Pau Ferro. Tonewood Profile

Machaerium scleroxylum | Tonewood Profile | “Pau Ferro”

Tonewoods Database

All pictures – Click to enlarge! Please email with any corrections/ additional info We aim to keep each profile as complete as possible & your help is appreciated!

Quick Facts
Scientific name
: Machaerium scleroxylum
Trade names
: Pao Ferro, Morado, Bolivian Rosewood
Janka: 3000 approx
: Back and sides, veneer

Maple/ Rosewood
Bling factor: Strong Grain Contrast

: Common

CITES status
: Not listed. No restrictions
Note: (RIYL) Recommended If You Like

Bashkin Guitar This beautifully made guitar by Michael Bashkin has a set Pau Ferro displaying strong grain contrast. Check out our interview with him here.

Natural History Pau Ferro is native to the Atlantic rain forest of Brazilian and Bolivia where it attains an average heights of 60 feet. It has a large crown and a characteristic dark-white spotted bark – giving rise to one of it’s names- leopard tree.

Physical properties The heartwood is a dark brown with irregular black-purplish stripes with a straight grain. As a nonporous wood, it easy to finish.

Pao Ferro has a Janka approximately 3000 and a specific gravity of 0.82. It is widely used as a rosewood substitute although care has to taken when handling the wood as it is a strong sensitiser able to trigger acute dermatitis (inflammation of the skin).

As a tonewood… It is used for back an sides for guitars, where it’s high density and rosewood like looks allows it to compare favourably to other exotic rosewoods. However, many claim that the tap tone is closer to maple than rosewood.

Michael Bashkin says: “Pau Ferro. I think is a visually appealing wood with carmel colors and can have ink dark ink growth lines. It is easy to obtain in well quarted sets, which is a good thing because flatsawn areas can be unstable. It is a closed pore wood so it is nice to finish and machines well. For tone although is is heavy and looks like a “rosewood” is has a dryer tap tone, and does not have the glassy brilliance of woods like Honduran, Brazilian rosewood or Cocobolo. It would work well for a someone seeking a tone between Rosewood and Mahogany. Check out our interview with Michael here.

Subjective tone… I would broadly characterise the tone of Blackheart Sassafras as falling between Walnut and Maple- it has more balance than Maple but less overtones than Walnut.

Availability Stocks of Pau Ferro are fair at the moment.

Links/ References:
Rc tonewoods:
Woodworker’s guide

©Terence Tan. Pictures copyright individual holders.
Photo of Pao Ferro Tree (1st image): Chris Diewald see Chris’s flickr photstream here.

Any infringement of copyright is entirely unintentional. Any copyright issues should be address to: We will attempt to resolve these issues quickly.