What's this wood? Ipê? Jatobá?

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Forum topic by Millo posted 05-05-2011 10:19 PM 6555 views 0 times favorited 33 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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543 posts in 3506 days

05-05-2011 10:19 PM

Dear all,

Someone gave me some cutoffs of what seems some to be a Brazilian/South American mega-tough wood. It is remnants of a tongue-and-groove flooring lumber. I said “sure I’ll take them” along with all sorts of other stuff.

It looks like I (who essentially only own a crappy Skil circular saw and more recently a plunge router) would have a hard time working with this stuff. I go to the local community college to do whatever LITTLE woodworking I can, and after next week will not go back until August. In the Summer I’ll take a course that’s not open-shop time so that doesn’t count. Also this Summer I will start thinking of what to make next and try to work on making/drawing actual plans to build in the Fall—this is mainly what sparked my curiosity.

I have not tried to cut or work it in any way. Have not dropped it to see if it’s brittle (seems to be). It is heavy, dense, and has what some luthiers call, if I recall the term correctly, a somewhat “high velocity”—in other words a fast response with a metallic sound when you tap it. Not rosewood, I think…. I think I would recognize that, plus I can’t imagine a rosewood paneling.

So, what’s this lumber? Your best educated guess? From what I have read my best guess would be ipê, but that’s as good as a 3-yr-old’s explanation of the laws of quantum physics. Jatobá? None of the above? Here are the pics:

Any takers?

I don’t have much of it, by the way. Just wondering how it could be useful to me in the not-so-near, not-so-distant future.

Thanks a million.

33 replies so far

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3376 days

#1 posted 05-05-2011 11:31 PM

I am thinking that you are correct and that it is Jatoba. It looks like it and sure sounds like it. I had some once and it was a bear to work with. I was cutting 1/8” thick pieces on the scroll saw and it was eating blades like there was no tomorrow. Before I read your description I was thinking that if it was hard and heavy and dense it would be Jatoba. The grain is similar to what I have had of it.

I may be wrong, but I would put my money there. :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Millo's profile


543 posts in 3506 days

#2 posted 05-06-2011 02:14 AM

Hey Sheila, thanks for your more educated opinion! Yeah what I have read is that stuff is very durable and rot resistant so I was thinking of making some SMALL outdoor projects (don’t have much of it). I have a couple things in mind. However it might end up moving too much with the extreme temperatures and schizo humidity changes here in central TX.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3376 days

#3 posted 05-06-2011 02:21 AM

One thing that I find works well with hard and dense wood such as that is to cover it with some clear packaging tape prior to cutting it. There is something about the glue in the tape that lubricates the blade and helps keep it a bit cooler. You also need to make sure that whatever bit/blade you use, it is extremely sharp. A dull blade will make a mess of it very quickly.

Good luck and be sure to share what you make with us. :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3524 days

#4 posted 05-06-2011 02:22 AM


-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View SergioC's profile


82 posts in 3123 days

#5 posted 05-06-2011 02:32 AM

I would guess Ipe. Coincidentally we have Ipe floors in most of our house and Jatoba in one of my sons’ rooms. Jatoba is usually lighter and more red. Ipe is usually dark brown. If it’s extremely hard wood, it probably isn’t Jatoba. Ipe is one of the hardest. Ipe is also brittle. The first pic below is Ipe and second is Jatoba, both just after installation.

View majeagle1's profile


1426 posts in 3952 days

#6 posted 05-06-2011 02:37 AM

Looks and sounds like it could be Indian Rosewood or Bolivian Rosewood…...
What does it smell like when you cut it? kind of a sweet, maybe floral scent?????


-- Gene, Majestic Eagle Woodworks,,

View SergioC's profile


82 posts in 3123 days

#7 posted 05-06-2011 02:45 AM

Ipe is also a common material for floors. I think solid Indian or Bolivian rosewood would be rare and extremely expensive.

View Millo's profile


543 posts in 3506 days

#8 posted 05-06-2011 04:40 AM

Yeah, I don’t think it’s rosewood. I’ve handled (NOT WORKED, I’m not much of a woodworker) various species of rosewoods and I have to say in the pictures it looks more like rosewood than it does in real life. It seems a bit more coarse than that. Sorry, we lost our camera so I took pics w/ my phone. It’s definitely tongue-and-groove material and like Sergio I somewhat doubt rosewood would be used for that nowadays anyway… but who knows—not me, LOL!

