3 Types of Tiger Wood

Identify the different types of tigerwood and go beyond its wide range of applications. Learn how each type differs with its usage, care needs as well as its pros and cons.

Tigerwood lumber

Tigerwood, also known as South American Zebrawood has largely originated from the East Coast of Brazil. The unique name ‘Tigerwood’ has stemmed from its beautifully contrasting graining coupled with the bold stripes that almost look like that of a tiger’s.

Tigerwood is a highly exotic and unusual wood species that is gained most of its popularity for its beautiful grain. It has dark vein stripes on a deep orange-reddish background that gives it a very dramatic look.

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Tigerwood – The Most Exotic Wood

This species of wood is also known by several other names African walnut, Brazilian Koa, zorrowood, Congowood, and bototo, to name a few. Tigerwood generally consists of a very moderate, tan brown color with a mixture of red and orange undertones. Like most other wood species, this warm, light color of Tigerwood also darkens over time, transforming into a stunning, deep reddish-brown color. The unique tiger-like striping with rich, dark color tones makes this hardwood completely stand out from the rest.

Tigerwood species are undoubtedly a truly remarkable hardwood species, making it an ideal type of wood for furniture and flooring. It is an excellent choice for interior applications, given how its natural color variations prevent the need to stain this wood.

It is not only one of the most stable, durable and dense hardwoods, but also has a natural luster. This means that the way this wood is sawn results in a metallic and an oily appearance which is considered to be one of its most appealing features. Interestingly, Tigerwood wasn’t much popular until the 1900s when it was introduced to the United States and started to become really common. Initially, it was just used for making instruments like pipe organs and violins. Soon after that, as its amazing qualities and features started being noticeable, it began to be popularly used for a great number of outdoor applications decking, outdoor boats and also furniture.

Properties of Tigerwood

Tigerwood texture

Common Name(s): Goncalo Alves, Tigerwood, Jobillo

Scientific Name: Astronium spp. (A. graveolens and A. fraxinifolium)

Distribution: From Mexico southward to Brazil

Tree Size: 100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall, 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 57 lbs/ft3 (905 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .80, .91

Janka Hardness: 2,170 lbf (9,640 N)

Almost all wood species are ranked according to the Janka Hardness Scale which is simply a measure of how resistant a piece of wood is to denting and wear. Tigerwood is one of the densest types of woods that go up to 2160 on the Janka hardness. However, the rank also hugely depends and varies according to the region where the wood is grown; for instance, it is 67 percent harder than the Red Oak Wood which stands at 1210 on the hardness scale.

The Brazilian version of Tigerwood has a specific gravity which makes it extremely naturally resistant to decay and rot. Since Tigerwood doesn’t attract fungus or any type of mold; this makes it a super-popular choice with households for exterior use, flooring, furniture, and veneers.

Tigerwood has been reported to be able to stand really well to wear and tear mainly due to its air-drying properties. It air-dries really well even with a minor amount of checking or warping. This further helps it to resist shrinkage and contraction once it has dried properly.

The immense durability of Tigerwood is has made it one of the most popular choices for flooring products since it resists to denting and twisting really well.

Moisture Content in Tigerwood

MC, an acronym for Moisture Content is a very important measure for any wood species in terms of how long-lasting or durable the particular wood is. Since wood is hygroscopic, it means that it does absorb water in different ways. The moisture content is one of the key factors for protecting the longevity of any wood product, in this case, Tigerwood.

Tigerwood is usually dried to a lower measure of Moisture Content often just for flooring applications, however, in any case, it is essential to let the wood reach a natural, gradual balance on its own, well-aligned with the temperature and the relative humidity of the environment in which the wood is being used and installed.

Once the wood reaches this balance, the term used for it is “equilibrium moisture content” or EMC which is a key indicator of moisture levels in the wood. Since Tigerwood is a great exotic type of wood that is used to growing in different natural environments, its EMC is vital to prevent any moisture-problems in Tigerwood products.

Working with Tigerwood

Stock of Tigerwood

In terms of working properties, Tigerwood is a really tough type of wood to work with. It is even more challenging with this wood when you are using hand tools. It can result in moderate to severe blunting effects on the cutters which are due to the fact that it consists of an irregular grain coupled with soft and hard layers which particularly requires reduced angle cutting.

Compared to other wood species, cutting edges of Tigerwood may result in a quicker wear-down so it is often recommended to use carbide tips or bits for power tools. Another thing with Tigerwood is that it requires pre-drilling before nailing or screwing any Tigerwood product.

Doing this is vital if you wish to preserve the wood’s properties and in doing so, you will also make your investment in this exotic wood species worth all your money. On a more positive side though, Tigerwood glues really easily and well gives off a really high natural polish finish.

Despite how tricky working with Tigerwood can be, most people prefer using it in their hones primarily because it weathers well naturally and can also be sealed for extended durability. The more sunlight this wood receives, the darker it gets in terms of color which results in a highly accentuated and distinctive grain pattern, providing it with increased luster and a gorgeous shine.

