Woodworking is an ancient craft that has been used for centuries to create beautiful and sturdy pieces of furniture, art, and more.
If you’re new to this craft, you may wonder what types of exotic woods to use for your projects. Here, I’ll share with you the 13 most beautiful and rarest ones you can find.
1. Padauk African Lumber
Padauk African Lumber has always fascinated me with its striking reddish-orange color that darkens to rich mahogany over time. It is also unusually hard and heavy, making it ideal for projects that require durability and strength.
Padauk African Lumber is an exotic hardwood that originates from central and western Africa. The tree grows to a height of about 100 feet and has large, feather-like leaves.
The lumber is harvested from the tree’s trunk and branches, which are cut into boards ranging from 1/4″ to 3″ thick. This wood can be difficult to work with due to its density and hardness, so you may opt for purpleheart lumber as an alternative.
Having worked with Padauk, I can vouch for the significance of keeping your tools razor-sharp when using this wood. Dull tools can easily lead to tearing or chipping.
Because of its unique coloration, padauk can bleed when exposed to moisture. This is why it’s important to seal the wood before beginning your project.
2. Black Locust
Black Locust is a fast-growing, deciduous tree that is native to the southeastern United States. It is known for its strength, durability, and resistance to rot and decay — qualities that any woodworker would admire.
Black Locust is an extremely strong and durable wood, making it ideal for various woodworking projects. One of the reasons the Black Locust is so strong is its high density. It’s actually one of the densest hardwoods available, meaning your woodworking project will last for years.
It also has a wide range of colors and grain patterns, making it a versatile choice for any project. The sapwood of black locust is creamy white, but its heartwood can appear light to dark chocolate brown.
Its grain is generally straight, though you might encounter occasional waves or irregularities. It’s worth noting that when working with Black Locust, there can be minor color variations between boards.
This wood finds its calling in various outdoor projects like decks, fences, and garden furniture. It’s also a popular choice for flooring and interior trim work. Black Locust can be tricky to work with due to its hardness, so it’s important to use sharp tools when machining this wood.
3. Desert Ironwood
Desert Ironwood is a slow-growing tree that is native to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. The tree gets its name from its dense, heavy wood, which is extremely strong and durable.
When it comes to woodworking, Desert Ironwood is a natural choice for woodworking projects demanding unyielding strength and stability, think furniture and cabinetry. Its grain pattern, ranging from straight to wavy, adds to its charm. The wood itself typically boasts rich, dark brown or black tones, often with hints of purple or red.
Because of its strength and stability, I’ve seen desert ironwood often used in high-end furniture and cabinetry. It is also popular for turnings, carving, and other decorative applications.
However, there’s a catch – Desert Ironwood isn’t commercially available. To get your hands on it, you’ll need to harvest it from dead or dying trees in the wild. This rarity factor places it among the most expensive woods on the market, making it a choice primarily for the most dedicated or well-heeled woodworkers out there.
4. Chakte Viga
Chakte Viga, hailing from Mexico and Central America, is a hardwood that never fails to catch my eye. It’s characterized by its beautiful reddish-brown wood with a straight grain pattern and high natural luster.
One of the best things about Chakte Viga is its appearance. The grain pattern in this wood is simply stunning and will make your project stand out. It is also a very hard wood, giving it a long-lasting look.
Additionally, I’ve come to appreciate the undeniable durability of this wood, ensuring that the projects I create not only look fantastic but also withstand the test of time. It is also resistant to rot and insect damage, which provides a sense of reassurance that your project will last many years.
Chakte Viga also has many uses beyond just woodworking. This exotic wood is often used for construction purposes due to its strength and durability. I’ve also seen it put to good use in boatbuilding and as a striking veneer for cabinets and furniture.
Mopane is a tree that is native to Africa. The wood from this tree is very dense and hard, making it ideal for various woodworking projects. However, what truly intrigues me about Mopane is its unique ability to undergo a transformation in color over time.
When first cut, mopane wood has a yellowish color. But over time, it will darken to a rich brown color. This innate ability to evolve in color lends a distinct and alluring character to the projects I’ve had the pleasure of working on.
Beyond its aesthetic appeal, mopane wood is also known for being very durable. This makes it ideal for projects with a lot of wear and tear, such as flooring or furniture. Mopane is also resistant to insect damage and rot, which means it will last many years with proper care.
