Tropical Timber

Tropical Timber from West Africa


We have a limited supply of timber from tropical West Africa. Not regular boards or beams but the whole trunks. Because these trees are usually milled in their country of origin, in pre-determined small sizes, large pieces are rarely available, which is why we want to cut each piece to emphasise their best features. Large slabs, quarter-cut planks, elegant edge boards and small off-cuts are ideal for furniture inlays and turnery. 


We must emphasise that our tropical timber has come from known sources and have been harvested sustainably, using an approved forestry management scheme with a full chain of custody recorded.


Please see key characteristics to the timber we stock.


Afrormosia - Pericopsis elata

Afrormosia - Pericopsis elata

Used as a teak substitute, it is yellow- to orange brown with darker streaks. The grain is straight to slightly interlocked with a medium to fine texture and an attractive mottled figure when quarter sawed. It is moderately hard to work and highly durable. Typical uses are furniture and cabinet making, shop fittings, exterior and interior joinery, parquet flooring, piles and other marine work. Specific gravity: 0.69.

Key Uses

Interior – Furniture, flooring

Joinery – General and interior trim

Utility – Boatbuilding and marine


Key Characteristics

Colour - Colour Medium brown, which can be yellow or orange when freshly cut, but darkens quickly. There is a risk of blue staining

Texture - Fine and even

Grain - Straight, but with some interlocking grain

Hardness – Hard

Weight - Medium to heavy (690 kg/ m³)

Strength – Good

Seasoning and Stability - Need’s to be seasoned slowly, but very stable

Wastage - Low

Range and board width - Good

Range of board thickness - Good

Durability - Excellent but can corrode ferrous metals

Milling - There is some risk of tearing, but the lumber does not tend to chip

Shaping - There will be some interlocking grain, but generally afrormosia is easy to work

Assembly - Screws and nails may need pre-drilling, as afrormosia can split, but it glues better than teak

Finishing - Good; high lustre

Sustainability - Afrormosia has been moved from CITES Appendix but is still considered endangered by IUCN, and there’ s no evidence of certified supplies

Availability and cost - You can still buy afrormosia, but not with any ease. It’s reasonably expensive, but not excessively so. You may find some recycled lumber, but otherwise, this species is best avoided


Afzelia - (Doussie)

Afzelia - Doussie

It has a mahogany-like colour with an irregular and interlocked grain. It is moderately hard to work, highly durable but requires care to produce a smooth finish. Specific gravity: 0.82.

Key Uses

Interior - Furniture and cabinet making, shop counters.

Joinery - Exterior and Interior and heavy-duty outdoor use.

Utility - Parquet flooring.



Very durable Stable, similar in colour to the best mahogany and has been compared to Teak.


Can dull tool edges quickly and has some interlocking grain.


Key Characteristics

Type - Tropical hardwood.

Sources - Across sub-Saharan Africa.

Colour - Yellow to reddish brown initially, turns dark red brown on exposure.

Grain - Straight, but also interlocking.

Texture - Coarse, but uniform.

Hardness - Medium.

Weight - Heavy (51 lb./cu. ft.) (820 kg/cu. m).

Other names - Chanfuta, pod-mahogany, mahogany bean, chanfuti, peulmarona, mkehli, makoli.

Strength – Shrinkage is small and movement minimal.

Range and board width - Good.

Range of board thickness - Good.

Durability – High.

Milling – Can be difficult to work on account of its interlocked grain.

Shaping – May require tungsten carbide tipped tools to maintain an edge.

Assembly – Gluing can be difficult as some species exude resin.

Finishing – Surfaces can be difficult when the grain is interlocked, but with effort an excellent finish can be achieved.

Sustainability and availability - Afzelia is not widely available and also not too expensive.



Bosse - (Guarea)

It is pale pinkish-brown mahogany colour with a generally straight grain with small, attractive zigzag figure sometimes visible. It is easy to work but needs care to produce a fine finish. It is durable and resistant to preservative treatment. Typical uses are furniture and cabinet making, quality joinery, shop fittings, rifle butts, sports goods and boatbuilding. Specific gravity: 0.58.


Iroko – (Chlorophora excelsa) 

Iroko – (Chlorophora excelsa)

It is golden-orange to brown in colour with a zig-zag pattern. The grain is moderately interlocked with an even texture and mildly lustrous. It is moderately easy to work and highly durable. Typical uses are furniture, carving, mouldings, piles and other marine work, exterior and interior joinery, factory and parquet flooring. Specific gravity: 0.64.

