10 Exotic Hardwoods: Durable & Eye-catching Timber Guide

Embark on a journey into the world of exotic hardwoods with Fresh Kit. Uncover unique characteristics, uses, and more. Start your exploration with us today

10 eye-catching exotic hardwoods
Share this to:

Exotic hardwoods are known for their exceptional durability, beauty and resistance to rot. These woods are commonly grown in tropical regions of Africa, South and Southeast Asia and Central & Southern America. To help you get to know these woods better, we’ve put together a guide with all the essential information, including the most common names and uses.

Exotic hardwoods vary in their characteristics and properties, making them suitable for different applications. Some are denser, darker, and more durable, while others are lighter, softer and more suitable for decorative purposes.

Some of the most popular exotic hardwoods include teak, mahogany, ebony, and rosewood. Each of these woods has unique characteristics that make it ideal for specific applications. Keep reading to learn more about exotic hardwoods and how to incorporate them into your next project!

Exotic Hardwoods illustration
Exotic Hardwoods illustration

Introduction to exotic hardwoods

In this article, we will be discussing the following exotic hardwoods: Teak, Mahogany, Ebony, Rosewood, Iroko, Sapele, Wenge, Bubinga, Purpleheart, and Sipo. Each has unique characteristics and benefits, making them ideal for specific applications. We’ll also be talking about the sustainability of these woods, including where they’re commonly grown, and any ethical concerns that may come with using them.

Some of the most popular and well-known Exotic Hardwoods include teak, mahogany, ebony, and rosewood. Each of these woods has unique characteristics that make it ideal for specific applications.

  • Teak, for example, is known for its durability and resistance to rot, making it a popular choice for outdoor furniture and decking.
  • Mahogany is a strong and stable wood that is often used in furniture making and cabinetry.
  • Ebony is a dense and heavy wood that is known for its deep black colour and is often used in fine furniture, musical instruments, and decorative items.
  • Rosewood is a heavy and durable wood that is known for its beautiful colour and grain patterns, making it a popular choice for furniture, flooring, and cabinetry.

In addition to these well-known species, there are many lesser-known Exotic Hardwoods such as Iroko, Sapele, and Wenge which are also very durable and beautiful.

10 exotic hardwoods to make your woodworking projects pop

Teak

Teak is known for its exceptional durability and resistance to rot, making it a popular choice for outdoor furniture and decking. It is also a highly sought-after wood for boatbuilding due to its natural resistance to water and decay.

Teak’s golden brown colour and smooth texture make it a visually appealing wood that can add warmth and character to any space. The interlocking grain pattern of Teak adds to its stability, making it ideal for large projects and high-stress applications.

In our opinion, Teak is one of the most versatile and beneficial woods in the world and it’s a great choice for anyone looking for a durable and attractive wood for their next project.

Mahogany

Mahogany wood grain illustration
Mahogany wood grain illustration

Mahogany is a strong and stable wood that is often used in furniture making and cabinetry. Its reddish-brown colour and straight grain pattern make it a visually appealing wood that can add warmth and character to any space.

Mahogany is also known for being easy to work with and finish, which makes it a great choice for beginners and experienced woodworkers alike.

In our opinion, Mahogany is a great choice for anyone looking for a strong and stable wood that is also easy to work with and finish.

Ebony

Ebony wood grain illustration
Ebony wood grain illustration

Ebony is a dense and heavy wood known for its deep black colour. It is often used in fine furniture, musical instruments, and decorative items. The wood is heavy, hard, and strong, with a very fine, dense, and even texture.

Ebony has a natural high polish, making it ideal for applications that require a smooth, glossy finish. The wood is also highly resistant to decay, making it a great choice for outdoor applications as well.

Ebony is a great choice for anyone looking for dense and heavy wood that is both strong and beautiful.

Rosewood

Rosewood wood grain illustration
Rosewood woodgrain illustration

Rosewood is a heavy and durable wood that is known for its beautiful colour and grain patterns. It is often used in furniture, flooring, and cabinetry. The wood is dense and heavy, with a fine, even texture.

The colour and grain of Rosewood can vary greatly, with some species having a reddish-brown colour and a wavy grain pattern, while others have a deeper brown colour and a straight grain pattern. The wood is also highly resistant to decay, making it a great choice for outdoor applications as well.

Rosewood is a great choice for anyone looking for a heavy and durable wood that is also beautiful and versatile.

