Native to the rainforests of West Africa, Makore is a valuable commercial and architectural timber. It is a large tree growing up to 200 feet in height with diameters approaching 9 feet. The tree grows straight with few branches before the crown and with minimal buttressing. Consequently, it yields large amounts of clear timber and veneer, consistent in colour and figure.
Makore is a real showstopper when it comes to its appearance. Best known for the block mottle figure, crotch, broken stripe, curly and a very tight fiddleback are also common figure types. Wide flat-cut and quartered boards and veneers are very common.
The heartwood is a pinkish to reddish brown with occasional purple streaks. The sapwood is clearly demarcated from the heart. It is a creamy white colour and can be up to 3 inches wide. Makore has a fine texture and the grain is usually very straight. It is a naturally lustrous wood which helps exaggerate the various figure types.
Makore is a very durable timber, resistant to insects and fungi. This is probably due to its high tannin content. Tannins are chemicals produced by the tree to help protect it from insects and other predators.
The wood works well but it contain silica which will dull tools quickly. Figured pieces of Makore can tearout when machining. It’s important to monitor feed rates and cutting angles to reduce the tearout. Sanding to final dimension may necessary to avoid this, especially on pieces with block mottle figure. Pre-drilling for nails and screws is essential to prevent splitting. It glues and finishes well. Oil finishes will help enhance whatever figure is present, allowing the character of the wood to shine. It is close-grained so no grain filling is necessary.
Makore, as mentioned, is an important commercial wood. Expect to see it in architectural installations such as paneling, trim, stairs, flooring and cabinets It is also used in high-end furniture, shipbuilding, turned objects and musical instruments. Solid lumber should be available from specialty lumber dealers. Veneer in all figure types is very common. Price is midrange for an imported species; expect to pay more for figured material.
There are two important considerations when working with Makore. First, Makore’s high tannin content means it will stain when in contact with ferrous metals. Woodworkers should be careful during glue ups. Wood strips can be used to prevent metal clamps from contacting the wood. Secondly, Makore is an irritant that can provoke a severe reaction. Most complaints come from inhaling the dust. Care should be taken when sanding and your shop should be cleaned thoroughly after working with it. These concerns aside, there are very few species that can produce such a wide range of figures and appearances. There should a role for Makore in most projects. Plain sawn and quartered material has its own quiet beauty. Highly recommended for all woodworking projects.
Peter MacSween - [email protected]
Peter's woodworking journey began with a career in carpentry followed by a decade buying and selling veneer. His spare time is spent abusing his guitars and exploring the great outdoors.