Furthermore, mopane’s workshop-friendliness is impressive, too. In contrast to certain other exotic woods, it readily accommodates machining, adhesive applications, and the finishing process.
6. Burmese Blackwood
When it comes to exotic woods, few are as beautiful and unique as Burmese Blackwood. It’s one of those hardwood gems that you just can’t help but admire.
This wood is like a prized treasure in the world of high-end furniture and musical instruments. It boasts an exceptional density and an absolutely stunning grain pattern that adds an artistic touch to any project. What’s more, it’s a woodcarver’s dream – responsive and yielding under skilled hands.
Burmese Blackwood is native to Southeast Asia. The trees can grow to be over 100 feet tall and are often used as shade trees in coffee plantations. It’s fascinating to note that this beautiful wood is harvested when the trees reach about 30 years of age.
Katalox is a deciduous tree that grows in Mexico and Central America. It’s a pea family member, which also includes minerals such as lapis lazuli and turquoise. Katalox can grow up to 50 feet tall and 2-3 feet in diameter.
The heartwood is a deep purple-brown, while the sapwood is lighter in color. Katalox is one of the densest woods in the world, with a Janka hardness rating of 4500 lbf. This makes it an extremely hard and durable wood that is perfect for high-traffic areas such as floors and staircases.
Katalox is an oily wood that resists most common finishes very well. However, because it is so dense, it can be difficult to work with using hand tools. I recommend using sharp blades when working with Katalox, as dull blades can cause the wood to chip or splinter.
Because of its density and hardness, Katalox is often used for heavy-duty applications such as flooring and staircases. But its versatility doesn’t stop there. You’ll spot it in furniture, cabinetry, turned objects, and even musical instruments.
It’s worth mentioning Katalox’s outstanding resistance as well, both against water and the pesky critters that love to nibble on wood. This makes it an excellent choice for outdoor furniture, like picnic tables and patio furniture.
Ebony is a type of black wood that’s native to tropical Africa and parts of Asia, and it’s been used for centuries for everything from furniture to musical instruments.
Ebony wood is jet black with a very fine texture. The heartwood is dense and heavy, and the grain is usually straight but can be wavy or irregular. Ebony wood has a natural luster that makes it very beautiful and versatile.
Ebony wood is one of the world’s hardest woods, making it perfect for long-lasting furniture and musical instruments. Ebony wood is also very water-resistant, so it’s perfect for outdoor projects as well.
Ebony wood can be used for a variety of different projects, including furniture, musical instruments, turnings, carving, and inlays. I’ve also seen it expertly used to create striking contrasts with lighter woods like maple or cherry, further showcasing its adaptability and aesthetic charm.
Bamboo is one of the world’s strongest, most versatile, and most environmentally-friendly types of exotic wood.
There are three most popular types of bamboo woods used in woodworking:
Moso Bamboo is native to China and grows to an impressive height of 18 meters. The culms or stems of Moso Bamboo are typically straight, with a smooth, yellow-brown surface.
It is one of the most popular types of bamboo used in woodworking due to its strong and durable properties. Moso is also one of the most environmentally-friendly types of wood, as it regenerates quickly and does not require harmful pesticides or herbicides to grow.
Black Bamboo takes a different route with its dark culms, often serving decorative purposes. It grows to a height of 9 meters and has a diameter of 2.5-5 cm. The nodes on black bamboo are very pronounced, which gives it a unique appearance. Despite its visual appeal, black bamboo doesn’t skimp on strength and durability, making it a fine choice for furniture and flooring projects.
And then there’s Golden Bamboo, earning its name from its vibrant yellow culms that can soar up to 15 meters.
Golden bamboo is strong and pliable, making it suitable for use in a variety of applications. It is also one of the fastest-growing bamboo types, making it an environmentally-friendly choice for woodworking projects.
Bamboo is prized for its strength and durability – it’s been known to withstand hurricane-force winds! It’s also hypoallergenic and antimicrobial, making it a great choice for woodworkers with allergies or sensitive skin.
Jarrah is a hardwood that is native to Australia. It ranges in color from light reddish brown to dark red or nearly black. Jarrah is prized for its durability and strength, making it ideal for use in outdoor furniture and other products that will be exposed to the elements.
Working with Jarrah has always been an exciting experience for me, primarily because of its exceptional hardness and density – it’s truly one of the toughest woods out there! This makes it ideal for outdoor furniture and other projects that will see a lot of wear and tear.
