Cocobolo Wood is probably best known exotic wood for decorative
elements like pepper mills, cocobolo jewlery boxes, knife handles,
police nightsticks, and even beads, canes, gun grips, guitars and
The natural oils in cocobolo lumber prevent water absorption and
its inherent hardness protects the wood from daily use making it
an appropriate exotic wood species especially for kitchen utensils.
The Tree: Family: (Dalbergia retusa)
Cocobolo is often referred to as a Mexican Rosewood, Granadillo
or Cocobolo rosewood. As with all rosewoods they are part of the
'Dalbergia' species, predominately growing in Panama, Costa Rica
and Nicaragua as well as the southern extremes of Mexico.
Dalbergia granadillo is also a form of cocobolo, a closely related
cousin infact, typically from the more northern sections of Mexico.
It tends to have less dramatic colouring and thus less likely to
be seen on the cocobolo exotic wood markets. If purchasing cocobolo
online be sure to ask about the exact species, if it is not noted
one way or the other.
Cocobolo trees take many years to mature and in some areas like
Costa Rica harvesting cocobolo trees requires special permits. Thus
much of the wood on the market today comes from managed tree farms.
Natural forests have been largely exploited and these countries
are slowly adopting more sustainable practices. This will take many
years to rebuild inventory and in the meantime cocobolo will be
in relatively short supply.
Properties of Cocobolo Lumber:
As with all members of the rosewood family they can exhibit exciting
swirls of colour and in the case of cocobolo wood, include deep
oranges, blacks and browns. The colours can appear as if they are
swirling together like potions in a witches brew or run in a less
dramatic pattern banded parallel to the length of the wood.. This
is largely dependent
on how it was cut in relationship to the growth rings of the tree
and from the from which part of Latin America it grew in... typically
Guatemalan cocobolo tends to be quite a bit darker. Each board and
cocobolo tree has its own unique pattern.
With exposure to light the colour darken and develop a rich patina.
The sapwood is almost white and most often trimmed from export
grade exotic wood. It can offer an interesting high contrast band
on the right small turning, as with this wine bottle stopper.
It is difficult to find cocobolo veneer as the tree is rarely found
large enough or of sufficient quality to make it feasible to send
to a veneer mill. 8/4 cocobolo turning squares are the most common.
Lumber suitable for small decorative wood lathe work.
As with many dense tropical woods cocobolo is quite resistant to
both natural decay and insects.
Weight: 68 lbs per cu.ft. dry weight
Spray on lacquers work well and give you the ability to buff out
any minor defects. A low gloss sheen shows off the exotic figure.
For the more patient woodworker hand rubbed wax finishes work quite
well in combination with the natural oils of cocobolo to achieve
a pretty wonderful effect. Its natural oils prevent water absorption
so hand rubbed finishes compliment the woods natural defense system.
As with most dense woods, cocobolo wood requires sharp tools for
machining. Experience suggests that planing with less than, will
cause some tear out and could destroy a beautiful board so now use
a helical head on my planer for all exotic woods.
It cuts surprisingly easy on a bandsaw. Cocobolo wood's extreme
density can cause a router bit to hope along the edge so a final
micro pass can improve your overall appearance. If predrilling and
inserting screws on crossgrain boards, excessive torque can split
the wood, as I find it a bit brittle. It turns beautifully.
It is recommended to use a waterproof glue such as titebond III
to offer added holding capacity for such a tight grained wood. Freshly
saw and joint JUST PRIOR to glue up to give the oils less time to
migrate to the surface and affect adhesion.
Cocobolo wood can be sanded to a very fine sheen but quality automotive
sandpaper is essential. The oils self lubricate the paper and in
fact encourage the sawdust to cling to the wood, thus important
to thoroughly clean the surface before lacquering.
As with many exotic woods, the dust produced in milling can be
an irritant both to the skin and the lungs, so best to work with
it in a small way to first determine your personal tolerance and
always wear a dust mask. The beauty of exotic Cocobolo wood
is worth all the extra fuss!
for Hand Guns