WORKING WITH ROSEWOODS

Most Dalbergia species are oily and this can cause problems with gluing and finishing. With some rosewoods, and cocobolo comes particularly to mind with this, the denseness of the wood and the natural oiliness can be combined with buffing to create a "finish" that is better than chemical finishes. Because of the oiliness, some finishes (particularly polyurethane and other oil based finishes) do not adhere at all well, but this can easily be overcome with a few thin coats of dewaxed shellac.

Many Dalbergia species sometimes contain resin and this can cause some problems, particularly in gluing and finishing and if heavy, in machining as well. I have definitely experienced (and seen extensive anecdotal comments to the effect) that gluing is best done very shortly after machining/sanding operations, NOT after the wood has sat around for a few days. Also, many woodworkers highly recommend acetone to remove the surface oil before gluing. Personally, I have found this to be sometimes ineffectual, at least with cocobolo. I once had a piece that gave me a great deal of grief in finishing, so I completely stripped and re-sanded it and immediately rubbed it down quite vigorously with acetone, then waited a few minutes and again rubbed it with acetone, and then did that one more time. Each time, the rag I was using came away quite red, although noticeably less so on the 3rd application. I then applied polyurethane, and a month later it was STILL not dry. I assure you that I am not exaggerating when I say a month. That was when I looked for advice and found out about using dewaxed shellac as a barrier coat and I have not had a problem since (but I DO sometimes have to put on 4 coats of dewaxed shellac). I have heard others comment that acetone is not always effective but everything I have seen supports my belief that dewaxed shellac is always effective.

The density of rosewoods makes them a little tough to work sometimes. Sharp tools are a must. Also because of the density, pre-boring for screws is always the best idea. As for nails, basically you just shouldn't use nails on rosewoods (preferably don't use screws either) ... use good joinery and good glue so as to not do anything to detract from the beauty of the wood. Screws, of course, are sometimes not optional, especially for things like hinges, but they should be avoided if possible.

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