Sergio, very nice floors. Thanks for the pics! Texture/color of ipe is a bit hard to tell due to finish, but I could imagine these pieces looking like the darker boards on there. Did you apply the finish to the ipê one? Do you happen to know what kind of finish it has, and how it was applied? Was it pre-applied before installation?

I have never handled anything that SEEMS this hard, and looking at hardness scale rating for both jatoba and ipe it seems ipe is ridiculously hard. Also, it does look a bit like this pic: ...3,680 lbf …yikes. Jaotba is 2,820 and mesquite 2,340. I looked up the rating for mesquite because that, hard maple (around 1,400) and white oak (around 1,300) had been the hardest woods I have cut before. I still haven’t tried cutting through this and will not yet, LOL!

I see lignum vitae is above 4,500. I have seen large carvings made out of that wood, in the Caribbean. Wow. Sounds like a ton of work.

View devann's profile


2250 posts in 3148 days

#9 posted 05-06-2011 05:06 AM

Here is a picture of some ipe. It’s a picture frame that I made using ipe with redwood & ipe with black walnut stain in that order starting from the outside of the frame. Finish is satin poly. The ipe is brutal on the cutters. Have to go slow as possible and still continue to make the cut. Three picture frames, 12 miter corners melted my 1/4 sheet sander.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View SergioC's profile


82 posts in 3123 days

#10 posted 05-06-2011 12:27 PM

Millo, thanks. The floors were pre-finished with polyurethane by the manufacturer.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3530 days

#11 posted 05-06-2011 02:01 PM

I’ve done quite a bit of work with ipé and I have never seen ipé that looks like this.

It’s easy to say what it is not. It is much harder to say what it is.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View StumpyNubs's profile


7730 posts in 3256 days

#12 posted 05-06-2011 02:19 PM

It looks like Jatoba to me. It’s also called Brazilian Cherry and it’s a very heavy, dense wood. The end grain will have a lot of tiny little dots on it, but they will be difficult to see with all those burn marks. And it has a distinctive smell (which is a piece of information that will do you no good unless you’ve smelled it before). Jatoba is a light orange/red when freshly cut, but it turns a deep reddish brown with exposure to air and light.

Save it for when you get a good table saw because it is very hard to work with, but it is VERY nice stuff!

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

View Ole's profile


67 posts in 3532 days

#13 posted 05-06-2011 02:35 PM

The stuff that was sold to me as Ipe produces yellow dust when sanded… Give that a shot.

View chickenguru's profile


45 posts in 3450 days

#14 posted 05-06-2011 02:36 PM

Its looks similar to flooring I put down for my sister years back. When cut it smells like chocolate. I believe see said its a wood from Asia grown in swampy area’s. Very dark and heavy.

View Millo's profile


543 posts in 3506 days

#15 posted 05-06-2011 04:08 PM

Fantastic info here, THANKS EVERYONE!

Yeah, on the previous pics I had seen of ipê it had a bit of a greenish hue to it (even the very dark examples). But then again everywhere I hear it ‘varies wildly’ in color and texture. I’ll save it and cut it later, check what it smells like.

Common wood names are funny—if someone told me this was definitely from Brazil I’d say, “it kinda looks like walnut, not like cherry”. So, instead of ‘Brazilian cherry’, I’d call it ‘Brazilian walnut’, but then again those names don’t make much sense, so…. maybe it IS jatobá. I’ll check the end-grain for the little circles—the look very defined on the pic from

If from Asia, I would have no idea what to guess there.

Toward the end of the month I will have to go to a nearby lumberyard that deals exotics, etc. to get some domestic hardwoods for Summer projects for the class I mentioned. I’ll bring a few pieces of this stuff to ask them.

From the pics it does seem that SOMEONE tried putting some of these planks through a jointer or planer and there are some cutter marks (tight ones) and definitely some nasty tear-out; I think these are easy to see in the pics?

In terms of working it: I’d be largely ruining the school’s equipment. I was thinking of doing some outdoor sconces, either for garden luminaries or for actual outdoor lighting around the house. That would require it to be cut in thinner pieces. It would be more beneficial if it were jatoba, correct? I mean, apparently species are very durable, but jatoba is easier to work with right?

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