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Curupay: An Exotic Unlike Any other Wood

by Mark Stephens | October 30th, 2009
Down in Paraguay, nothing beats an ox cart for hauling tropical logs to the mill

Down in Paraguay, nothing beats an ox cart for hauling tropical logs to the mill

In 1999 Keith, the owner of Woodworkers Source, went to Paraguay to visit a sustainable yield lumber project.  He came back with a container load of unusual woods following shortly after.

When we bring in unusual woods, it’s often with a bit of stand-back-and-wait because even though we’ve seen a sample piece (or maybe not at all), it’s often a surprising what really shows up on the truck.

A Nice Surprise – Curupay (Anadenanthera macrocarpa)

Curupay lumber shows some irregular dark lines

Curupay lumber shows some irregular dark lines

Curupay (“ker-oo-pay,” more or less),  a wood that came from this operation in Paraguay,  turned out to be a pleasant surprise and popular wood; due to both the appearance of the raw boards and the machining and finishing characteristics.   At first, it was a little odd.  The wood had a dark tan color and sporadic, but interesting, dark lines or stripes.  As time went by the tan wood changed to red so long as it was exposed to light – and by red I mean an unmistakable brick to burgundy color.

The wood takes a flawless glassy surface with a bit of sanding sealer and a lacquer top coat.  The trouble with it was its weight and hardness, which is much like that of bloodwood.  Curupay has some interlocking grain that’s difficult to plane  and will chip without some special care (such as reduced cutting angle and feed rate). While it doesn’t shine in the department that goes easy on tools and cutters, it does happen to produce excellent results in turning, sanding, polishing, and finishing.

Nevertheless, the wood was a popular one, it sold out, and we hadn’t seen it for a number of years.  We had many customers request it, including a project for stairs and interior trim work in a Hawaii bungalow, we just couldn’t locate a source for the wood. That is until about a year ago.  One of our long time relationships drummed up a container of a few gorgeous and unusual woods, curupay one of them.  As expected the wood looks phenomenal.

Why Use Curupay?

This Curupay box is just over 10 years old and still maintains a rich red color

This Curupay box is just over 10 years old and still maintains a rich red color

In a standard answer, using these lesser known imports spreads out the demand and relieves pressure from the more popular tropical woods.  It’s in everyone’s best interest to maintain diversity in the world’s  forests. Giving value to various trees means they’d be less likely to be slashed and burned to make space for population growth and ranching.

But more specifically to woodworking, curupay brings a unique look to your projects that you’ll like.  It’s also makes a superior choice for outdoor projects as it has a high resistance to decay and impregnation.  Curupay will make strong, durable furniture that’s also strikingly beautiful.

Who knows? It might be your next favorite wood.

From Start to Finish

To help show you the progression of curupay, I’ve taken a small board that’s 8″x24″ and did a little work on it:

This curupay board didn't show these dark streaks until the sanding process, which was rather unusual.

This curupay board didn't show these dark streaks until the sanding process, which was rather unusual.

Same board, obviously, placed on a hard maple table.

Same board, obviously, placed on a hard maple table.

After two full days of being exposed to direct sunlight, UV rays have done their job.

After two full days of being exposed to direct sunlight, UV rays have done their job.

Here's the same board with a clear lacquer finish showing off an exquisite maroon color

Here's the same board with a clear lacquer finish showing off an exquisite maroon color

6 Months later with a lacquer finish and the wood is holding strong with a deep red color and all around stunning look

6 Months later with a lacquer finish and the wood is holding strong with a deep red color and all around stunning look



It’s hard to believe isn’t it?  I didn’t expect the sun to force the dark streaks to fade away, but the finished result is certainly stunning.  Don’t you think?

Should Curupay Be Called A Rosewood?

Curupay tree (from Flickr, click for lager version and caption)

Curupay tree (from Flickr, click for lager version and caption)

We have seen curupay sold in the flooring industry, to no one’s credit, under the misleading names Patagonia Rosewood and/or Andes Rosewood.  Curupay may very well appear “pretty with stripes” it’s not a real rosewood, as defined as being from the Dalbergia genus.

The curupay tree really thrives in northern Argentina (ironically, Patagonia is the southern region of Argentina), and sub-tropical areas of Brazil and Paraguay.  The largest it’ll get is about 80 feet tall and just 24 inches in diameter.

For a tropical tree, it’s actually considered small to medium.

Curupay Lumber and Wood

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This entry was posted on Friday, October 30th, 2009 at 3:59 pm and is filed under Featured Specials, Wood Conversations. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • Morgan Holt

    You might enjoy reading about other uses here as well. An interesting seed to say the least!
    http://shaman-australis.com.au/shop/index.php?cPath=21_26_53

  • Morgan Holt

    NO Curapay is a member of the Leguminosae or Pea family of plants. It falls in the same family of trees as our Desert Ironwood, Mesquites, and Palo Verdes here in Arizona.

  • http://www.woodworkerssource.com Mark Stephens

    What is the criteria for a good gun grip wood? I’m not quite sure. We do sell this wood to a company that makes knife handles, if that helps much.

  • vishnu

    Does anyone have an opinion as to how curapay would work for handgun grips?

  • http://www.woodworkerssource.com Mark Stephens

    Cherry family? I wish I knew what he meant, Larry. I don’t know if that’s a botanical statement or an opinion about the color. The wood is not related to what we have in the States that’s called cherry (Prunus serotina).

  • Larry Wolfe

    I was told curapay is a member of the cherry family by a employee of wood store Was he correct Ihave turned pens ,etc. & it turns well ,finishes nicely