Woods To Know: Makore

Woods To Know: Makore

Makore (Tieghemelia hecklii)

by Peter MacSween

Native to the rainforests of West Africa, Makore is a valuable commercial and architectural timber. It is a large tree growing up to 200 feet in height with diameters approaching 9 feet.  The tree grows straight with few branches before the crown and with minimal buttressing. Consequently, it yields large amounts of clear timber and veneer, consistent in colour and figure. 
Makore is a real showstopper when it comes to its appearance. Best known for the block mottle figure, crotch, broken stripe, curly and a very tight fiddleback are also common figure types. Wide flat-cut and quartered boards and veneers are very common. 

The heartwood is a pinkish to reddish brown with occasional purple streaks. The sapwood is clearly demarcated from the heart. It is a creamy white colour and can be up to 3 inches wide. Makore has a fine texture and the grain is usually very straight. It is a naturally lustrous wood which helps exaggerate the various figure types. 
Makore is a very durable timber, resistant to insects and fungi. This is probably due to its high tannin content. Tannins are chemicals produced by the tree to help protect it from insects and other predators. 
The wood works well but it contain silica which will dull tools quickly. Figured pieces of Makore can tearout when machining. It’s important to monitor feed rates and cutting angles to reduce the tearout. Sanding to final dimension may necessary to avoid this, especially on pieces with block mottle figure. Pre-drilling for nails and screws is essential to prevent splitting. It glues and finishes well. Oil finishes will help enhance whatever figure is present, allowing the character of the wood to shine. It is close-grained so no grain filling is necessary. 
Makore, as mentioned, is an important commercial wood. Expect to see it in architectural installations such as paneling, trim, stairs, flooring and cabinets  It is also used in high-end furniture, shipbuilding, turned objects and musical instruments. Solid lumber should be available from specialty lumber dealers. Veneer in all figure types is very common. Price is midrange for an imported species; expect to pay more for figured material.

Makore end-grain
There are two important considerations when working with Makore.  First, Makore’s high tannin content means it will stain when in contact with ferrous metals. Woodworkers should be careful during glue ups. Wood strips can be used to prevent metal clamps from contacting the wood. Secondly, Makore is an irritant that can provoke a severe reaction. Most complaints come from inhaling the dust. Care should be taken when sanding and your shop should be cleaned thoroughly after working with it. 
These concerns aside, there are very few species that can produce such a wide range of figures and appearances. There should a role for Makore in most projects. Plain sawn and quartered material has its own quiet beauty. Highly recommended for all woodworking projects. 
Average Dried Weight43 lbs/ft³A measure of its weight at 12% moisture and an ambient temperature of 70°F.
Specific Gravity.69A measure of the ratio of its density compared to water (at 12% MC)
ShrinkageRadial: 5.5
Tangential: 7.7
Volumetric: 12.4
Radial (the amount of crosswise shrinkage);
Tangential (the amount of lengthwise shrinkage);
Volumetric (the total amount of shrinkage.)
T/R Ratio1:4A measure of the uniformity of tangential to radial shrinkage.
Janka Hardness1,200 lbfA measure of resistance to denting and abrasion.
Crushing Strength8,290 lbf/in²A measure of compression strength parallel to the grain.
Heartwood pink or reddish brown, sometimes with streaks of mild color variation. Yellowish sapwood can be two to three inches wide, and is clearly demarcated from the heartwood. Figured grain patterns (such as mottled or curly) are a common occurrence.
GrainGrain generally straight, though interlocked or wavy grain is sometimes present. 
TextureFine even texture with good natural luster.
Generally easy to work, though sections with interlocked grain can cause tearout during planing or other machining operations. Makore will react when put into direct contact with iron, becoming discolored and stained. Makore also has a pronounced blunting effect on cutters due to its high silica content. Besides this dulling effect, Makore turns well, and is easy to glue and finish.
Furniture, cabinetry, flooring, veneer, boat building, and turned objects.
Price$8.75 4/4
$9.20 8/8
$2.30 sq/ft Black Mottle Veneer
$5.80 sq/ft Fiddleback

Photos and Specifications Courtesy of: The Wood Database