The wood sold to me as Angelique is known to botanists as Dicorynia guianensis. The name gives us a clue as to the native region for this species. D. guianensis is native to a relatively small part of northern South America, specifically to Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana) and French Guiana, with the predominant area split between the two political entities, i.e. eastern Suriname and western French Guiana. Some sources claim that D. guianensis can also be found in Guyana (formerly British Guiana) but I can’t find verification of this claim elsewhere. In its native areas in Suriname and French Guiana, it can constitute up to 10% of the total forest population, making it quite abundant, albeit in a small area.
There is a closely related species found only in Brazil that is known as Dicorynia paraensis.
There are no other species within the Dicornyia genus.
Note that some sources spell the genus name as Dycornyia, but the “i” spelling seems to be preferred by most.
D. guianensis has several common names depending on the language of the area where it is being referenced. Angélique, Angélique bátàrd, Angélique blanc, Angélique gris, and Angélique rouge, are all variations on the most common name in French Guiana. The various modifiers refer to differing colorations or characteristics found within the same species, including one that is impolite when translated. In Suriname, the most commonly encountered names include Bara karoeballi and Basralocus or Basralokus.
Wood that is referenced as “angelica do Pará” or “tapaiuna” in Brazil refers to the closely related species D. paraensis and should not be confused with D. guianensis.
From this point forward for the sake of simplicity I will refer to D. guianensis as Angélique.
The heartwood of Angélique commonly appears in two recognizable variations. The term Angélique gris (grey) is used when the heartwood is a russet brown color when freshly cut. This color tends to become a superficial brown color with a distinctly purple hue to it over time. The other variation on heartwood coloration is one that is very distinctly reddish with frequent wide bands of a purplish color that is referred to as Angélique rouge (red). The “rouge” version is more desirable for decorative applications.
The sapwood is brownish white in color and is sharply demarcated from the more highly colored heartwood.
The grain of Angélique is typically straight although it can be slightly interlocked on occasion.
Angélique features a good natural subsurface luster when finely surfaced.
The strength measurements of Angélique place it higher than both Teak (Tectona grandis) and White Oak (Quercus alba).
Angélique heartwood is resistant to very resistant to attack by decay fungi but is somewhat susceptible to dry-wood termites. The wood is resistant to attack by marine borers.
The most significant barrier to working with Angélique is the typically extremely high silica content which is reported to vary between an extreme low of .20%, with an average being around 1.70% with highs reported up to 2.92%.
The density, hardness, and especially the silica content of Angélique govern its working characteristics. When working with the dried wood, carbide tipped tools are essential for any type of success, and even then the carbide should be fresh and it will relatively quickly be dulled by the silica.
With the proper cutters, Angélique should work quite well. It is reported to finish and glue nicely.
Angélique is reported to be easy to dry by some sources while others report that it is moderately difficult. At any rate, it does dry quickly with only moderate checking and warping. Once dry it is quite stable in service.
Angélique does not have a distinctive odor when being worked.
Pricing and Availability
As far as I can tell, Angélique is a difficult wood to source in the United States. I suspect that this is because most of the timber that is harvested in Suriname and most certainly that which is harvested in French Guiana finds its way to the European Union, especially to the Netherlands and France, the former and current European nations governing the areas in which Angélique grows most commonly. Further restricting the availability is the economic base of French Guiana which does not emphasize lumber as an export, and in fact, much if not most of the interior of the territory is little explored and essentially inaccessible except along river ways. This situation is mirrored in Suriname for the most part as well, although timber exports are a more significant component of the Suriname economy.
I always recommend both West Penn Hardwoods and Bell Forest Products as excellent sources of both domestic and exotic hardwoods. I have had multiple dealings with both vendors and have always been very satisfied.
That said, unfortunately, neither of these vendors has any Angélique in stock at this time.
I have also discovered a vendor quite close to me, NCWood. This vendor mostly stocks and processes domestic hardwoods native to the southeastern United States but he also maintains stocks of some imported exotic hardwoods as well. While I have had many very satisfactory dealings with this vendor, he does not have Angélique at this time either.
If you are wondering why I reference these vendors even though I know they do not stock the wood I am discussing, the reason is simple. I have had MANY excellent experiences with these vendors in terms of price, customer service, and shipping speed, and therefore I recommend them in general as suppliers of many other woods that readers might be interested in purchasing. To be clear, I have ZERO financial stake in any wood dealer or business or any product whatsoever.
The only source of Angélique known to me at this time is, oddly, Woodcraft, and that is where I obtained my sample during a visit to a retail location in Louisville, Kentucky. I didn’t recognize the name or appearance of the wood, so I naturally had to buy it to experiment.
In general I don’t source wood from Woodcraft any longer although I once did so extensively. I have never found anything wrong with wood from Woodcraft but better selections and prices tend to be available from specialty dealers in exotic hardwoods, some of whom are direct importers offering the lowest possible pricing and greatest selection. Some of these large dealers are likely where resellers such as Woodcraft buy the wood they then sell to the consumer at a marked up price. But that is just my opinion.
