Wenge is the wood of the Wenge tree, Millettia laurentii. The Wenge tree is native to western Equatorial Africa, especially Zaire, Cameroon and Gabon. The lumber is used for general construction in the tree's home range. In North America, Wenge is considered an exotic wood, and finds use as a veneer and in cabinetry and woodcraft projects.
Wenge is a dark, straight-grained wood with a somewhat coarse texture. The grain has a pronounced alternation of narrow tan and dark brown, almost black wood that forms striking patterns when properly cut.
Wenge wood is quite dense, with a weight of 24.9 Kilogram per cubic foot, yet porous enough to require use of a filler before finishing. It is of moderate hardness and resistance to wear and abrasion. Working with the wood requires sharp tools and attention to its tendency to become oily when exposed to air. Wenge's hardness makes it unsuitable for carving, but it is good stock for turning.
Wenge's density and hardness are suitable for general construction, both interior and exterior, in regions where it is readily available. Outside of its native habitat, the wood is most often used to make veneers used for furniture, panelling and cabinetry. Because of its appearance and durability, Wenge is also used for high-end hardwood floors or for stair treads.
In the United States, Wenge's dramatic colour and striking grain make it one of the exotic woods used in small projects, particularly for inlays and veneers. It serves well as a replacement for hickory in wooden athletic equipment such as bats and racquets, and is sometimes used for an accent wood on electrically amplified stringed instruments. The wood's high porosity tends to deaden sound, however, making it unsuitable for acoustic instrument bodies.
Cutting, shaping, turning or sanding Wenge produces dust particles that can act as an irritant of moderate toxicity. Woodworkers who use Wenge in their projects should exercise caution to minimise contact with these particles. You should use a dust-collection system and a dust mask or respirator, and remove splinters immediately to avoid irritation of the skin by the wood's oils.
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