Wenge is a popular hardwood known for its unique appearance and incredible strength and durability in terms of termite resistance. It is commonly used for furniture, panelling, veneer, musical instruments, and turned objects.
Due to the high demand and over-exploitation of Wenge over the last few decades, the availability of new forests is scarce, which is why it is now considered an endangered wood species.
Here’s everything you need to know about Wenge wood’s properties and uses.
What is Wenge Wood?
Wenge is a popular hardwood species of the class (scientific name) Millettia laurentii. It is a tree of the legume family and is primarily found in Central Africa, including Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon.
Other names for Wenge are African rosewood, dikela, mibotu, faux ebony, bokonge, and awong.
Wenge is considered an exotic wood owing to its stunning appearance with a dark brownish hue and almost black streaks and outstanding physical properties.
Due to its over-harvesting and exploitation over the last few decades, Wenge is now regarded as an endangered species and may not be easily available or can be expensively priced.
Wenge Wood Properties
- Average Dried Weight: 54.2 lbs/ft3 (870 kg/m3)
- Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): 0.72, 0.87
- Janka Hardness: 1,930 lbf (8,600 N)
- Modulus of Rupture: 21,990 lbf/in2 (151.7 MPa)
- Elastic Modulus: 2,550,000 lbf/in2 (17.59 GPa)
- Crushing Strength: 11,710 lbf/in2 (80.7 MPa)
- Shrinkage: Radial: 4.8%, Tangential: 8.1%,
Volumetric: 12.9%, T/R Ratio: 1.7
One of the key characteristics of Wenge is its stunning appearance. The heartwood of Wenge has a colour ranging from medium brown to reddish or dark yellowish and is covered with almost black streaks.
The application of a finish like oil can turn the wood to almost black, nearly similar to eboy (which is why the name faux ebony).
The colour of Wenge wood will generally become lighter when exposed to sunlight.
The unique colour-streaks combination of wenge has become so popular that it is now used as a distinct colour/pattern system in many places around the world.
The grain of wenge wood is straight, even, and attractive, and the texture is coarse. It has a low natural lustre.
Wenge timber usually maintains a consistent colour throughout its length, which turns to darker deep chocolate or black over time.
Wenge wood is obtained from a tree called Millettia laurentii, which is found in Central Africa. It is about 60-90 ft (18-27 m) tall and has a 3-4 ft (1-1.2 m) trunk diameter.
However, Wenge trees with up to 50 metres height have also been seen. Wenge trees have a purple-blue colour flower, which blooms during spring and summer. Other parts of the tree, including bark and leaves, are often used for medicinal purposes.
Density & Weight
The average dried weight of wenge wood is 870 kg/m3, which makes it one of the densest woods in the world. Wenge is so heavy that it cannot float on water.
With a 1,930 lbf Janka rating, Wenge is an extremely hard & strong wood.
Due to its unique structure and the presence of natural oils, Wenge is exceptionally durable and is naturally resistant to insects such as termites. It is also very dense and strong and is prone to general wear and tear.
Wenge timber can be used anywhere, inside and outside, without needing any chemical treatment to enhance its properties.
Wenge timber is generally difficult to work with due to its hardness and density. It can have a blunting effect on cutters & tool edges and can cause heating of blades during cutting.
It also has splinters on unfinished surfaces, which can be big enough to cause harm and risk of infections. It has large pores which can make it difficult to achieve a smooth finish.
Light and dark areas of the wood have different densities, which can make sanding uneven. It is easy to paint and polish though. Screwing and nailing might require pre-drilling.
Wenge wood can take considerable time to dry completely. It, however, requires low maintenance.
Availability & Price
Due to the high demand and over-exploitation of wenge trees over the past few years, this has become a scarce and expensive wood.
Over 50% of the wenge forests have been harvested over the last century, leaving limited availability of new wenge trees for timber.
As an endangered wood species, wenge is not commercially sold in many regions. However, it may be available in limited amounts with local or online wood merchants in some places.
Make sure that the wenge timber you’re buying is genuine and comes from an authentic source.
The price of wenge timber has increased significantly over the past years due to the increasing demand and limited availability of fresh wood.
Uses of Wenge Wood
Wenge is an ideal wood for many domestic and commercial woodworking applications. The only downside of this wood is that it can be difficult to work with owing to its hardness and density.
Because Wenge is dense, tough, and resistant to scratching and abrasion, it is the perfect choice for flooring. Even when used in high-traffic commercial premises, wenge flooring can withstand daily wear & tear without gettings dents or scratches. It can last years with little maintenance.
Wenge is also a wonderful but expensive choice for furniture making. Due to its aesthetic appeal and dark colour (similar to ebony), wenge is often used for making premium quality furniture, chairs, bed frames, and cabinets that can last very long.
Wenge is also considered a good option for making beautiful & high-end Musical Instruments, especially instruments that are built to last. Many top musical instrument manufacturers such as Mosrite, Ibanez, Court, Warwick, and Conklin Guitars make use of Wenge wood in their manufacturing process to achieve a stunning appearance and robustness.
Because wenge wood is easy to turn and can be shaped into many forms, it is also commonly used in segmented woodturning and to make various turned objects.
Wenge is also used for making sports equipment, especially strong & high-quality flatbows. As a strong and stiff hardwood, it has good shock resistance, which makes it a great choice for tool handles and sports equipment.
Due to its high density, strength, and stability, wenge is commonly used in the construction of building structures, panelling, veneers, plywood, and furniture.
Because it is naturally resistant to insects and decay, wenge is also a suitable wood for exterior applications such as outdoor furniture, decks, docks, and more.
Other than the above, Wenge wood has many other uses such as high-quality walking canes & handholds for canes, veneering, and panelling.
Where to Buy Wenge Wood?
As we mentioned, wenge wood is not easily or widely available. Only a few merchants will have them. If you are looking to buy wenge timber, you can contact Cameroon Timber Export SARL, one of the leading timber merchants & exporters in the region, to check availability and price.