by Gene Wengert
Exceptionally hard and dense but very stable wood.
Santos mahogany (Myroxylon balsamum) is also called bal- samo (English) and palo de balsamo (Central America)
in the lumber business. Although this
wood is not related to Honduran (or
true) mahogany or to African mahogany, it is a rich dark mahogany-colored
wood and is actually a bit harder than
Honduran mahogany. The wood has
interlocked grain, which gives it a
strong ribbon-like pattern.
plantings in Africa and Southeast Asia
are now producing this resin. Today,
the resin is used in salves, cough syrup
flavorings and perfumes.
The hardness of this wood makes
it ideal for flooring, although it is also
sometimes used for furniture, interior
trim, and turnery.
The tree, which is in the legume
family, ranges from southern Mexico
through Central American and to Argentina. Trees are usually 50 to 65 feet
tall, and 18 to 36 inches in diameter
with lots of knot-free lumber.
working adhesives, surfaces should be
prepared and glued within 15 minutes to
achieve the best joint strength. Moderately difficult to machine, sharp tools and
fresh sandpaper are essential.
Density. The density of this wood is
around 60 pounds per cubic foot, which
is quite high.
Stability. Exceptionally stable, it would
take a 6 percent MC change to result in
a 1 percent size change tangentially and
10 percent MC radially.
This tree is well known for the
resin, called balsam or balsamo.
Sixteenth Century Spanish explorers
shipped balsamo to Europe, where
it was claimed to have extravagant
medicinal properties. The resin has
a spicy aroma, somewhat similar to
vanilla. Much of today’s resin production comes from El Salvador, although
Drying. Shrinkage from green to 7 percent MC is only 4.6 percent tangentially
(the width of a flatsawn piece of lumber)
and 2.8 percent radially (the thickness of
flatsawn lumber). These values are very
low for a wood of this high density.
Strength. The ultimate strength (MOR)
of this wood is 20,100 psi; the stiffness
(MOE) is 2.4 million psi and the hardness
is 2200 pounds.
Gluing and Machining. Somewhat
difficult to glue with standard wood-
Color and Grain. Santos mahogany
exhibits a range of color between light
orange/brown with yellowish overtones
to a dark reddish/purplish brown.
; Want more? For more on this and other species, search the Wood Explorer collection at woodworkingnetwork.com/wood-explorer
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