Strength is one of the primary factors to consider when selecting the right wood for a project. Based on hardness, all woods are loosely divided into two categories – hardwoods and softwoods. However, not all hardwoods are necessarily hard and not all softwoods are soft. Balsa wood, for instance, is a hardwood but is actually very soft and light.
So, when you are looking for a wood that is actually strong and hard, look beyond just hardwoods and softwoods.
The Janka Hardness Test is the most common method for determining the hardness of wood. It involves forcing a small steel ball into the wood using external pressure/force. The force required (in lbf or N) to inject exactly half of the ball into the wood is that wood’s hardness. Based on the Janka test, Australian Buloke with a 5,060 IBF Janka rating is the hardest wood in the world.
As for the wood strength, that is determined by more than one factor, including the wood’s density, durability, hardness, compressive strength, bending strength, etc.
The strength of wood primarily depends on its density. The more fibers a wood has in a given area, the stronger is the wood. Wood doesn’t always have the same strength across its body and is generally the strongest in the direction of the grain.
Why is Wood Hardness Measurement Important?
For most projects, the hardness of wood is a primary factor for selection. While some projects require woods that are strong and very hard, others can do with soft or less strong woods. Stronger woods are generally more expensive than softer woods because of their higher demand. So, if a woodworker can manage with less strong wood, he/she will have to pay less. However, some projects like outdoor furniture must be made from strong and durable wood.
The wood hardness rating helps determine the durability of wood samples along with their resistance to specific conditions such as moisture, insect attacks, wear, and denting, which is an important criteria for wood selection.
The Hardest Wood in the world
Let’s get to the point now. So, which is the hardest wood in the world? Well, according to Wikipedia and many other sources, Australian buloke with a Janka rating of 5,060 lbf is the hardest wood in the world. However, Eric Meier of The Wood Database believes differently. According to him, the actual Janka rating of Australian buloke is 3,760 lbf (16,740 N), which makes it one of the hardest woods in the world, but not the hardest.
So, which is the hardest wood in the world? Well, according to the Wood Database, QUEBRACHO (Schinopsis spp.) has a Janka rating of 4,570 LBF (20,340 N), which makes it officially the hardest wood in the world. However, the doubt remains. Because many other wood experts still believe Australian buloke to be the wood with the highest Janka rating.
Ok, which wood is the next best?
Here’s the list of the top hardest or strongest woods in the world by Janka Rating:
1. Australian Buloke (5,060 lbf)
Grows primarily in Australia (Eastern and Southern parts of the country). It is unofficially known as the hardest wood in the world because of its high Janka rating.
2. Schinopsis Brasiliensis (4,800 lbf)
The wood is obtained from a flowering tree that primarily grows in Brazil. The wood is extremely tough with a Janka rating of 4,800 lbf. It is sometimes considered the hardest timber in the world and is used exclusively in construction because of its outstanding strength and hardness.
3. Schinopsis Balansae (4,570 lbf)
Schinopsis balansae is a hardwood that is obtained from a tree that can sometimes reach up to 24 meter in height. These trees cover most forest parts in Argentina and Paraguay. Considered as one of the hardest woods on the planet, this wood has a Janka rating of 4,570 lbf.
4. Lignum Vitae (4,500 lbf)
Lignum vitae is famously called a trade wood because of its high trade demand. It is obtained from the Guaiacum genus trees which grow exclusively in the Caribbean and some parts of South America. The wood has a Janka hardness rating of 4,500 lbf and is strong, tough and very dense. It is also very durable and is naturally resistant to moisture.
5. Piptadenia Macrocarpa (3,840 lbf)
With a Janka hardness rating of 3,840 lbf, Piptadenia Macrocarpa is one of the toughest woods in the world. It grows mainly in Argentina, Peru and Bolivia and is primarily used for construction purposes.
6. Snakewood (3,800 IBF)
Called so because of its unique snake-like appearance, Snakewood has a recorded Janka rating of 3,800 lbf. It is native to South America and used in a range of projects that require high strength and density. It is also commonly sold and used as an exotic wood species.
7. Brazilian Olivewood (3,700 IBF)
Brazilian Olivewood is a wood that is both hard and exotic. This makes it a common choice for a variety of wood projects, ranging from construction to furniture making and more. Native to Brazil, the wood is very strong, tough and equally beautiful.
8. Brazilian Ebony (3,692 IBF)
This type of Ebony grows mainly in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina and is known for its outstanding hardness and durability. In addition, the wood is also shock-resistant, which makes it suitable for everything from construction to decking, and more.
9. Brazilian Walnut (3,684 IBF)
Brazilian walnut is obtained from Central and South America and has a Janka rating of 3,684 lbf. The wood is strong with a straight to interlocked grain. It is used for a number of outdoor and indoor woodworking projects worldwide.
10. African Pearwood (3,680 IBF)
Native to Africa, the African Pearwood is obtained from trees that grow primarily in Angola, Cameroon, Gabon, Nigeria and the Republic of Congo. It has a Janka rating of 3,680 lbf and is considered one of the strongest woods in Africa.
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