Woodworking in Nairobi, Kenya #2: Nairobi: The search begins

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Blog entry by LukeCan posted 08-28-2018 01:15 PM 1414 reads 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Contemplating the move and possibilities Part 2 of Woodworking in Nairobi, Kenya series Part 3: What I have learned in one year in Nairobi »

I’ve arrived in Nairobi. My hand tools are still coming by a slow boat and even slower government paperwork. So no shop setup yet. Now the search begins for supplies (wood, glue, tools etc.). This is proving to be a challenge. Finding the products you want (groceries, clothes, wood) is more like a treasure hunt. You have to find the right store and few if any have any web presence.

Things are not organised, or perhaps better to say differently organised, than in North America. First off, it appears at first blush that there isn’t really a hobby or casual woodworker here. You either do it for a living or you don’t. This reflects itself in tools. I went looking for a table top (lunchbox) thickness planer. As far as I can tell, you need to buy a big heavy industrial thing if you want one or a multi-machine that looks a bit on the scary-unsafe side of things. These machines are made in China and India and they have few and/or flimsy guards. Look up Lida woodworking machine in youtube and you’ll see video of wood chips shooting out with no guard or way of attaching a vacuum to the machine. Yikes!

So far the only wood available to buy is mahogany and cypress (even if they have a website that says otherwise). Which is fine for some projects but for everything it might get boring. Literally everything made of wood is made of Mahogany. The drying is a bit iffy too.

Not even any Home Depot type stores here. Little stores that sell a little of this, that and the other; none of which you want.

Hopefully, I will be able to find other sources of wood and glue and finishing products.

The treasure hunt continues!

1 comment so far

View CaptainKlutz's profile (online now)


3320 posts in 2295 days

#1 posted 08-29-2018 07:55 AM

hmm, You made me curious, here is what I found staring at my PC:

#1) Appears your local wood choices are limited by limited amount of forest land, and limited hardwood species native:

Kenya – Forestry
Both hardwoods and softwoods are produced in Kenya. The chief hardwoods are musheragi [olive], muiri [African cherry], mukeo, camphor [barely a hardwood], and musaise. The chief softwoods are podo, cedar, and cypress. The supply of softwoods is adequate for local needs, both for building and other purposes. Wattle, grown mainly on small African plantations, provides the base of an important industry. Kenya maintains some 2,320,000 ha (5,733,000 acres) in indigenous forests, mangroves, and forest plantations, about 4% of the total land area. Total forest and woodland coverage is about 30%. The timber cut in 2000 was nearly 21.6 billion cu m (762 billion cu ft) of roundwood, of which 95% went for fuel. Production that year included 185,000 cu m (6.5 million cu ft) of sawn wood and 66,000 cu m (2.3 million cu ft) of wood pulp. In 1975, production of the first Kenya-made paper began at the Pan-African Paper Mills in Webuye.
Read more:

Another forestry/timber site mentions that Meru Oak is common, and many of other local hardwoods are from different olive or eucalyptus species planted in urban environments.
Then there is this bad news from Kenya forestry service:

Considering that 80-90% of entire African continent hardwood harvest is exported, and very little is imported, expect finding any hardwood will be challenging?

#2) Google search for hardwood lumber. finds a number of building material suppliers, but not many hardwood only sources.

#3) Search for Sawmills in Kenya, returns very few locations all in center of country, near national forest land.

#4) If you search for TIMBER products in Nairobi, Google is still not very good, but it appears some local websites start to pop up with longer lists of local sources:

Best Luck!

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

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