Lignum Vitae Hardwood

Lignum Vitae

Lignum vitae is a hardwood species, known by its botanical name Guaiacum officinale and related species (Zygophyllaceae). The heartwood of this timber is typically dark greenish-brown or nearly black, with a strongly interlocked, irregular grain and a very fine texture. Its unique waxy feel is due to the fact that around 30% of its weight is guaiac gum. The sapwood is clearly demarcated from the heartwood, and is pale yellow or cream in colour.

Lignum vitae is a highly versatile timber, with a range of uses including boatbuilding, mallet heads and more. Its durability and strength make it an ideal choice for marine applications, and it can be sourced from sustainable and legal sources.

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Material Type:

Also Called:
Guayacan, Guayacan Negro, Palo Santo, Ironwood. G. Sanctum Is Now The Most Important Commercial Species, As G. Officinale Is In Short Supply.

Durability Notes:
Lignum vitae wood is a durable timber.

The drying and seasoning of Lignum Vitae is dependant on a number of factors; the speed in which it is processed after felling and logging, the method of drying and the specific kilns or location (if air dried). Generally the care taken by those processing the wood will have an impact on its drying and seasoning. As an overview; Lignum Vitae - it is rather challenging to season; it requires a lot of care in the process and end coating is recommended. Shakes and end splits are typical defect. Lignum vitae has moderate dimensional stability. Please note that all wood is liable to move when in service plus there can be dimensional change. The extent of this will depend on; the stability of the species itself, the conditions it is exposed to, the coating, decoration and protection. You will find more information about the suitability of this wood, for any proposed application, by using our interactive system and the filters shown.

Lignum Vitae has very high strength properties and the heartwood is exceptionally hard, dense and heavy. The sapwood is, however decidedly less hard. The wood is unsuitable for bending. Lignum Vitae is a very challenging wood to work with hand tools and very hard to saw and machine. Lignum Vitae has a tendency to ride on the cutters when being machine-planed and has a tolerable blunting effect on cutting tools. Gluing and sanding is challenging due to the oil content but Lignum Vitae can be brought to a good polished finish with some work.

Typical Uses:
Boatbuilding, Furniture, Turnery, Flooring, Carving, Musical Instruments, Bearings, Pulley Blocks, Tool Handles.

Moisture Content:
Guide - 10-18% for KD (+/- 2%)

Commonly asked questions about Lignum vitae Wood

Is Lignum vitae a hardwood or a softwood? Lignum vitae is a hardwood. It is the same for; is Lignum vitae hardwood or softwood? - Lignum vitae is a hardwood.

Most groups/families of species share the same characteristics but this normally relates to their life as plants. Individual species do not always share the same characteristics as their relatives, in terms of the wood. Many factors influence how we use the wood and what we use it for, including where it grows, how it is forested, how it seasons/dries, etc. The answers to the following common questions, therefore relate to this particular species/wood and not the Lignum vitae family as a whole. Even more specific – our answers relate to the wood (as we know it) in its form as a useable resource.

What colour is Lignum vitae? Lignum vitae can be described as black/very dark brown, brown, dark brown, yellow/brown

Is Lignum vitae good for outdoor use? or is Lignum vitae good for exterior use? Lignum vitae is most suited for internal/interior use. Lignum vitae should not be used as an exterior/external timber (without treatment).

Whether the wood is naturally durable or not we would still recommend that it is decorated and/or coated with a suitable product to provide protection and/or maintain its appearance. This even applies when using the wood internally as, even subtle, changes in temperature or humidity will affect the wood. This will depend on the application/purpose of the wood and the user’s desired appearance. We also recommend that a recoating, care and maintenance programme is adhered to, for the life of an exterior wood. Wood cannot rot if it is kept dry – coatings and decoration can provide this protection. All of that said there are many durable timbers that are often left to weather naturally and will last for many years untreated/coated – movement and visual changes will occur but this is sometimes the desired effect. All wood is hygroscopic (it 'wants' to be in tune with its environment) it will therefore take on water from moisture in the air (or when directly exposed to or submerged in water) and ‘release it’ when dry or exposed to heat. This, inevitably, results in movement and dimensional change. For more about moisture in wood please click here - Moisture in wood

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