African hardwoods are prized for their incredible strength, durability and awesome looks.
Among all hardwoods across all parts of the world, African hardwoods are considered the best in terms of properties and usability. This is mainly because most of the African hardwood trees have a slow growth rate, which results in their timber being extremely strong and durable.
African hardwoods also have great usability. They are not only easy to use but are versatile enough to be suitable for use in a variety of applications, from simple indoor uses to heavy outdoor construction and marine applications.
Many African hardwoods are termed as “exotic” because of their outstanding aesthetic and equally amazing physical properties.
Some top examples of popular types of African hardwood species include Zebrano, African blackwood, Azealia, African mahogany, pink ivory, and African cherry.
Why Choose African Hardwood for Your Next Project?
As we mentioned above, African hardwoods are beautiful, strong and durable and they can fit a variety of purposes. Here’s why they are the best for your woodworking project.
Attractive & beautiful: If you’re looking for woods that are different from your usual single-colour, quite common types, African wood species can make a good option. One of the things about African hardwoods is that they generally have a very unusual but appealing aesthetic, giving the perfect “different from the mainstream” factor to your project.
Exceptional strength: African hardwoods are known to be really amazing in terms of physical properties and strength. Some African hardwood trees such as Iroko live many centuries and their wood needs little care and maintenance. These woods are also very strong, dense and durable due to their slow growth rate.
Versatile: Most African hardwoods are suitable both for indoor and outdoor projects, as they are durable in terms of resistance to moisture and insects and can be used for flooring, furniture, construction, and marine applications, among other things.
Different Types of African Hardwood Species
There are many types of African hardwoods. In this article, we are going to talk about some of the most popular African hardwood species and also about the top exotic African hardwoods.
1. African Blackwood (Dalbergia Melanoxylon)
Other Names: mpingo (Swahili), grenadilla, grenadillo
The wood is native to the dry savanna regions of central and southern Africa. The trees are about 20-30 ft (6-9 m) tall and have a 2-3 ft (.6-1.0 m) trunk diameter.
The heartwood of African Blackwood is almost completely black, sometimes dark brown or purple. The sapwood is pale yellow and thin. It has a straight grain with a fine and even texture and good lustre.
It is a very heavy and dense wood with an average dried weight of 1,270 kg/m3. With a Janka rating of 3,670 lbf, African Blackwood is among the hardest woods in the world. It is very durable in terms of resistance to decay (moisture) and moderately resistant to insects. Due to its high density, this wood is very difficult to work with and has a blunting effect on cutters. It is an extremely fine turning wood.
African Blackwood is among the most expensive hardwoods. It is commonly used for turned objects, tool handles, musical instruments, carving, and inlays.
2. Afzelia (Afzelia spp.)
Other Names: doussie
Native to tropical Africa, Afzelia is an extremely hard wood with a 1,810 lbf Janka rating and an average dried weight of 805 kg/m3. The heartwood is reddish brown, which is clearly demarcated from its pale yellow sapwood. It becomes darker with age. The grain is interlocked and the texture is medium to coarse. It is a very durable wood in terms of decay resistance and is moderately resistant to termites. It is generally difficult to work with due to its interlocked grain. The price is moderate to expensive.
Common uses of Doussie hardwood include furniture, flooring, cabinetry, boatbuilding, turned objects, exterior construction, veneer, and inlays.
3. African Mahogany (Khaya spp.)
Other Names: khaya, acajou d’Afrique
This is a tropical African hardwood. It is not a species of true mahogany but has similar properties and appearance. The average dried weight of Khaya is 545 kg/m3 and the Janka rating is 850 lbf. It has a pale pink to dark reddish brown heartwood, sometimes with darker streaks. The grain is straight or interlocked and the texture is medium to coarse. It is a moderately durable wood with poor resistance to insects. It is generally easy to work with.
Common uses of African Mahogany include veneer, turned items, furniture, plywood, boatbuilding, and interior trim.
4. Pink Ivory (Berchemia Zeyheri)
Other Names: Red Ivorywood
Sourced from Southern Africa, this hardwood is extremely hard with a 3,230 lbf Janka rating and is also very heavy and dense (1,035 kg/m3 avg. dried weight). The heartwood is pale pinkish or almost red with a curly or fiddleback grain pattern. The sapwood is light yellow or brown. The grain is straight or interlocked and the texture is fine and even.
It is a very durable wood in terms of resistance to decay and weathering. It is difficult to work with and has a blunting effect on cutters. It turns and finishes well and is mainly used in carving and turning applications. Other uses include veneers, knife handles, billiard cues, inlay, chessmen, and turned objects. It is a very expensive African hardwood species.
Other Names: African cherry
Mecrusse is known for its beautiful reddish-brown color and fine, straight grain, which make it a popular choice for furniture, cabinetry, and decorative veneers. Mecrusse wood is also highly durable and resistant to decay and insect damage, making it suitable for outdoor use as well. It is easy to work with and finish, but its density and hardness can make it difficult to cut & shape.
Mecrusse is a sustainable and eco-friendly African wood types, as it is sourced from responsibly managed forests in Africa. It is a popular alternative to more expensive tropical hardwoods like genuine mahogany.
6. Panga Panga
Other Names: Mbando
Panga Panga is a type of African hardwood known for its strength, durability, & rich, dark brown color. It is commonly used for flooring, furniture, cabinetry, and decorative veneers. Panga Panga wood has a straight grain pattern and a fine texture, making it easy to work with.