Iroko

Iroko wood grain illustration
Iroko wood grain illustration

Iroko is a durable and hard African hardwood with a golden brown colour, interlocking grain and a fine, even texture. It has a natural resistance to decay, making it a great choice for outdoor applications such as decking and outdoor furniture. It is also a popular choice for boatbuilding due to its strength and durability.

The colour of Iroko can range from a pale yellow to a rich golden brown, and the interlocking grain pattern adds to its stability, making it ideal for large projects and high-stress applications.

In our opinion, Iroko is an excellent choice for anyone looking for durable and attractive wood for outdoor projects.

Sapele

Sapele wood grain illustration
Sapele wood grain illustration

Sapele is a durable and hard African hardwood with a reddish-brown colour, interlocking grain and a fine, even texture. It is often used in furniture, flooring and cabinetry due to its strength and durability.

The colour of Sapele can range from pale pink to a rich reddish-brown, and the interlocking grain pattern adds to its stability, making it ideal for large projects and high-stress applications.

In our opinion, Sapele is a great choice for anyone looking for durable and attractive wood for indoor projects.

Wenge

Wenge woodgrain illustration
Wenge woodgrain illustration

Wenge is a durable and hard African hardwood with a dark brown colour, straight grain and a fine, even texture. It is often used in furniture, flooring and cabinetry due to its strength and durability.

The dark colour of Wenge makes it a great choice for projects that require a dark, rich colour. The straight grain pattern adds to its stability, making it ideal for large projects and high-stress applications.

In our opinion, Wenge is a great choice for anyone looking for a durable and attractive wood with a dark colour.

Bubinga

Bubinga wood grain illustration
Bubinga wood grain illustration

Bubinga is a durable and hard African hardwood with a reddish-brown colour, interlocking grain and a fine, even texture. It is often used in furniture, flooring and cabinetry due to its strength and durability.

The colour of Bubinga can range from pale pink to a rich reddish-brown, and the interlocking grain pattern adds to its stability, making it ideal for large projects and high-stress applications.

In our opinion, Bubinga is a great choice for anyone looking for durable and attractive wood for indoor projects.

Purpleheart

Purpleheart illustration
Purpleheart illustration

Purpleheart is a durable and hard African hardwood with a purple colour, straight grain and a fine, even texture. It is often used in furniture, flooring and cabinetry due to its strength and durability.

The unique purple colour of Purpleheart makes it a great choice for projects that require a bold and striking colour. The straight grain pattern adds to its stability, making it ideal for large projects and high-stress applications.

Purpleheart is a great choice for anyone looking for a durable and attractive wood with a unique purple colour.

Sipo (Utile)

Sipo (Utile) Illustration
Sipo (Utile) Illustration

Sipo, commonly known as Utile, is a durable and hard African hardwood with a reddish-brown colour, interlocking grain and a fine, even texture. It is often used in furniture, flooring and cabinetry due to its strength and durability.

The colour of Sipo can range from light pink to a rich reddish-brown, and the interlocking grain pattern adds to its stability, making it ideal for large projects and high-stress applications.

Sipo is a great choice for anyone looking for a durable and attractive wood for indoor projects that is also relatively affordable compared to some.

Exotic hardwoods illustration
Exotic hardwoods illustration

Exotic Hardwoods Chart

Common NameRegion of OriginHardness (compared to Oak)Janka HardnessColourGrain ProfileApplicationsSustainability
TeakSoutheast Asia30% harder1,155 lbfGolden-brownMedium to coarseOutdoorResponsibly sourced
MahoganyCentral and South America15% harder1,010 lbfReddish-brownMedium to coarseInterior and ExteriorResponsibly sourced
EbonyAfrica and South Asia25% harder3,220 lbfBlackFine and evenDecorativeEndangered species
RosewoodCentral and South America20% harder2,410 lbfRed-brownMedium to coarseFurniture and decorativeSome species endangered
IrokoWest Africa20% harder1,130 lbfGolden-brownMedium to coarseOutdoorResponsibly sourced
SapeleWest Africa20% harder1,350 lbfGolden-brownMedium to coarseOutdoorResponsibly sourced
WengeCentral Africa25% harder1,980 lbfBlackFine and evenFurniture and decorativeResponsibly sourced
BubingaWest Africa25% harder1,800 lbfPinkish-redMedium to coarseFurniture and decorativeResponsibly sourced
PurpleheartSouth America35% harder2,020 lbfPurpleFine and evenFurniture and decorativeResponsibly sourced

Sustainability of exotic hardwoods

Sustainability of exotic hardwoods in woodworking
Sustainability of exotic hardwoods in woodworking

Teak

Teak is a highly sought-after wood due to its exceptional durability and resistance to rot. It is native to tropical regions of South and Southeast Asia and is mainly grown in countries like India, Indonesia, and Myanmar. The majority of the world’s teak is grown on government-controlled or government-owned land and is sustainably managed to ensure a steady supply for future generations.

