the US. This is not helping the tree at all. All it is doing is restricting trade and messing with companies that are not in the country of origin. I know of at least one large door maker that bought a small local company in south America to do just that with doors. Now the doors cost 5 to 10 times what they would have 10 years ago (adjusted for inflation)
And the fact that they do not take into account people doing plantations is even dumber. That would be the ideal. Let people plant and harvest them in a control manor. Thus the tree stays alive and yet people can enjoy them.
I have never understood the strange way this international "law" works. And if you look at it all it really does is allow the local country to exploit the material while getting international protection. It would be like declaring that the Car is an endangered species and thus we are only going to allow cars to be built in the US and shipped anyplace we want. It is not protecting the tree it is protecting the local craftsman/companies and thus should not be enforced.
Now if they want to make a law saying that you can not sell anything that uses this wood (and allow for plantation grown) then I would be all for it. But as it sits now this is just one more way that we are using the excuse of protecting the environment to control what people can build/buy and from whom. So now only the well to do can get this. (They just need to have what they want to made local to the tree and shipped to where ever.)
I wonder what would happened if I started a company that sold big ugly tables made of one of these woods. They would be say 2'X8'X2" thick and have four legs that are 4"x4". Sold in a natural finish. Then you could buy it and cut it up to use as you wish.
A couple of points of fact:
1) Brazil prohibits the harvesting of wild Dalbergia nigra, not just for export, but for domestic use as well. There is certainly a brisk black market, but that's a matter of limited enforcement resources, not the actual laws.
2) CITES rules do not forbid the import/export of Appendix I species such as Dalbergia nigra. It is up to the party nations (in this case, the US and Brazil) to come up with appropriate laws to control the trade. Brazil has chosen to forbid trade, basically because the illegal logging is so out of control that that's the only way they can manage the situation at all. Given their history, the Brazilian government may well open up trade in certified plantation-grown rosewood at some point in the future.
Also, I'm not aware of any general exemption for manufactured objects in the current Brazilian laws. In other words, I don't think the scenario you suggested (building a table of rosewood and exporting it) is possible. The only exemptions that I know of are for personal, non-commercial import/export.
The Brazilian agency that is in charge of such things is IBAMA (http://www.ibama.gov.br/), but I couldn't find any relevant information there (and I can't read Portuguese, so I couldn't get very far into the web site).
Well I dont know for a fact about the wood in question but I know that about 3 months ago I had a rep from a door company standing in my office telling me about the Brazilian Rosewood doors that his company sold and that the doors had to be made in Brazil and shiped to the US.
I still say that a law that has that many loop holes and misses the boat that badly is of no real use in protecting anything. Make a Law and PROTECT it if it needs protecting.
And the facts you stated are just one good reason why the whole ban is just dumb.
I don't disagree with you. The CITES listing of rosewood essentially created a very high incentive for the black market.
There are, however, some inaccuracies in your post and Steve's below it.
CITES contains provisions for three separate category listings - Appendix I, Appendix II and Appendix III. Brazilian rosewood is on the Appendix I list, along with big cat hides (such as cheetahs and tigers), tortoise shell, elephant ivory, and rare orchids.
Harvest and International trade in these species are prohibited - whether in the raw form or in a manufactured item. That includes manufactured furniture, molding, or other things recently made (since the ban) of brazilian rosewood. The only exception is antique items manufactured from Appendix I listed species - for example, ivory rules. Technically, even an antique item that includes parts of species on the Appendix I list requires an export permit certifying that the species in question was harvested well before the listing date, though that rule generally isn't followed.
Honduras (i.e., Genuine Mahogany) is now listed under Appendix II, which means that its international trade now requires a raftload of paperwork.
Several environmental organizations based in the US convinced Brazil to ban the export of mahogany lumber (I believe in 2004). While mahogany is by no means endangered, threatened or even rare throughout its range, the stated objective of these organizations was to depress mahogany logging as a means to protect the rainforest as a whole from logging, and to develop an indigenous millwork industry in Brazil. These organizations have also convinced Honduras, Nicaragua, and most other central and south american countries to ban the export of mahogany as well.
Peru is the last commercially viable source of this wood, and is under pressure to join the ban as well.
Not satisfied with their failure to completely stop the export of raw mahogany lumber from central and south america, these same organizations have now sued the 3 largest mahogany importers in the United States in federal court. Their argument is that since Peru is not sufficiently controlling the logging of mahogany, it's the responsibility of these importers. If this lawsuit succeeds, mahogany will skyrocket in price (its already tripled in the last 4 years), and become unavailable in short order.
Here's a description of the CITES appendices for those interested:
"Harvest and International trade in these [Appendix I] species are prohibited..."
Again, outright prohibition is not a requirement of CITES. There are scenarios that allow for import/export, and if a party to CITES does indeed choose to impose an outright prohibition, they are doing so because they have the right to do so, not because they are forced to do so. Here is the CITES information: http://www.cites.org/eng/disc/how.shtml, straight from the horse's mouth, as it were.
Steve - From the website you provided a link to:
"An import permit issued by the Management Authority of the State of import is required. This may be issued only if the specimen is not to be used for primarily commercial purposes and if the import will be for purposes that are not detrimental to the survival of the species."
"Used primarily for commercial purposes" is interpreted by the member states of CITES very broadly. That's why elephant ivory cannot be traded internationally, though there are several African countries that have large native elephant populations that have a stated desire to sell ivory. At least in the practical sense, it isn't up to the country that has the native population of Appendix I - listed species. It requires the agreement of a majority of the CITES signatories, and to my knowledge, there has yet to be a case of Appendix I listed species where this has happened.
Appendix II listed species are another matter - the country where the species is indigenious has a fair amount of say in what the trading regime will be, as you noted.
Dalbergia Nigra, however, is an Appendix-I listed species.
Exemptions have been granted for Appendix I species in some special cases, such as artificially-propagated orchids: http://www.cites.org/common/com/PC/14/X-PC14-07-Inf.pdf
This opens up the possibility of trade in plantation-grown woods, for example.
Speaking of which, I've seen purpleheart used as a sort of "utility" wood in Costa Rica, for fence posts and the like.
Speaking of which, I've seen purpleheart used as a sort of "utility" I use it all the time.. Sort of like a woman.. FUSSY! BUT you will learn to LOVE IT!
I was thinking of The Chicago School of Violin Making when I posted..
If the money is needed by all means try to sell it! It was just a thought on my part. Your wood! Do as you like with it...
Thanks! Just the type of reference I was hoping to get!
I would say you can still do what YOU want with the wood.. I just thought the wood was beautiful and a tribute to the ORIGINAL owner! Maybe they will make a tag inside the instrument to display his name BE SURE TO ASK them!
Hell, I like to be remembered being looked at a few hundred years from now!
I'd say if money is important I'd sell it.. Sure the old owner would understand.. Probably in the Depression when food was MOST important!
Edited 5/24/2008 2:30 pm by WillGeorge
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