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Wenge Lumber

Wenge is a good choice for flooring strips and blocks and for interior and exterior joinery and general construction work. It is a good wood for turning and is sliced for paneling and veneers for furniture and cabinets. As with most exotic woods, it is selected for its colour and dramatic appearance in any project that seems appropriate. That being said, it is definitely not used in acoustic guitars, because its porosity dampens the sound waves.

The Tree: Millettia Laurentii Family
Wenge is a member of the great tree producing family, Leguminosae and comes from Zaire and other small countries of West Africa. There are about 40 species of Millettia, many of them tropical vines and shrubs. The tree variety can attain heights of 90 feet with a bole as large as 3-4 feet in diameter.

Wood Description:
The heartwood is dark brown, almost black. On the quartersawn surface, fine pencil-thin, light tan lines interspersed with blackish brown stripes make the surface appear as if it has been stroked by the fine claws of some wild jungle animal. On the tangential surface, the light lines show up as undulating streaks, like waves on the water. Orientation of the grain is an important consideration to show the wood at its best. Wenge is straight grained, and very coarse textured, similar to the slivers from bamboo flooring.

Weight: Averages 55 lbs. per cubic foot.

This wood will sand reasonably well and give an acceptable finish if one is aware of the oily surface. It is a very porous wood though, so pore filling is essential if a fine finish is required... challenging for the beginning woodworker.

Wenge wood provides a challenge to both the artist and the crafting skill. Sharp tools are essential. The long coarse texture can tend to tearout and cause some difficulty in sanding. The wood will glue well if the gluing is done as soon as the surface is dressed by planing, sanding or scraping. Workers can be adversely affected by the irritating dust of wenge. Its toxicity is well known in many parts of the world because the bark of several species is ground into a powder to numb fish for harvest. Dust collection systems are essential when working with wenge and remove wood slivers ASAP because they tend to fester.


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theWoodbox.com Jan 2007