Machaerium scleroxylum | Tonewood Profile | “Pau Ferro”
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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.
Rc tonewoods: http://www.rctonewoods.com
©Terence Tan. Pictures copyright individual holders.
Photo of Pao Ferro Tree (1st image): Chris Diewald see Chris’s flickr photstream here.
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