Woodworkers and interior crafters use a lot of wood. There are different types available in the industry. Wenge comes as one of the most sought-after woods. Despite the wood facing extinction and rarity, there is a high demand for its use.
Let’s dive right in:
What is Wenge Wood?
Wenge wood, also known by its scientific name as Millettia laurentii, is a type of hardwood popular for its durability, visual appeal, brightness, and coloring. As a tropical wood, Wenge originates mainly from Central and West Africa. Its color ranges from medium to dark brown. Wenge contains black streaks and is commonly used in interior furniture and flooring.
But that’s just a quick glimpse.
In this article, we’ll look at the following:
- Origin, properties, features, pros, and cons of Wenge
- Applications of Wenge
- Comparative description: Wenge vs. Rosewood, Wenge vs. Ebony, Wenge vs. Walnut, etc.
- Wenge: FAQs
Just keep reading!
Properties and Characteristics of Wenge
|Scientific name||Millettia laurentii|
|Origin and distribution||Central and West Africa|
|Millettia stuhlmannii Commercial restriction||No commercial restriction|
|Odor||Slightly bitter scent|
|Thickness of sapwood||2-3 cm|
|Log durability||Good, termite-resistant, water-resistant|
|Coeff. of volumetric shrinkage||0.70%|
|Total tangential shrinkage (TS)||9.2%|
|Total radial shrinkage (RS)||6.0%|
|Fiber saturation point||23%|
|Crushing strength||86 MPa|
|Static bending strength||145 Mpa|
|Modulus of elasticity||21060 Mpa|
|Musical quality factor||136,0 measured at 2630 Hz|
Origin & History
As earlier noted, Wenge wood originates from Central and West Africa, including Equatorial Guinea, DR Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, and the Republic of Congo. Some of its common names include African Rosewood, panga-panga, among others. The wood serves as native medicine in many African countries. It’s listed as one of the endangered species due to the high exploitation of the natural ecosystem.
Wenge wood comes in a wide range of colors, ranging from medium to dark brown. Sometimes, the wood can appear with a yellowish or reddish hue. It also features black streaks but turns nearly black when you apply finish on it. On exposure to sunlight, wenge heartwood can lighten.
The arrangement of the wenge wood tree is in solitary and radial multiples. It features a diffuse porosity with narrow width and normal spacing. The anatomy of the wood tree also spots vessels with very dark brown deposits.
Durability and Treatability
Wenge wood is a highly durable wood with a close-grained pattern. It offers amazing treatability, thanks to its decorative treatment capacity. Wenge wood will also resist all kinds of termite attacks, rots, and moisture. It doesn’t absorb water even when it sinks in it.
|Risk of distortion||slight risk|
|Risk of casehardening||No|
|Risk of checking||High risk|
|Risk of collapse||No|
|Possible drying schedule||4|
Wenge wood releases some toxic dust. This causes serious respiratory problems. The toxicity of the wood can also affect the central nervous system, skin and eye irritation, as well as abdominal cramps. Wenge wood splinters can take a long time to heal.
Wenge wood is difficult to work with. It can blunt your tool edges and makes its sharpness inactive. Smoothing the wood surface perfectly can be a little difficult. Getting smooth and even sanding of the wenge wood surface isn’t easy.
Wenge wood pros and cons
Pros of Wenge
- Wenge has an appealing and bright appearance
- It is very strong and stiff, with a MOR of 16,200 psi and MOE of 1.97m psi
- Available in a wide range of sizes, applications, and widths
- It has a high density and won’t absorb water readily
- Highly durable and resistant to moisture and termite
- Suitable for interior and exterior use
Cons of Wenge
- It’s toxic and not food-safe. and can cause allergy and food poising
- Its high density is a disadvantage as it can blunt or damage tool edges
- Highly tough for manual polishing and cutting
- Due to high demands and a possibility of going to extinction, Wenge is rare and highly-priced
- Difficult to work at high altitudes due to weight
What is wenge wood used for?
Flooring: Wenge wood works well for flooring due to its dark color and hardness. The hardness of Janka wenge wood is about 1,930 lbf. Being a hardwood, Wenge is not prone to scratches and dents and will resist them very easily. However, you’ll ensure constant maintenance.
Cabinetwork (high-class furniture): Wenge works as accent wood to make high-end furniture like a cabinet. This is due to its hardness and fantastic color range. It can occur from medium-dark to dark brown. Dark wood is the best pick for making cabinets.
Sliced veneer: As a close-grained hardwood, Wenge is an excellent option to make the sliced veneer. Wenge is suitable for flat-slice veneers because of its durability. When Wenge is cut into thin strips or veneers, it can be glued to softwood substrate or plywood to make furniture.
