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Lignum Vitae
(Guaiacum spp.)
Click on the photo to find a supplier! Lignum Vitae Lignum Vitae

COMMON NAMES:   Lignum vitae, Guayacan, Palo santo, ironwood

SPECIFIC GRAVITY:   1.05

DENSITY:  77 - 82 lbs./cu.ft.

TANGENTIAL MOVEMENT:   2.5%

RADIAL MOVEMENT:

VOLUMETRIC SHRINKAGE:

DURABILITY1:   Exceptional resistance to moisture and fungal attack

SOURCE:  West Indes, Central America, northern South America

DESCRIPTION:   One of the hardest and heaviest woods (three times as hard as oak), lignum vitae is most commonly used for mallet heads, bearings and rollers. Because of its durability and natural lubricants, it is the preferred wood for propeller bushings and other underwater applications. The lignum vitae tree generally grows to a diameter of about 12", although historically, trees in the 18" - 30" range have been known.

Lignum vitae is reddish brown when freshly cut, with pale yellow sapwood. As it oxidizes, the color turns to a deep green, often with black details. The grain is highly interlocked, making it difficult to work with edge tools, but it machines well and takes a high polish. It is a remarkably good wood for turning. A similar species, known as Maracaibo lignum vitae (Bulnesia arboria), which grows in Venezuela and northern South America, is similar in properties and appearance and is sometimes substituted for genuine lignum vitae.


1 Durability refers to a wood's resistance to rotting in wet environments.

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