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Cocobolo Wood


cocobolo pepper millCocobolo Wood Uses:
Cocobolo Wood is probably best known exotic wood for decorative elements like pepper mills, cocobolo jewlery boxes, knife handles, police nightsticks, and even beads, canes, gun grips, guitars and bowling balls.

The natural oils in cocobolo lumber prevent water absorption and its inherent hardness protects the wood from daily use making it an appropriate exotic wood species especially for kitchen utensils.


The Tree: Family: (Dalbergia retusa)
Cocobolo is often referred to as a Mexican Rosewood, Granadillo or Cocobolo rosewood. As with all rosewoods they are part of the 'Dalbergia' species, predominately growing in Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua as well as the southern extremes of Mexico.

Dalbergia granadillo is also a form of cocobolo, a closely related cousin infact, typically from the more northern sections of Mexico. It tends to have less dramatic colouring and thus less likely to be seen on the cocobolo exotic wood markets. If purchasing cocobolo online be sure to ask about the exact species, if it is not noted one way or the other.

Cocobolo trees take many years to mature and in some areas like Costa Rica harvesting cocobolo trees requires special permits. Thus much of the wood on the market today comes from managed tree farms. Natural forests have been largely exploited and these countries are slowly adopting more sustainable practices. This will take many years to rebuild inventory and in the meantime cocobolo will be in relatively short supply.

Properties of Cocobolo Lumber:
As with all members of the rosewood family they can exhibit exciting swirls of colour and in the case of cocobolo wood, include deep oranges, blacks and browns. The colours can appear as if they are swirling together like potions in a witches brew or run in a less dramatic pattern banded parallel to the length of the wood.. This is largely dependent on how it was cut in relationship to the growth rings of the tree and from the from which part of Latin America it grew in... typically Guatemalan cocobolo tends to be quite a bit darker. Each board and cocobolo tree has its own unique pattern.

With exposure to light the colour darken and develop a rich patina.

The sapwood is almost white and most often trimmed from export grade exotic wood. It can offer an interesting high contrast band on the right small turning, as with this wine bottle stopper.

It is difficult to find cocobolo veneer as the tree is rarely found large enough or of sufficient quality to make it feasible to send to a veneer mill. 8/4 cocobolo turning squares are the most common. Lumber suitable for small decorative wood lathe work.

As with many dense tropical woods cocobolo is quite resistant to both natural decay and insects.

Weight: 68 lbs per cu.ft. dry weight

Spray on lacquers work well and give you the ability to buff out any minor defects. A low gloss sheen shows off the exotic figure.

For the more patient woodworker hand rubbed wax finishes work quite well in combination with the natural oils of cocobolo to achieve a pretty wonderful effect. Its natural oils prevent water absorption so hand rubbed finishes compliment the woods natural defense system.

As with most dense woods, cocobolo wood requires sharp tools for machining. Experience suggests that planing with less than, will cause some tear out and could destroy a beautiful board so now use a helical head on my planer for all exotic woods.

It cuts surprisingly easy on a bandsaw. Cocobolo wood's extreme density can cause a router bit to hope along the edge so a final micro pass can improve your overall appearance. If predrilling and inserting screws on crossgrain boards, excessive torque can split the wood, as I find it a bit brittle. It turns beautifully.

It is recommended to use a waterproof glue such as titebond III to offer added holding capacity for such a tight grained wood. Freshly saw and joint JUST PRIOR to glue up to give the oils less time to migrate to the surface and affect adhesion.

Cocobolo wood can be sanded to a very fine sheen but quality automotive sandpaper is essential. The oils self lubricate the paper and in fact encourage the sawdust to cling to the wood, thus important to thoroughly clean the surface before lacquering.

As with many exotic woods, the dust produced in milling can be an irritant both to the skin and the lungs, so best to work with it in a small way to first determine your personal tolerance and always wear a dust mask. The beauty of exotic Cocobolo wood is worth all the extra fuss!


Interesting Links:
Cocobolo Golf Putters
Cocobolo Grips for Hand Guns


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theWoodbox.com Jan 2007