Andiroba: Alternative to mahogany found from Cuba to Peru

Andiroba: Alternative to mahogany found from Cuba to Peru

Andiroba (Carapa guianensis) is found throughout Central and South America, from Cuba to Peru and Brazil.

It is an extremely tall tree, reaching heights of 100 to 170 feet. Diameters are often 5 to 6 feet. The central stem is often straight and free of branches for 50 feet or more. As a result, clear lumber is common.

The tree is fairly adaptable, growing in various climates. As a result, the wood properties and characteristics also are variable.

This can be a problem in some cases, so, to avoid variations, it is probably wise to find a supplier that will be obtaining its wood from the same geographical location.

Andiroba’s grain and color appear identical to Honduras mahogany, so it is used for fine furniture, cabinetry and flooring.

Compared to mahogany, andiroba is usually finer textured and has less figured grain.

Finishing is easier with this finer grain. Andiroba is also heavier, stronger and stiffer, but does not have the exceptional stability of mahogany.

Lumber prices are less than for mahogany, but availability is more limited.

This wood is subject to powder-post beetle attacks, so fumigation or other treatment when imported should be considered prudent.

Processing suggestions and characteristics

Density. Kiln-dried andiroba has an average density of 44 pounds per cubic foot. A board foot will weigh about 3-3/4 pounds at 6 percent MC. Honduras mahogany has a density of 32 pounds per cubic foot. Compare to cherry, which is 33 pounds per cubic foot.

Drying. Some wood dries slowly with a tendency to check and split, while other (probably lower density) wood dries much easier with fewer defects. Shrinkage from green to 6 percent MC is 6 percent tangentially (width of flatsawn lumber) and 2-1/2 percent radially (quartersawn width).

Gluing and machining. This wood glues well with all conventional adhesives. Machining is average for such a dense wood. As always, tools should be fairly sharp.

Stability. This wood is as stable as most North American hardwoods, requiring a 4 percent MC change to produce a 1 percent size change tangentially and a 9 percent MC change for a 1 percent size change radially, although there is some variability depending on the site where grown.

It is wise to check the incoming MC to assure that no movement will occur in use.

Strength. Andiroba is fairly strong. The ultimate strength (MOR) is 11,100 psi. It is also fairly stiff; the MOE is 1.56 million psi. The hardness is average for a hardwood 1,060 pounds. It does have a tendency to split when nailed or screwed, so predrilling of the holes is suggested, especially when fastening near the ends of a piece.

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