Jatoba, also known in the United States as Brazilian Cherry, is the wood of the Jatoba tree, "Hymenaea courbaril." Jatoba is a large crown tree native to the Amazon rain forest and tropical regions of Central America. Jatoba's resistance to termites makes it useful for flooring, furniture and cabinetry in its native range. In the United States, Jatoba is used as a veneer and in cabinetry, and is one of several species of exotic wood used for hardwood floors.
Jatoba's common name, Brazilian cherry, arises from its color. The wood ranges through shades of red from salmon to burgundy, accompanied by streaks of dark brown. Colors vary widely from board to board and darken as the lumber dries. When dry, the lumber polishes to a characteristic golden sheen. The grain typically has an interlocking pattern with a medium to coarse texture. The wood is dense and hard, with moderate porosity.
Jatoba is dense, with a weight of 56 pounds per cubic foot. It is also quite strong and hard, with a Janka hardness rating of 2820, third only to ebony and Brazilian walnut. The wood's toughness requires carpenters and woodworkers to use special techniques for working and fastening. Jatoba has high resistance to wear and abrasion, and high resistance to insect infestation. Both hardness and insect resistance diminish with increasing proportion of light pink or grayish sapwood.
Although the wood holds screws well, it readily splits when nailed. Carpenters usually predrill nail holes when this method is used for fastening. The wood glues moderately well when fully dry and accepts stains. A glue rated for oily wood is preferable. Jatoba's hardness requires sharp tools, especially carbide-tipped, for cutting, turning and drilling; the interlocking grain makes planing and sanding difficult. Despite its density and hardness, steam bending techniques work well with the wood. This property makes Jatoba a good choice for curved and circular pieces.
Most Jatoba imported to the United States is destined for use as hardwood floors and stair treads. Smaller lots of Jatoba sold for other uses are likely to end up in furniture, cabinets and small projects, where the wood's striking color and luster are used for accent pieces. Where it is more readily available, Jatoba is found in applications requiring hard, durable wood. This includes tool handles, sporting goods and wooden cogs and wheels.
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