BLOODWOOD

 

Botanical Background:
The Bloodwood genus; Brosimum, belongs to the Mulberry family (Moraceae). Local names include: Satinwood (BR), Conduru (Brazil), Legno Satino (Italy), Satine Rouge (French Guiana). Sometimes called Cardinal wood. Geographical Distribution: Tropical South America (Brazil, French Guiana and Surinam)

Variation:
According to wood technologist, Jon Arno, the Bloodwood commercially available in the United States, is actually cut from several species in this genus and is highly selected at the mill on the basis of color. Most of the species in this genus produce rather bland, fine textured, blond woods, so it requires a lot of sorting to come up with the most vividly colored stock. He further states, an interesting piece of trivia is that some of the Brosimum species produce edible fruits...and one of them, the so-called cow tree, produces a latex-like sap that is actually used as a substitute for mother's milk.
The heartwood is basically brick red in color, without much streaking, while the sapwood is a uniform blond color. The demarcation between heartwood and sapwood is distinct. There are no distinct growth ring boundaries through out the tree. The wood is very dense, .76 g/cm3, more than 30% above the density of Sugar Maple (.56 g/cm3). The wood is so dense that logs of this wood do not float. Weight is 56-66 lbs per sq. ft. Trees grow to 120 ft in height, with straight cylindrical boles clear to 75 ft, and a diameter of from 20-40 inches.
To me, the odor while cutting and sanding is similar to other tropical hardwood like Padauk and Cocobolo, to which it is not related, though the smell is not as strong. There is very little residual odor when not being worked.

Working Characteristics:
The Bloodwood has outstanding turning and shaping characteristics. It is exceptionally stable and has excellent decay resistance. It has a very fine, even testure. Its striking appearance, and the ability to sand to a mirror finish, makes it prized woods for use in billiard-cue butts, drum sticks, Xylophones, organ pipes, showy veneers, inlays various accent applications and tool handles.
Most Bloodwood commercially available is at about 12% moisture content. Tangential shrinkage is 5.9%, roughly ½ that of Maple, Radial shrinkage is 4.1%, about the same as Maple.
At the sources I frequent, Bloodwood is available in 4/4 and 8/4 thickness, widths up to 12” and lengths of 8’-10’, at a cost of approx $13BF.
The heartwood is very resistant to fungi, and insect infestation. The sapwood is not considered to be durable.
Like most dense tropical hardwoods, Bloodwood can be somewhat difficult to work with in many important respects. Though there is no silica in the wood to make it abrasive, the extreme density makes it hard on cutting tool edges, carbide cutters are recommended for sawing and routing. Machined surfaces are very smooth, and edges are sharp. The density of the wood requires pre-drilling before nailing or screwing. Unlike the Rosewoods, gluing is not a problem because of oiliness, however, because of the tight grain and density, good glue surfaces are required with a lightly sanded surface recommend. I have used yellow glue, CA glue, epoxy, and hot hide glue with success.
For turning, a sharp gouge is recommended – frequent sharpening will be required. Light cuts are recommended, as the wood will splinter if you are too aggressive. The wood that comes off the gouge is in very small chips, or small ¼” Curls. I have found the Bloodwood takes a scraper very well on the inside of a bowl, where the wood being cut is supported by the wood behind it. However, anything but the lightest scraping on the outside of a bowl will result in excessive tearout.
When sanding, avoid heat build up, as the moderate oiliness of the wood will cause sandpaper to load up. Bloodwood can be polished to 2000 grit and higher to outstanding effect. I have seen no tendency to absorb colors from other near by woods, nor transfer it’s color to other woods. I only dry sand, so I cannot speak to color transfer when wet sanding. When polished with 1500-2000 grit sandpaper, because of it’s low moisture absorption, it can be left without any finish. Oil from the human had will enhance the finish over time. Be warned that when sanding, that if moisture (sweat) is present in your clothing, the dust will stain your clothing.
Bloodwood takes all finishes that I have tried, without special preparation. Oil, Polyurethane, Lacquer, etc. It does not exhibit any of the finish problems associated with many other tropical hardwoods. Noteworthy, is the fact that, unlike most of the other red-toned tropical hardwoods, (Padauk, Purpleheart, etc), Bloodwood does not exhibit a tendency to turn brown or gray, and as such does not require UV protection.

 

Information developed by Jon Arno or Mark Kauder and posted by Mark  on www.woodcentral.com . Mark has graciously given East Texas Woodturners permission to add the write ups to our site.  Thanks Jon and Mark.