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Cocobolo – A Complete Guide


Beautiful High Figured Cocobolo from Diamond Tropical Hardwodos
Beautiful High Figured Cocobolo

Introduction

Cocobolo is the more recognizable name for the Dalbergia retusa, a Central American tree. It's found most prominently in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, and parts of Mexico. Cocobolo’s many honorable attributes have led it to become one of the best lumbers for constructing and creating a wide variety of products. If you’re considering the wood for a home renovation or are simply interested in learning more about it, you’ve come to the right place.


Qualities of Cocobolo


Appearance

The internal wood structure of Cocobolo comes in a wide array of different colors. Its sapwood, or the wood closest to the bark of a tree, is a creamy yellow and white. The heartwood, the wood closest to the center of the tree, is a dark reddish brown, typically accompanied by brilliant flashes of violet and orange. These colors darken over time to deep, vibrant hues. They come together to create a gorgeous swirling pattern. No two pieces are the same, yet each is rich in beauty.


Durability

Cocobolo wood is well known for being incredibly hard and dense. It is extremely strong and durable. It has a very high natural oil content which makes it resistant to weather, insects, and rot. Because of this, Cocobolo wood is very well suited for outdoor furniture.


Scent

Cocobolo is also known for its unique scent. This floral and spice-like aroma comes from the oils found in the wood. It is most prominent during the woodworking phase. However, because Cocobolo wood is so dense and oily, it can produce this aroma for several years, especially if used for indoor paneling, flooring, or furniture.


Uses

Cocobolo proves to be very versatile. Here are a few of the more common uses for the wood:


  • Furniture (indoor and outdoor)

This is its primary use. Its durability makes it resistant to scratches and general wear. It holds up well against the elements of the great outdoors—and looks good while doing it.


  • Flooring

Less prone to scratches and dents


  • Musical instruments

Cocobolo has properties that allow it to very successfully bounce and absorb sound. This is especially great for stringed instruments, such as guitars.


  • Handles and grips

Smart choice for handles of knives and other tools


  • Smaller miscellaneous things

Great for bowls, chess pieces, pens, boxes, pool cues, and more


Awesome guitar made from Cocobolo
Awesome guitar made from Cocobolo


Maintenance

Because of its strength and durability, Cocobolo requires little maintenance compared to other hardwoods. However, like all wood materials, it can still deteriorate if not properly cared for. To maintain the color and overall beauty of your Cocobolo wood, regular cleaning with natural oils is recommended. Be sure to avoid harsh chemicals, as they can strip the wood of its natural color.


Disadvantages

Many benefits come with Cocobolo, but it is worth noting some of the drawbacks also associated with the wood.


  • Difficult woodworking process

Cocobolo can be fairly brittle. This adds a step for woodworkers, as they have to drill pilot holes before nailing and screwing. Additionally, because the wood is also very hard, tools used to cut it can quickly become dull.


  • Drawbacks of high oil content

The abundance of oil can make sanding more difficult, as it can clog the paper. It also makes the wood challenging to glue. Furthermore, the oil content can interfere with finishing, especially with oil-based varnishes. However, Cocobolo does accept lacquer well and can be polished to a high luster without any finish.


  • Allergic reactions

Irritation to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system can arise when one comes into contact with the dust of Cocobolo. However, this is only an issue in the early woodworking stages.


  • Cost

Because supply is low and demand is high, Cocobolo can be expensive.


  • Environmental concerns

Due to this high demand and commercial exploitation, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has ranked Cocobolo’s status as “vulnerable.” This signifies that more effort is needed to spread its growth. The trade of Cocobolo is now tightly regulated by several different governments around the world.


Cocobolo Spirit Song Ottoman
Cocobolo Spirit Song Ottoman

Conclusion

Cocobolo is an undeniably beautiful wood. Its differing patterns and unique qualities allow all of its creations to be special while all maintaining the same charm. However, like all hardwoods, it does come with some drawbacks that are important to acknowledge before making a purchase. Regardless, Cocobolo is highly praised by artisans, craftsmen, musicians, and interior designers alike.


Where You Get Your Cocobolo From Matters!

As mentioned before, Cocobolo is a vulnerable species of wood that needs extra protection. At Diamond Tropical Hardwoods, all of our Cocobolo is sustainably planted, harvested, and milled. As a part of the Rainforest Alliance, we work daily to protect the Rainforest while ethically sourcing our wood. We have CITES permits for all of our Cocobolo that are imported and exported outside of the United States. For more information, visit our site or reach out at howdy@diamondteak.com or 215-257-2556.


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