Teak is not considered to be an endangered species, but there have been concerns about illegal logging and over-harvesting in some countries. It is important to ensure that any teak used in woodworking is sourced from responsibly managed forests.

Mahogany

Mahogany is a strong and stable wood that is often used in furniture making and cabinetry. It is native to Central and South America and is mainly grown in countries like Brazil, Honduras, and Peru. Mahogany is not considered to be an endangered species, but there have been concerns about illegal logging and over-harvesting in some countries.

It is important to ensure that any Mahogany used in woodworking is sourced from responsibly managed forests.

Ebony

Ebony is a dense and heavy wood that is known for its deep black colour. The most popular species of Ebony used in woodworking is Diospyros crassiflora and Diospyros ebenum, it is native to Central and West Africa. It is considered an endangered species and there have been concerns about illegal logging and over-harvesting.

It is important to ensure that any Ebony used in woodworking is legally and responsibly sourced.

Rosewood

Rosewood is a heavy and durable wood that is known for its beautiful colour and grain patterns. It is native to Central and South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia and is mainly grown in countries like Brazil, Honduras, India, and Indonesia. The most popular species used in woodworking is Dalbergia spp.

Some species of Rosewood have been listed as endangered species due to over-harvesting and illegal logging, it is important to ensure that any Rosewood used in woodworking is legally and responsibly sourced from sustainable and well-managed forests.

Iroko

Iroko is native to West Africa, mainly grown in countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. It is considered a sustainable species, it is not considered to be endangered and is mainly grown on managed plantations. It is important to ensure that any Iroko used in woodworking is sourced from responsibly managed forests.

Sapele

Sapele is native to West Africa, mainly grown in countries like Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon. It is considered a sustainable species, it is not considered to be endangered and is mainly grown on managed plantations. It is important to ensure that any Sapele used in woodworking is sourced from responsibly managed forests.

Wenge

Wenge is native to Central and West Africa mainly grown in countries like Congo, Gabon and Cameroon. It is considered a sustainable species, it is not considered to be endangered and is mainly grown on managed plantations. It is important to ensure that any Wenge used in woodworking is sourced from responsibly managed forests.

Bubinga

Bubinga is native to West Africa and mainly grown in countries like Gabon, Congo and Equatorial Guinea. It is considered a sustainable species, it is not considered to be endangered and is mainly grown on managed plantations. It is important to ensure that any Bubinga used in woodworking is sourced from responsibly managed forests.

Purpleheart

Purpleheart is native to Central and South America mainly grown in countries like Brazil, Suriname, and Guyana. It is considered a sustainable species, it is not considered to be endangered and is mainly grown on managed plantations. It is important to ensure that any Purpleheart used in woodworking is sourced from responsibly managed forests.

Sipo

Sipo is native to Central and West Africa mainly grown in countries like Congo, Gabon and Cameroon. It is considered a sustainable species, it is not considered to be endangered and is mainly grown on managed plantations. It is important to ensure that any Sipo used in woodworking is sourced from responsibly managed forests.

Sustainability note

It is important to ensure that the Exotic Hardwoods you use in your woodworking projects are responsibly and sustainably sourced from well-managed forests. It is also important to be aware of any endangered species and to avoid using them in your projects.

Caring for your Exotic Hardwood

To care for Exotic Hardwoods, it is important to protect them from moisture and extreme temperatures. Regular cleaning and maintenance with a soft cloth or brush and a mild detergent will help to preserve the wood’s natural oils and prevent damage. It is also important to use the appropriate finish for the specific application, such as oil or varnish for outdoor furniture and hard wax oil for indoor flooring.

Exotic hardwoods illustration
Exotic hardwood trees illustration

Teak:

  • Cleaning and maintenance: Use mild detergent and a soft cloth or brush to clean the wood. To preserve the natural oils, use a teak sealer or oil.
  • Protection: Teak is naturally resistant to decay and rot, but it should be protected from extreme temperatures and direct sunlight.
  • Finishing: Teak oil or varnish for outdoor furniture, hard wax oil for indoor flooring.