Current furniture or furniture components: Wenge woods are known to get better and stronger with age. This way, they offer a brighter, bolder, and more luxurious outlook. They offer incredible dramatic texture as they age. Your living room wenge-made furniture will offer a dramatic feel at any time.
Interior/Exterior joinery: Wenge wood works well to make both interior and exterior joinery due to its hardness and durability. Wenge wood will last longer than tonewoods would do. It will also hold out against a wide of range of threats, including moisture, termite, and the elements. Wenge also shines brighter.
Interior/Exterior paneling: Wenge wood is an incredible raw material for interior and exterior paneling. Ceiling, wall, furniture, and door panels need a type of wood that offers an amazing decorative outlook. Wenge is hard, bright, and provides a smooth finish. Wenge wood veneers offer this decorative treatment.
Sculpture: Wenge wood features a rich partridge wood pattern plus visual appeal and color. These features are needed to make a sculpture. Sculptures are expected to be hard and shine brightly, and Wenge has all the features to make it suitable for carving a good sculpture.
Turned goods: Wenge wood has become a sought-after wood for turned objects. This is because the wood boasts a high level of density. As a colorful streaked hardwood, Wenge is hard enough to be used to carve and shape your goods.
Wenge wood is one of the industry’s most expensive and rare tropical woods. Being an endangered wood species, Wenge comes at a higher price. The high demand for wood also causes a spike in price. With $24.99, you can buy a board foot (144 cubic inches) of this wood, depending on the seller.
Wenge wood vs. Walnut
Both Wenge and Walnut praise woodworkers in terms of stability, wide application, and workability. Wenge and Walnut are a perfect fit for high-end structures, thanks to their durability and strength. They are both hardwoods and are dense. Walnut is a dense hardwood with a tight grain pattern. The light-colored walnut wood can offer a clean and fine finish when polished. Besides, its flexibility for different patterns, including curls and swirls, makes it a go-to guy in the industry. Wenge is a bit darker and highly resistant to termites and insects. In terms of application, Wenge is more suitable for use on a wide range of construction such as furniture, paneling, and flooring.
Wenge wood vs. Rosewood
The combination of Wenge and Rosewood will be perfect for producing a guitar neck. Wenge is less waxy than Rosewood. Wenge wood behaves like a candle, making a bit of half rosewood and half Bubinga. Rosewood has more brightness than a typical wenge wood in terms of brightness. In the end, you’ll have to consider the project you’re handling. For instance, if you’re looking at making a guitar neck, a combo of Wenge and Ebony will work better than blending Wenge with Rosewood. Rosewood has a relatively softer feel than Wenge when it comes to texture. Of course, Wenge is a hard black wood.
Wenge wood vs. Ebony
Wenge is known for its hard, splintery nature, making it a wood that dulls tools. On the other hand, Ebony is not as brittle as Wenge. Although there are different types of ebony wood, they’re generally oily. However, the natural range of Wenge far outweighs that of Ebony. However, both Ebony and Wenge are dense woods and they can hold out to any abuse. Ebony is relatively pricier than wenge wood. A wenge wood will turn dark when you apply a finish. After the finish is applied, ebony wood will retain its color on the other side of the coin. Wenge comes as a perfect replacement for Ebony in many applications. The good thing is that you can combine Ebony with wenge wood to make an incredible guitar neck.
Absolutely! Generally, wenge wood is a highly sustainable wood. It boasts excellent carbon sequestration, a chemical process that takes carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and stores it in a solid or liquid state. Wenge wood also features storage. However, when compared to wood from local temperate forests, Wenge has less sustainable, no thanks to its tropical origin.
where to buy wenge wood?
There are a lot of places you can buy wenge wood. You can choose to order online to walk straight into the land-based wood sellers. The best two ways are to either order by foot or by piece. If you’re ordering by foot, you’ll only have to choose the number of board feet you’ll need. Alternatively, choosing by piece requires choosing your size.
So far, we’ve answered the question ‘what is wenge wood?’ The good thing is that wood has a lot of benefits and a wide range of applications. This variety of features gives it a standout status among other hardwoods. The next time you want to handle a few woodworking projects with hardwood, Wenge should be one of the top woods to consider. It is sturdy, durable, water-resistant, and easy to glue and applies. Wenge features some black streaks and toxic dust as exotic, hard, dark brown wood. However, you’ve got to be careful not to allow the wood dust to mix with your eyes, skin, or food. It’s toxic and not safe in some areas.
My name is Mark, and I am a software engineer and the founder of OnWoodWorkingArt.
I grew up with a passion for woodworking and now have my woodworking studio with a group of like-minded friends who love to create woodworking. My dream is to have a more extensive workshop and be able to make woodworking my main business.