More than 100 types of hardwoods are native to Brazil, and they split and warp less than hardwoods native to North America. Trees in this region often grow over 200 feet tall and can produce virtually knot-free logs that are over six feet in diameter. Brazilian hardwoods rank very high on the Janka rating scale. The flooring industry uses the Janka scale, which ranges from 0-4,000, to measure the hardness and durability of lumber.
Nearly the hardest, most durable wood available, Brazilian Walnut, also known as Ipe, has a 3,680 Janka rating. Like concrete and steel, it has a Class A rating in fire resistance. Its coloring ranges from olive-brown to near black. It resists fungus, moisture, and insects, including termites. Ipe's toughness makes sawing difficult and sanding without scratches a challenge. Unfortunately, Ipe's superior quality has resulted in over harvesting and decreased availability. Make sure your wood comes from a legal and sustainable source. Brazilian Walnut can cause allergic reactions in some people.
Brazilian Cherry, also known as Jatobá, is hard and dense with a Janka rating of 2,820. By comparison, the Janka rating of the Northern Red Oak is only 1,290. The density of Brazilian Cherry makes using hand tools difficult. Though sanding must be done carefully to avoid marring, it does sand well. If problems arise while nailing, pre-drill and adjust the angle. When harvested, Jatobá may be tan, yellow or salmon-pink. With sunlight and time, it deepens to the rich reddish tones that make it popular for flooring, furniture and cabinetry.
Amendoim Brazilian Oak has a Janka rating of 1,912 and resembles domestic oak with tan to medium-brown "wheat" tones. Age and sun exposure deepen the colors and bring out reddish highlights. Its great durability and high bending strength make it popular for high-stress boards. Used in flooring, cabinetry, furniture and indoor construction, Brazilian Oak machine cuts smoothly, and sanding presents few problems.
Found in Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, Tigerwood has a Janka rating of 1,850. With its unique banding pattern of chocolate-brown woven through deep, golden tones, people like it for specialty items, fine furniture, flooring, paneling, shutters and boats. An oily wood, Tigerwood resists moisture and water and insects and decay. The heavy oils in it can dull cutting tools and make cutting a challenge. Tigerwood dust can allergic reactions.
- Photo Credit Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images