Wallpaper from Wood Samples

[WP01] African Blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon)

This wood, which grows in Tanzania and northern Mozambique is the premier wood in the world for the purposes of ornamental turning. Its fine texture, black color and density allow it to be cut with highly polished cutters which leave a shimmering, mirror-like surface. When first cut, this wood is a dark purple/plum brown which quickly changes to an almost pure black upon exposure to light and air. Being extremely heavy with an average density of 75 pounds per cubic foot (1,200 kilograms per cubic meter) and oily to the touch, it exudes a strong flowerlike fragrance typical of the rosewood family of woods when cut. Its oiliness, resistance to climactic changes and ability to take an exceptional finish make it the wood of choice for the best woodwind instruments made in the world. An effort to insure its continued growth into the future is being initiated.

Because of its superlative properties as a wood for ornamental turning, blackwood deserves further mention. Holtzapffel said, "It is most admirably suited to eccentric turning as the wood is particularly hard, close and free from pores, but not destructive to the tools, from which, when they are in proper condition, it receives a brilliant polish....This material is in every way suited to deep or shallow cutting and is especially valuable for surface patterns, the facets upon which acquire a brilliant polish from the cut of the tool alone." The author of Timbers of the World, Alexander Howard, says, "It has a rare quality, namely that unlike practically every other wood, it does not shrink on either way of the grain, retaining exact measurement after machining, so that it is especially useful for pattern making, for screws and the like." All in all, in my personal experience, African blackwood is one of the most exquisite treasures of nature I have had the pleasure to share.

Back to the Previous Gallery Section, Special Projects
Forward to the next Gallery exhibit
UP to the Gallery Introduction/Index
World-Wide Web presentation Copyright © 1996, James E. Harris. All Rights Reserved.
Last revised February 4, 1996.