Tigerwood Species

Lovoa Trichilioides

This is one of the most common Tigerwood species that belongs to the Meliaceae family. It is an evergreen large tree with a very heavy and a dark-colored crown. This species can grow up to an average height of 45 meters and its germination process if often hindered heavily predated, short-lived seeds.

The Lovoa trichilioides is commonly found in numerous regions of the world including Angola, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Tanzania, and Ghana. The exploitation rates of this Tigerwood species are really high and in Congo especially, this is one of the two principal sources of exceptional quality timber.

This is a heartwood species that sports a yellowish-brown color and often consists of a combination of black and golden markings. One of its key distinguishing features is 3-7 m wide band of pale grey or pale brown sapwood. It has a moderately fine texture and which grains that are usually interlocked. This wood species is considered to be extremely lustrous with a highly attractive appearance.

It is one of the most highly valued types of wood for high-class furnitures like plywood, decorative veneer, flooring, cabinet work, stairways, paneling, and carpentry.

Goncalo AlvesDark Brown Wood with Black Stripes

This is another hardwood from the Tigerwood species that have originated from tropical South America, particularly from areas including Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay. The color of Goncalo Alves ranges from light golden brown reddish brown, often with dark and brown streaks.

It has a richly mottled appearance which is why it is often compared with rosewood. This wood is best described by most people as a hard, heavy type of wood that has tight and irregular interlocked grains, a medium to fine texture and alternate layers of hard and soft wood. This makes it a highly durable type of wood that gives a beautiful glass-like finish, making it a popular choice among many homeowners.

Just like Tigerwood in general, this species is also hard to work with and might often result in moderate or severe blunting effects on the tools used for it. Although it glues really well and gives a nice finish once prepared, it does require pre-drilling before the process of nailing and twisting.

Furniture and wood experts recommend that the wood surface of this wood should be treated with a solvent before the process of gluing. This makes the entire process of working with this wood really easy and also allows the wood to produce an end product with a high natural polish.

Astronium FraxinifoliumStriped Wooden Block

This is a highly esteemed timber, a type of Tigerwood that is popularly used to make furniture and is often featured in cabinet work. It is native to the Atlantic Forest as well as the Amazon Rainforest and is also referred to as ‘zebrawood’ and ‘Kingwood’.

It is a heavy, compact, and hard to cut type of wood that is also often mechanically resistant. It varies in color and ranges from dark to light red. It starts off with yellow-brown and sometimes yellowish brown, after which adopts a deep, dark brownish black color, coupled with black-brown veins that are irregularly spaced. The best part about this wood is that it is highly durable and resistant to fungi, termites, and dry wood borers.

Like other Tigerwood species, this also has a wide range of applications and is used to make top quality furniture, flooring, heavy carpentry, exterior joinery, and carving.

Tigerwood Flooring – The Good and the Bad

Tigerwood Flooring

Given how popular Tigerwood is among all other types of wood goes to show that it must have some exceptional qualities that make it such a highly sought-after wood.

Tigerwood hardwood flooring is easily one of the most trendy, admired and exotic floorings in most part of the world, particularly in North America. It is not just aesthetically pleasing but has also some prominent benefits that make people choose Tigerwood for flooring in their houses. However, it also comes with its fair share of downsides that you must consider before making a decision.

The Good

It has a highly attractive and stunning appearance

One of the biggest reasons why Tigerwood is so popular for flooring purposes and furniture making is because it has a strikingly appealing appearance. The color range it produces is just absolutely fantastic which is often a mixture of light golden brown to deep reddish brown,  with amazing black stripes like that of a tiger. What makes it even more amazing that there are no other hardwood species that gives a similar appearance in furniture and flooring as Tigerwood does.

It is extremely durable with high hardness

The second most outstanding feature of Tigerwood is its ultimate durability and longevity. It is an extremely stable type of wood that comes with a long life expectancy in terms of usage and performance. When used in flooring, Tigerwood has a very hard surface and this hardness helps protect the smooth surface of the wooden flooring from wear, tear, and dent of daily use. Furthermore, Tigerwood also promises great resistance against moth, decay and fungi which significantly extends its lifespan and durability.

Closeup of Tigerwood texture

The Bad

The color turns really dark with time

Although Tigerwood sports a beautiful brownish-black color that is really deep and dark, it has been reported to turn even darker with the passage of time. This happens a lot when the wood is exposed to sunlight too much. It starts off with stunning light brown and gold colors and will eventually transform into a deep, dark red-black color. However, this isn’t much of a big downside because the color-changing process easily takes up to ten years or more so it is likely that people don’t even notice the color variation over that long a time period.

It causes allergic reactions

This is probably one of the biggest downsides of working with Tigerwood that its powder causes allergic reactions and irritation to the skin and eyes. This is why you can’t turn it into a DIY (Do It Yourself) project as it can bring about unpleasant reactions in the body. The best way to go about this is by hiring a professional team with experts who can cater to your flooring and sanding needs.

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