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Exotic Woods Take a 10,000-mile Journey Down the Amazon

by Mark Stephens | September 21st, 2009

Down in the Amazon, we have a long time connection who keeps us informed about interesting woods and timber projects.

Keith Stephens steps off a water taxi after checking out logs in Peru

Keith Stephens steps off a water taxi after checking out logs in Peru

Before you think that sounds like a great job, consider the heat, the bugs, the bureaucracy, the red tape, the “we’ll get to your requests mañana” culture shock, the joys of long flights, delayed boats, slow buses, and then the half-dozen or so immunizations via needle you need to get before embarking on an Amazon wood expedition.  Glamorous?  I don’t know about that part.

Gorgeous milled exotic woods from Peru are neatly wrapped and labeled

Gorgeous milled exotic woods from Peru are neatly wrapped and labeled

Jim deserves a good pat on the back for this latest find in the Peruvian jungle.

This time around, he’s found several unusual, yet very beautiful, types of wood for which we’ve had a difficult time getting species data (many of these woods are virtually unknown), and (the best part!) all of them are superbly trimmed to uniform sizes, individually wrapped in plastic, and labeled.

Exotic wood loaded on the barge and ready for passage down the Amazon River

Exotic wood loaded on the Yacu Puma and ready for passage down the Amazon River

About two years ago, the wood started out in Peru as logs – and before that, you know, those logs were trees.  It was all sawn, dried, milled, wrapped and labeled near Iquitos.

I think this part’s really cool.  They loaded it all into a container, which took passage by the mighty Yacu Puma, an ocean going vessel,  down the Amazon river to the Atlantic Ocean where it hung a left.  Northbound!

Some time later, the Yacu Puma arrived in Houston, Texas to little fanfare.  This is where I make some conjecture: I picture the customs agent crunching his eyebrows at our 19 crates of bizarre wood and ordering in pizza for the night. He and his underlings pointed at our container and stamped the paperwork for inspection: INTENSIVE. Probably with big red letters and yellow highlighter.

The inspection held up the final delivery by a couple of weeks, but the wood arrived at our back door in good shape after being hauled in by flatbed trailer.

Check Out This Google Map of the Whole Journey:


View 10,000 Mile Voyage from the Amazon to Woodworkers Source in a larger map

Well, anyway, what does all this mean to you?

Easy, easy, easy — that’s what it means.  The perfectly milled-on-all-sides, wrapped and labeled wood that’s also beautiful makes it so easy for you to give your project an extra special edge with unique character. Most of these woods are so unusual, that we have little (or no) data about them; so I’ll include the botanical names in case you’d like to try to cross reference these woods in a resource of your own.

Did you know . . . .

that buying and using unusual or exotic woods actually brings value to the forests from which they come? Rather than burning these forests to accommodate all aspects of population explosion (like space for living and farming), a reasonable demand for these woods keeps the forests standing. And thanks to selective and sustainable harvesting, we can enjoy and appreciate exotic wood over and over without losing the forests.

Take Chontaquiro [chon-tuh-key-row] (Diplotropis purpureae): a nice chocolatey colored wood with an interlocking grain that shows a rather sporadic pattern.

Or look at Tigre Caspi [tee-gray cas-pee] (Zygia cataractae) with a marble like figure; light tan with dark brown irregular stripes.

For something more subdued, try Huayruro [no idea, sorry] (Ormosia arborea) which is kind of red, kind of brown, but also has a pretty uniform color and coarse texture that seems to hint,  “hey wait till you see me with a finish, pal.”

Chontaquiro is a dark beauty

Chontaquiro is a dark beauty

Tigre Caspi: See that intriguing marble coloring?

Tigre Caspi: See that intriguing marble coloring?

Huayruro is more medium colored, but even and pretty

Huayruro is more medium colored, but even and pretty

There’s also  Tigrillo [tih-gree-oh] (Zygia juruana): sort of tan in color with the consistency of Mahogany and some decent ribbon stripe grain.