Jarrah is also dimensionally stable, meaning it won’t warp or cup over time as some other woods can.
Another great thing about Jarrah is that it’s naturally resistant to rot and insects, making it perfect for use in damp or humid environments.
However, it’s worth noting that Jarrah’s density does present a challenge when working with traditional hand tools. But, from my experience, this obstacle is easily overcome by using power tools with sharp blades.
Due to its many desirable properties, Jarrah is popular among woodworkers for a variety of different projects. Outdoor furniture is one common use, as the wood’s natural resistance to rot and insects means it will last for many years with minimal maintenance.
But it doesn’t stop there – Jarrah is also a great choice in indoor applications like flooring, decking, and countertops. Its hardness and stability make it excellent for projects that demand enduring quality.
I’ve had my fair share of experience with Canary wood, and let me tell you, it’s quite a remarkable hardwood. This stuff hails from Central America and boasts a striking yellow hue, earning it the name “Canary wood.” The color can range from a subtle pale yellow to a vibrant shade.
Now, what sets Canary wood apart is its remarkable density, scoring a solid 2300 on the Janka hardness scale. That makes it a top pick for projects that demand durability, like flooring and furniture. Canary wood also has a low shrinkage rate, meaning it is less likely to warp or crack over time.
Its color can vary from pale to vibrant, depending on the particular tree the lumber was sourced from. The grain pattern of canary wood is relatively straight and smooth, making it suitable for a wide range of design styles.
You’ll often spot this wood in high-end furniture and cabinetry due to its strength and beauty. It’s also a popular choice for flooring, paneling, and architectural applications.
However, it can be challenging to work with canary wood, so it is best suited for experienced woodworkers.
Mahogany is a tropical hardwood that is native to Africa and the Americas. Mahogany has a reddish-brown color with darker streaks throughout. Mahogany wood is a particularly popular choice for woodworking projects because of its strength and beauty.
What makes Mahogany a go-to choice for woodworking projects is its fantastic blend of strength and beauty. This wood is incredibly robust and resistant to all sorts of troublemakers like rot, decay, and pesky insects. It’s also easy to work with, making it a good choice for both novice and experienced woodworkers alike.
However, one thing to remember is that Mahogany can be prone to splintering if it’s not handled properly.
Because of its strength, beauty, and versatility, Mahogany is one of the most popular woods used in woodworking. It’s often used for high-impact projects like furniture and cabinetry and small projects like jewelry boxes and picture frames.
Last on the list is Bocote wood, a hardwood I’ve used a few times myself. Native to Central and South America, this an exceptionally strong and durable wood that I would recommend for furniture making and other high-stress applications.
Bocote wood is also very easy to work with, making it a good choice for both beginners and experienced woodworkers. Additionally, Bocote wood’s unique appearance makes your project stand out from the rest.
Despite all of its positive attributes, there are a few disadvantages to working with Bocote wood. One of the primary drawbacks is its cost. Bocote wood is one of the more expensive types of hardwood on the market.
And tracking it down can be like a scavenger hunt, depending on your location. Its limited availability worldwide means you might need to put in some effort to get your hands on this sought-after wood.
What is the rarest wood piece?
The rarest wood pieces are rosewood, makore, and ebony. Rosewood is known for being highly sought after for its unique color and grain patterns. Makore, on the other hand, is known for being strong and durable yet also very lightweight.
Lastly, Ebony is known as one of the most precious woods in the world, thanks to its intense black coloration.
Is it legal to harvest Mahogany?
It is legal to harvest Mahogany in some countries. In Peru, mahogany is a protected species and cannot be harvested without a special permit .
In other countries, such as Brazil, it is legal to harvest mahogany but only from specific sources and in accordance with certain regulations. Harvesting mahogany is generally regulated, requiring permits and adherence to sustainable practices.
What’s the most expensive exotic wood?
The most expensive exotic wood is Ebony. It comes from certain trees in Africa and India and is coveted for its deep black color and hard and dense properties.
The price of ebony can vary depending on the quality of the wood, but it can often be quite expensive. Other types of expensive wood include rosewood, mahogany, and teak.
(But is walnut wood pricey as well? Find out here!)
While many types of wood are available for woodworking, the exotic ones I’ve listed here are some of the most beautiful and rare. If you’re looking to add a touch of luxury or uniqueness to your next project, consider using one of these thirteen types of exotic woods.