Teak is used for outdoor woodworking projects because of its strength and weather-resistant properties. The natural oils in the hardwood resist marine insects and fungus growth, making it ideal for garden and marine constructions. Teak is easy to work, but controls on deforestation necessary to maintain sustainable teak plantations make it scarce and expensive. Alternative timbers with similar properties are cheaper and more widely available.
Iroko is also known as African teak and Nigerian teak, although it is not a member of the teak family. It is used for boat building, decking and outdoor furniture construction and weathers well. Iroko is resistant to insect and fungus attack because of its oily nature, but does not take treatment well because it's considered impermeable. Iroko sawdust is an irritant, so don't inhale it. Iroko is cheaper and more readily available than teak, but check with your supplier to ensure it comes from sustainable forests.
Shorea or Yellow Balau
Shorea, also known as yellow balau, is related to teak. It has all the attributes of teak, with resistance to fungus and insect attack and to weathering. The timber is oily but can be treated with teak oil to preserve its colour. It is durable and harder than teak, but it does not carve well. Species of shorea vary in quality; your supplier should advise on use and suitability of specific timbers. Shorea is an abundant timber, making it cheaper than teak although not as fashionable. It is imported into the United States from managed and sustainable tropical rainforest plantations in southeast Asia.
Ipe is more than three times harder than teak. It is very dense and resistant to insect attack and decay. It is difficult to work and blunts tools quickly, but it is hard wearing and fire- and scratch-resistant. Ipe is used for exterior furniture and decking. Ipe is cheaper than teak, and most ipe imported into the United States comes from managed sustainable tropical rainforests of Central and South America.
Garapa is also known as garapa gold because of its colour. Garapa is used for decking, ship building and exterior joinery. It is resistant to insect and fungi attack and weathering. It is a cheaper, harder alternative to teak, and a cheaper alternative to ipe. Garapa can cause skin irritation and is susceptible to insect attack. Garapa lumber is native to Brazil and is grown in regulated sustainable plantations.
Greenheart is used for heavy marine construction work, but is also suitable for exterior furniture projects and decking when a weather-resistant timber unaffected by insect, fire and fungi attack is needed. The timber is difficult to work, is very dense and hard, and blunts tools quickly. Splinters can cause a poisonous reaction if they penetrate the skin. Like teak, greenheart falls in the expensive wood bracket, but purchasing second-hand greenheart timbers such as railway sleepers reduces the cost.
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