Woods to Know: Zebrawood - Canadian Woodworking Magazine

Woods to Know: Zebrawood

Zebrawood (Microberlinia brazzavillensis)

The name says it all: widely known and appreciated for the distinctive dark brown/black stripes that resemble the African zebra, the tree itself is found in West Africa, specifically the rich volcanic soils of Cameroon. It is a tree that towers above the forest canopy where its miniscule leaves grab as much sunlight as possible to feed its large structure.  
 
This tree can grow to a height of 120' and a diameter of around 5', with large buttressing at the root end. The tree twists and turns to find the sun as it outgrows the other species in its environment. The result is an interlocking grain that potentially makes it difficult to work with.

WTK_zebrawood
Zebrawood
 
The wood is coarse grained with large open pores, while the interlocked grain makes it difficult to resaw or surface. Tear out is common and you may have to plane to oversize and then sand to a final dimension. Zebrawood glues well and will take most finishes, although some woodworkers may prefer to fill the larger pores.
 
The heartwood is a creamy white, overlaid with the definitive dark striping. The sapwood is sharply demarcated from the heart and the bark can be up to 12" thick. Depending on how the log is cut, the striping can be chaotic and spider-like, or very linear. Flat sawn zebra will produce the former, while quartersawn lumber has the much prized vertical striping.

WTK_zebrawood-endgrain
Zebrawood endgrain
 
The quartered wood with its linear striping is the most desirable and the most available. Its distinct banded appearance lends itself to a decorative approach when designing. It is utilised as trim, banding, as an architectural veneer, and for the creation of decorative objects. It has been used as trim in high-end cars such as Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz.
 
Exploitation of its use as a design element has led to local extinction in many areas of its natural range. Since it is a member of the pea family, it forms a unique relationship with soil fungi, and it is now being planted to restore the unique Central African forests it came from. Zebrawood is not considered endangered by CITES, but woodworkers can help make this specie available for the future by respecting its unique decorative qualities in the design of their projects.
 
zebrawoodvanity_lead
Zebrawood Vanity, Rob Brown

Entrance Table
Entrance Table, Reed Hansuld
 
 
Average Dried Weight50 lbs/ft3A measure of its weight at 12% moisture and an ambient temperature of 70°F.
Specific Gravity.81A measure of the ratio of its density compared to water (at 12% MC)
ShrinkageRadial: 7.6%,
Tangential:10.8%,
Volumetric: 17.8%
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 Hardness1,830 lbfA measure of resistance to denting and abrasion.
Crushing Strength9,210 lbf/in2 (estimate)A measure of compression strength parallel to the grain.
Colour
Distinctive brown/black striping over a creamy white background. Quartersawn material yields distinctive striped appearance.
GrainWavey or interlocked.
TextureFairly coarse with open pores.
Workability
Interlocked grain makes planing and resawing difficult. Tearout is common and open pores may have to be filled.  Glues and sands well. Has a distinct odour when worked. 
Uses
Almost always quartersawn to be used as a decorative element. Often sliced into veneer; used to make furniture, bandings and small turnings. 
Price$19.25/BF (4/4 stock)
$3.25/sq ft (veneer)
Approximate Pricing

 
  
Photos and Specifications Courtesy of: The Wood Database