We should all know about Bloodwood (Brosimum paraense) the classic deep red wood.  Much of what came in this load has sapwood on one edge or a more golden color. Just like what you see in the picture below.

Dalmata [dahl-ma-ta] (Swartzia arborescens) is also a red color, kind of brick colored, yet with some various dark streaks that should look cool in a finished piece

Tigrillo wood

Tigrillo wood

Good ol' bloodwood

Good ol' bloodwood

Dalmata wood

Dalmata wood

Try these dimensioned woods today!

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This entry was posted on Monday, September 21st, 2009 at 7:23 pm and is filed under Featured Specials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

12 Responses to “Exotic Woods Take a 10,000-mile Journey Down the Amazon”

  1. peruturner says:

    Well my friend,the red is not bloodwood,but estoraque,bloodwood does not have white sap, come by my place in lima and take a look at my place,call me at 4670916 ask for eduardo,sr,also look at my web

    http://www.esarmiento.250x.com

  2. Jan says:

    The tigre caspi and tigrillo actually look like they have a green color to them. Any green woods coming out of this area? I do intarsia and am always looking for green and blue (such as blue mahoe) woods.

  3. Alvaro says:

    Yes Mark, a woodworker, woodlover and treelover living in Lima, the capital of Peru. For some time now with many endeavors regarding our rain forests, where bio-diversification is so great, and at the same time highly fragile.
    Want to thank you, and your staf, for a brilliant resource such as Woodworkers source.

  4. Alvaro, thanks for the input and insider knowledge. Where did you become familiar with these woods? Are you in Peru?

  5. Alvaro says:

    They are all unique woods, most of them unknown to the rest of the world, and they all work fine ( machine ). Huayruro ( why-roo-ro ) is one of my favorites, although Black Huayruro is best yet, but very hard to find, it yields perfect and mirror like finishes.
    Chontaquiro is so dense and heavy, and yet it´s not very hard to work with, it will also attain nice finishing, and it is very stable. Dalmatian, Tigre Caspi and Tigrillo are nice turning
    materials. Last but not least, Blood wood, which is more widely known, needs not additional comments.

    While these species are not planted, their use greatly helps the rainforest, by getting the pressure off more popular, sought after species which occur in our jungles. Huayruro is widely used in Peru, mainly for structural work, as well as many other species. Take Shihuahuaco ( she-wa-wa-co ), known internationally as Cumaru, is fiercely being harvested to provide Chinese floor manufacturers. The Amazon river plains contain around 2,500 species of trees, and it is necessary to diversify harvesting because that is the way in which less damage is caused to the forest.

    There are lots of surprises in the jungle, and we are working into sustainable handling. It is very difficult, unending paper-work and red tape non-sense is a part of every day as Mark has properly stated. And as he also mentioned, when handling dense/heavy wood species, it just turns into a matter of weight instead of one of volume.

    Wish you all wood-workers to have fun with these wonder woods this source is placing at your disposal, I know for sure with NOT very little effort.

    Saludos

  6. Jim says:

    Ann mentioned it was harvested sustainably, is this wood from a plantation or wild growth?

  7. Yes, Bob, some turning stock too! We haven’t quite parsed it all out, but we’ll have it posted pretty soon.

  8. Funny you should ask, Dennis. In container loads, you’ll hit a weight limit before actually filling it top to bottom. In round numbers, though, you can do about 6,000 board feet in a 20′ container.

  9. Dennis says:

    So how many board feet can you get in a 20′ container?

  10. Bob Wright says:

    Are any of these nice woods available in turning squares for us undecideds (we just keep on turning) in NW Arkansas?

  11. Anonymous says:

    I’ll have to put my order in on some of the Tigre caspi. I’ll give dick a call to check on its arival time.

  12. A.H.B. says:

    It is wonderful that these beautiful woods are sustainably harvested!

    Thanks,

    Ann