Wood is the all-time most popular building material. There are many types of wood each one with specific characteristics and features. Some woods are darker while others are lighter. Some woods are best for use outdoors while others shine indoors. But have you ever wondered what are the world’s heaviest woods?
Characteristics of heavy wood
Heavy wood is the term for dense wood. Despite belonging to different classes and species, heavy wood has some common properties that any woodworker should consider.
Heavy woods tend to be too tough to cut. You may need a very sharp saw like a circular saw or a miter saw to cut through the dense outer part and into the inner heart of the wood. You need a very strong saw with a powerful motor and a sharp blade with large teeth. This will help bite through the dense part of the heavy wood.
Most heavy woods resist stains and sealants. Even if you apply a sealant and stain product on heavy wood, the product will just remain on the surface and will never be absorbed by the wood fibers. It’s also possible for heavy woods to resist nails and screws. You need a power drill to drive a hole first into the wood before you can attach nails or screws.
Heavy woods have unique patterns on the grain. Most have dark grains while some with light grains but with pronounced rings. All these make heavy woods in demand and very expensive.
You’ll also notice that the strongest and the heaviest woods grow mostly in untouched forests in South America, South Africa, and Asia. Most are rare woods and thus are very expensive. It’s impossible to buy these woods from a local retailer and you may have to wait a long time if you want to order from abroad.
The top ten heaviest woods in the world
1. Black Ironwood – Krugiodendron ferreum
Black Ironwood has a density of 84.5 lbs/ft3 and because of this, it is the heaviest wood on the planet. The pieces of the Black Ironwood are not for sale and the tree is too small and thus, cannot produce commercially available lumber. The Black Ironwood is not related to the Desert Ironwood but both can be used in small projects, carved and turned objects.
2. Itin – Prosopis kuntzei
The Itin has a density of 79.6 lbs/ft3 and is one of the densest and heaviest woods in South America. It is a super mesquite wood but is not related to it. The wood is very dark, dense, and hard which is why it’s used as a substitute for rare ebony wood.
3. African Blackwood – Dalbergia melanoxylon
The African Blackwood has a density of 79.3 lbs/ft3. It is a very dark, scary wood surface which is why many woodworkers believe that this is the original ebony wood. African blackwood is legendary as it is very rare and very expensive. It is used to make small projects, decorations, and turning pieces.
4. Lignum Vitae – Guaiacum officinale
The Lignum Vitae wood has a density of 78.5 lbs/ft3. It is one of the heaviest and densest pieces of wood but sadly, it is included in the CITES list of endangered wood. Because of these properties, Lignum Vitae is very expensive. Woodworkers use verawood as a substitute for this precious rare wood.
5. Quebracho – Schinopsis spp.
The Quebracho has a density of 77.1 lbs/ft3 which makes it one of the densest and the hardest wood materials on earth. The name Quebracho came from quebrar hacha, a Spanish word that translates to “axe breaker.” Quebracho belongs to the Schinopsis gen which is where wood with the densest and hardest grains belong.
6. Leadwood – Combretum imberbe
Leadwood has a density of 75.8 lbs/ft3 making it one of the hardest and heaviest woods in South Africa. Leadwood is a very hard African wood and is not for sale. This is a rare tree and is well-protected in the regions of South Africa.
7. Snakewood – Brosimum guianense
Snakewood has a density of 75.7 lbs/ft3. This is a very unique wood because of its lovely snakeskin-like pattern. Snakewood is very much in demand but is available in very limited supply. It is even known as the most expensive wood on the planet.
8. Desert Ironwood – Olneya tesota
The Desert Ironwood has a density of 75.4 lbs/ft3 and is one of the most popular woods among hobbyists. It has a lovely, colorful pattern which is why it’s used in creating very small projects. Desert Ironwood is one of the strongest, toughest, and yet the most beautiful wood materials on the planet.
9. Kingwood – Dalbergia cearensis
Kingwood has a density of 74.9 lbs/ft3. The name Kingwood came from the many French monarchs as this wood is the material of choice to make high-quality fine furniture pieces. The wood grain of Kingwood is dark with defined lines. It looks rough or coarse but actually, the surface feels smooth and luxurious.
10. Verawood – Bulnesia Arborea
Verawood has a density of 74.4 lbs/ft3 and is also known as Argentine Lignum Vitae. It is a lovely wood with a delicate olive-green surface. The grain has a feathery pattern and can take natural finishes with ease. Verawood is no doubt one of the most enchanting commercially available types of wood.
Runners up for the heaviest woods in the world are the Camelthorn with a density of 74.0 lbs/ft3, the Zapote with a density of 73.0 lbs/ft3, Macassar Ebony with a density of 71.8 lbs/ft3, and the Brown Ebony with a density of 72.3 lbs/ft3. Take note that water has a density of 62.3 lbs/ft3 taken at room temperature or 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that all the woods listed and the runner-ups will all sink when in the water.
Most of the heaviest woods on our list are not commercially available, some are very rare and even close to being extinct. Considering that there are still untouched forested areas in the world, there could be more trees bearing heavier lumber but these may not be documented yet.