It is also resistant to insects, fungi, & decay, making it a popular choice for outdoor projects as well. However, its density and hardness can make it difficult to cut and shape, requiring sharp tools and careful handling. Panga Panga is a sustainable and eco-friendly choice, as it is sourced from responsibly managed forests in Africa.
7. Pau Ferro
Other Names: Bolivian rosewood
Pau Ferro, another popular African hardwood on our list is mainly found in South America, particularly in Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay. It is known for its striking color, which ranges from reddish-brown to dark brown, & its straight or irregular grain patterns. Pau Ferro wood is highly durable and resistant to decay, making it suitable for outdoor use, as well as for high-end furniture, flooring, & musical instruments.
It is a dense and heavy wood, which can make it difficult to work with, but it has a fine texture and finishes well. Pau Ferro is a sustainable choice, as it is sourced from responsibly managed forests and plantations. It is often used as a less expensive alternative to other types of rosewood, such as Brazilian or Indian rosewood.
8. Sandalo (Spirostachys Africana)
Other Names: Tambootie, Tambuti, Tambotie
Native to Southern Africa, this is a very hard and dense wood (Average Dried Weight: 955 kg/m3; Janka Hardness: 2,480 lbf). The heartwood is golden brown or dark reddish-brown with black streaks, and the sapwood is pale yellow. It has a straight grain with a fine texture.
Sandalo is a very durable hardwood and is resistant to insects and decay. It is fairly easy to work with but has a blunting effect on cutters. It turns, glues, and finishes well. Common uses include furniture, turned objects, carving, and specialty wood items.
9. Umbila/Muninga (Pterocarpus Angolensis)
Other Names: Kiaat, Mukwa
This South-central Africa native hardwood has a 1,360 lbf Janka hardness rating and 605 kg/m3 average dried weight. The heartwood is golden brown or dark reddish brown. It has a straight or interlocked grain and a medium to coarse texture. It is a durable wood with good resistance to insects. Muninga wood is easy to work with and stains, glues, and finishes well. Common uses include furniture, veneer, turnings, boatbuilding, and small wooden objects.
10. Zebrano (Microberlinia Brazzavillensis)
Other Name: Zebrawood
Found in West Africa, this hardwood is incredibly strong and hard (805 kg/m3 avg. dried weight & 1,830 lbf Janka hardness).
The light brown heartwood has black-brown streaks over its surface giving it a zebra-like appearance. The grain is wavy or interlocked and the texture is coarse. It is a durable wood that is resistant to insects. Interlocking grain can make it difficult to plane and result in tear outs. It finishes and glues well. It is an expensive wood that is prized for its unique appearance. Common uses include veneering, furniture, boatbuilding, skis, and tool handles.
11. Wenge (Millettia Laurentii)
Other Names: Bokonge
One of the exotic hardwoods, wenge is known for its unique appearance having nearly black streaks on a medium brown or reddish surface (heartwood). The streaks are sometimes so prominent that the wood might look completely black, especially after an oil finish. It is found in Central Africa and has a 1,930 lbf Janka hardness rating and an average dried weight of 870 kg/m3. The grain is straight and the texture is coarse. It is a durable wood with good resistance to termites. It is generally difficult to work with. The price is high due to limited supply. It is used for furniture, veneer, panelling, turned objects, and musical instruments.
12. Sapele (Entandrophragma Cylindricum)
Other Names: Sapelli, Sapeli
Native to tropical Africa, this hardwood is moderately heavy and hard (670 kg/m3 dried weight and 1,410 lbf Janka rating). It has a golden to dark reddish brown heartwood which gets darker with age and often has figured grain patterns including ribbon, pommele, wavy, etc. It has interlocked grain and fine texture. The durable wood is resistant to decay and insects. It is difficult to work with, but it turns, glues, and finishes well. Common uses include furniture, flooring, plywood, veneer, boatbuilding, turned objects, and musical instruments.
13. Iroko (Milicia Excelsa)
Other Names: kambala
Iroko wood is a famous African hardwood found in tropical regions. It is hard (1,260 lbf Janka rating) and heavy (660 kg/m3 avg. dried weight). The heartwood is yellow to medium brown and the sapwood is pale yellow. The grain is interlocked and the texture is medium-coarse. It is a very durable wood in terms of decay and insect resistance and is often used in place of teak. Other uses include furniture, veneer, flooring, boatbuilding, turned items, and cabinetry.
14. Utile (Entandrophragma Utile)
Other Names: Sipo, Sipo Mahogany
Not related to genuine mahogany, this African wood species is found in West and Central Africa. The average dried weight is 635 kg/m3 and the Janka hardness rating is 1,180 lbf. The heartwood is medium reddish brown and the sapwood is paler. No figured patterns, interlocked grain, and medium texture. Moderately durable in terms of insect resistance. Difficult to work with, though it glues and turns well. Common uses include furniture, veneer, flooring, cabinetry, boatbuilding, etc.
What is the Best Place to Buy African Hardwoods?
Looking to buy high-quality African wood species at a low price with home delivery across Australia, Canada, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East? Contact White Knight Consulting Ltd. We are a leading manufacturer and exporter of African hardwood timber in 20+ countries. Contact us to buy timber at wholesale prices.