Mahogany:

  • Cleaning and maintenance: Use mild detergent and a soft cloth or brush to clean the wood.
  • Protection: Mahogany should be protected from extreme temperatures and direct sunlight.
  • Finishing: Use a penetrating oil or varnish for outdoor furniture, hard wax oil for indoor flooring.

Ebony:

  • Cleaning and maintenance: Use mild detergent and a soft cloth or brush to clean the wood.
  • Protection: Ebony should be protected from extreme temperatures and direct sunlight.
  • Finishing: Use a penetrating oil or varnish for outdoor furniture, hard wax oil for indoor flooring.

Rosewood:

  • Cleaning and maintenance: Use mild detergent and a soft cloth or brush to clean the wood.
  • Protection: Rosewood should be protected from extreme temperatures and direct sunlight.
  • Finishing: Use a penetrating oil or varnish for outdoor furniture, hard wax oil for indoor flooring.

Iroko:

  • Cleaning and maintenance: Use mild detergent and a soft cloth or brush to clean the wood.
  • Protection: Iroko should be protected from extreme temperatures and direct sunlight.
  • Finishing: Use a penetrating oil or varnish for outdoor furniture, hard wax oil for indoor flooring.

Sapele:

  • Cleaning and maintenance: Use mild detergent and a soft cloth or brush to clean the wood.
  • Protection: Sapele should be protected from extreme temperatures and direct sunlight.
  • Finishing: Use a penetrating oil or varnish for outdoor furniture, hard wax oil for indoor flooring.

Wenge:

  • Cleaning and maintenance: Use mild detergent and a soft cloth or brush to clean the wood.
  • Protection: Wenge should be protected from extreme temperatures and direct sunlight.
  • Finishing: Use a penetrating oil or varnish for outdoor furniture, hard wax oil for indoor flooring.

Bubinga:

  • Cleaning and maintenance: Use mild detergent and a soft cloth or brush to clean the wood.
  • Protection: Bubinga should be protected from extreme temperatures and direct sunlight.
  • Finishing: Use a penetrating oil or varnish for outdoor furniture, hard wax oil for indoor flooring.

Purpleheart:

  • Cleaning and maintenance: Use mild detergent and a soft cloth or brush to clean the wood.
  • Protection: Purpleheart should be protected from extreme temperatures and direct sunlight.
  • Finishing: Use a penetrating oil or varnish for outdoor furniture, hard wax oil for indoor flooring.

Sipo:

  • Cleaning and maintenance: Use mild detergent and a soft cloth or brush to clean the wood.
  • Protection: Sipo should be protected from extreme temperatures and direct sunlight.
  • Finishing: Use a penetrating oil or varnish for outdoor furniture and hard wax oil for indoor flooring.

Note: Specific care and maintenance instructions may vary depending on the specific species of wood, the environment it’s used in, and the type of finish used. It is always best to consult with a professional or follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the best care and maintenance for your specific exotic hardwood.

It’s important to remember that, despite their durability and resistance to decay, all woods will inevitably age and change over time, and it may be necessary to reapply finishes or perform additional maintenance to keep them looking their best.

Resources & further reading

A wooden tome for further reading

For more information on exotic hardwoods, hardwoods and woodworking, we’ve compiled a list of books and websites for you. These sites all have something to offer and should provide info, entertainment and most importantly, inspiration to help you enjoy working with wood.]

Books and audiobooks:

Websites:

Summing up

In conclusion, Exotic Hardwoods are a valuable resource for anyone looking for durable and eye-catching timber for their next project. With a wide range of species to choose from and the benefits of strength, durability, and beauty, these woods are sure to add value and character to any project.

In this article, we have discussed the various benefits of using exotic hardwoods in woodworking projects. We have provided detailed information on the most popular exotic hardwoods, including their region of origin, hardness, colour, grain pattern, typical uses, and sustainability.

We have also provided tips on how to properly care for and maintain exotic hardwoods, as well as a comparison chart that illustrates the unique characteristics of each species. It is clear that exotic hardwoods offer a range of benefits for woodworkers, including durability, strength, and resistance to decay, as well as a wide range of colours and grain patterns. However, it is important to source them responsibly and to be aware of any ethical or environmental issues associated with their use.

We hope that this article has been helpful in providing you with a deeper understanding of exotic hardwoods and their uses. If you found this article informative and interesting, please share it with your friends and colleagues, subscribe to our newsletter, and follow us on social media for more great content like this.

Share this to:

Similar Posts