COMMON SUBSTITUTES FOR GENUINE ROSEWOOD

The woods presented here are commonly used when beauty is desired, but on a budget, and the descriptions here are primarily about APPEARANCE. See my web site for more details on working characteristics. Also, where more than one species uses a name, I only present here the generic form genus spp. and more details are available on my web site.


BOCOTE  (Cordia spp.) Although not a true rosewood, bocote, is still to my mind more attractive and more interesting than some of the true rosewoods. The heartwood is a golden yellow/green/tan with a background of very dark veining all in a sometimes really wild figure pattern that is absolutely striking. It's only available in small sizes. Like cocobolo, it is very oily/waxy and particularly resistant to oil-based finishes. One severe problem with bocote is that it darkens very considerably with age ... I have seen it turn basically black over a long period of time and even with multiple layers of UV-blocking polyurethane finish, it still darkens quite a lot. It is quite dense, generally weighing from 60 to 70 lbs/ft3 when kiln dried. Cost is in the $20/BF range.

 

BOLIVIAN ROSEWOOD (Machaerium spp. also commonly sold in the USA as morado) The heartwood ranges from brown to purple/brown, sometimes with red or yellow tinges, and a dark veining, which while quite attractive does not approach the rosewoods in variablity or beauty. Generally cheaper than the rosewoods, it is in the $20/BF range. It is fairly fine-textured and very pleasant to work and does not have the oiliness of the rosewoods. Density is in the 50 lb/ft3 range making it a little lighter than most rosewoods.

 

BUBINGA (Guibourtia spp.), also called "African Rosewood", bubinga is a very attractive purple/red with dark veining and comes in a variety of figures, some of which are just jaw-dropping. Sometimes strikingly similar to Honduras rosewood, this is a very dense and medium-fine-textured wood, available in very large sizes (the trees can be huge) and sometimes subject to drying difficulties. Because the trees are so large, veneer of this wood is common. Rotary cut veneer, which has a marvelously swirly figure, is called kevazinga (in the composite pic below, the second pic from the left in the bottom row is kevazinga; the piece directly above that is flat cut). Bubinga is very inexpensive (in the $10/BF range for normal wood, specialty figures can get VERY expensive) for one of the more attractive exotics, but is generally much less variegated in pattern than the rosewoods and aside from the specialty figures it is not, to my mind, much of a substitute for the rosewoods. Even the specialty figures are not actually substitutes for the rosewoods, but they are often astoundingly beautiful in their own right. Generally 50 to 60 lbs/ft3. In the composite pic below, I show only SOME of the fancy figures that are available in bubinga. The shiny surface on the pics in the upper right and middle left is NOT natural and is the result of image manipulation by a particular vendor.

 

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