Key Uses

Utility – Boatbuilding and pilings



Relatively inexpensive 


Can be difficult to work with a hand tool


Key Characteristics

Type - Tropical hardwood

Sources - Africa

Other names - Kambala (Europe)

Colour - Rich, medium brown with some darker patches

Texture - Coarse

Hardness - Hard

Weight - Medium to heavy, but not as heavy as many tropical hardwoods (640 kg/ m³)

Strength - Moderately strong

Grain - Wavy or interlocking

Seasoning and Stability - Easy to season, with little movement once dry

Wastage – Low

Range and board width - Good

Range of board thickness - Good

Durability - Good, though sapwood is prone to insect attack

Milling - Not only is the grain often interlocking, but it can carry abrasive deposits that dull blades and cutters. Keep passes shallow, especially when planning quarter sawn sides

Shaping - lroko is popular for joinery because the texture is even, which makes joint-cutting relatively simple

Assembly - With little movement, iroko is good for making frames, and it glues well

Finishing - The coarse grain may need filling for a fine finish, but the surface is hard and takes polish well

Variations - What you see is what you get with iroko, and quarter sawn and plain sawn sides differ very little

Sustainability - lroko has been designated as vulnerable on some lists of threatened species, though other, more authoritative reports say it is at a low risk only. It is not easy lumber to find from a certified source, though that may improve

Availability and cost - Not the most expensive tropical hardwood, and available from yards that stock exotics

American Mohogany – (Khaya Ivorensis )

Identified by its pale and medium reddish-brown bands, which are variable in width, African mahogany is one of the poorest of species to be honoured with that famous name. It often has little shimmering figure. The texture is medium-coarse and somewhat uneven, reflecting the straight but interlocking grain. Though it is stable once seasoned, the lumber tends to tear badly when it is machined or worked by hand. Not particularly strong or durable, it is favoured only as a substitute for finer mahoganies and is often stained for reproduction furniture.


Padouk(Pterocarpus soyauxii)

African padouk is sometimes known as barwood, presumably because it is moisture-resistant and can survive knocks. The moderately coarse texture is consistent, though the deep red colour is streaked with darker lines. It is liked by woodworkers because it is tough but relatively easy to use, even though the grain can be interlocking in patches, otherwise being straight or wavy. it is often used for flooring because it wears very slowly.


Sapele – (Entandophragma cylindricum)

Also called scented mahogany, it is red- to purple brown with an interlocked or wavy grain, moderately fine structure and a high golden lustre. It has an attractive range of figure with ribbon, bee’s-wing and regular stripe when quarter-sawn and fiddleback or mottle on other cuts. It is easy to work and moderately durable. Typical uses are furniture and cabinet making, interior joinery, shop fittings, sports goods and boatbuilding. Specific gravity: 0.62.


Utile – (Entandophragma utile)

Deep red brown in colour with a lustrous, interlocked grain that has a ribbon figure when quarter sawn. It is a dense hardwood that is easy to work, durable and resistant to decay. Typical uses are furniture and cabinet making, interior joinery, shop fittings, boat-building and musical instruments. Specific gravity: 0.66.


Wenge - (Mlllettia laurentlr)

Wenge - Mlllettia Iaurentlr

Sometimes used as an ebony substitute, it is dark brown with fine, close, near-black veins and white lines giving it a very attractive appearance. The grain is fairly straight, with a medium to coarse texture and a low lustre. It is a dense wood that is highly durable but works well to produce a fine finish. Typical uses are furniture and cabinet making, turnery, carving, violin bows, block and strip flooring, boatbuilding and construction work. Specific gravity: 0.88.

Key Uses

Interior - Furniture

Joinery - Flooring and work surfaces



Hard and strong, distinctive grain pattern to finish, strong colour


Risk of checking during seasoning


Key Characteristics

Type - Tropical hardwood

Other Names - Dikela, kiboto, pallisandre

Sources - Central Africa

Colour - Dark brown, with paler veins that darken when finished

Texture - Coarse, but even

Grain - Generally straight

Hardness - Very hard

Weight - Heavy (880 kg/ m³)

Strength - Very strong and can be bent

Seasoning and Stability - Stable once dry but must be seasoned slowly to prevent degradation

Wastage - Medium, with some sapwood and gum but otherwise few defects

Range and board width - Good

Range of board thickness - Should be reasonable

Durability - Very durable to rot and insect attack

Variations - There is very little contrast between quarter-sawn and plain-sawn sides

Sustainability - Wenge has been reported to be endangered by IUCN and there is no evidence of certified supplies


Availability and cost - More expensive than panga panga (M. stuhlmannii) but still moderately priced for tropical hardwood, wenge is not widely available, but it is increasingly popular for flooring


Contact Information

If you would like any more information regarding our Tropical Timber please call us on 01785 284718 or email

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Tropical Timber showcase gallery