Currently, Woodcraft sells 10 different sizes of Angélique through their Internet outlet, with the 8”x8”x3” bowl blank selling for $25.99, which I would consider to be in the mid-range of prices for exotic imported hardwoods.
While Angélique proves to be a relatively difficult wood to find for sale, I did locate one additional supplier, Goosebay Lumber in Chichester, New Hampshire, of all places, through the Woodfinder website, about which more later. Goosebay is selling Angélique as “naval decking” for $2.25 per linear foot. This probably isn’t a great source for most wood working applications, but it is a source.
Otherwise I couldn’t find a single retailer of Angélique, amazingly not even on Ebay or Etsy. When buying anything from eBay ALWAYS beware shipping costs, to say nothing of other concerns, about which more later.
Woodfinder is a website that is dedicated to advertising wood dealers. In your search for Angélique, this can be an invaluable resource provided you use multiple search terms to capture all the possible listings. I can’t speak to the quality of any of the listed dealers, but Woodfinder does have the advantage of allowing searches to be performed based on location which might allow an interested buyer to visit a listed wood dealer in person to hand pick pieces at a comfortable price.
A significant problem with using Woodfinder is that many vendors are listed for woods that, upon further investigation, they do not offer. I don’t know if perhaps once they did and they didn’t update their listings or if some vendors use a standardized list of woods that include most everything conceivable with the idea that once you land on their page you will find something you want to buy even if you didn’t know it beforehand. I end up buying stuff that way all the time.
In the case of Angélique, Woodfinder worked perfectly, locating a vendor that actually does stock the wood in question, although, oddly, Woodcraft was not listed even though they are a listed dealer of other wood species on Woodfinder.
In its native area, Angélique is very much a heavy duty utility wood used in many very un-glamourous applications. Common uses include: marine construction and general heavy construction, railroad crossties, industrial flooring, ship decking, planking, framing and marine piling. The only decorative uses seem to be parquet blocks and strips. Apparently the use of Angélique as a marine decking material has come to the United States based on the retailer in New Hampshire referenced above.
I have also seen hardwood flooring advertised as “solid Angélique” but it is impossible to know what the material actually would prove to be. It was originally enormously expensive at over $60 per square foot but was listed as on sale for only slightly over $6.00. But again, who knows what it really would prove to be as there was very little information given on the website advertising it.
Angélique does not yet appear to be a wood that is commonly used for turning or other decorative applications in the United States, perhaps simply due to its extremely limited availability.
Angélique is not listed as being in any way threatened or endangered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendices nor does it appear on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
Angélique is not subject to special restrictions by any United States government agency.
The fact that Angélique is not listed by a conservation agency or restricted by any government agency does not necessarily mean that it is in good supply. It could simply mean that the wood is uncommon outside of its native area, is a relative newcomer to the tropical lumber markets and/or its actual conservation status may be unknown.
According to United States Forest Service data it seems that the Angélique tree is quite common in its native area and it may well be in good supply and not over-harvested at all. The conservation data just doesn’t exist at this time.
I realize that inherent in working with wood is the killing of a part of the natural world that may be slow to return and if I become deeply concerned about this fact, I will have to find a new hobby. I hope that such a time does not come to pass or at least not any time soon. I am also very confident that the vendor from whom I purchased my stocks of Angélique sourced their material legally and responsibly. In part because I am concerned about legally and responsibly obtained wood, I am reluctant to buy from sellers outside of well-established and known vendors. I am highly unlikely, for example, to purchase exotic wood from auction sites, such as Ebay, because of uncertain sourcing and documentation, as well as the potential, even likelihood, of material being misidentified in order to achieve a higher selling price.
However, due to the commercial scarcity of some exotic imported wood species, resorting to auction sites such as Ebay or Etsy may be the only way to obtain samples of species that are not routinely commercially harvested. The potential risks of buying in these marketplaces have to be balanced against the desire to work with a specific species of wood. That is inherently an individual decision.
I also realize that many, if not most, wood workers do not have endangered species lists memorized, therefore I think it worthwhile and important to do even a small amount of research before purchasing any lumber, domestic as well as imported, to be certain of the potential impact you are having, even in a small way, on threatened or endangered populations. This information is easy to come by and takes only minutes to locate through any Internet search engine, including those you can access on your phone as you are standing in the lumber yard or store. Unfortunately, you simply cannot count on a vendor to tell you a product they are selling is endangered.
At this time there are no specifically documented negative health effects associated with Angélique, but as the wood is exported in such limited quantities, the actual health impact of exposure on sensitive individuals remains unknown for certain. Regardless, the long-term negative effects of exposure to sawdust of any species are well documented.
Appropriate protective equipment is always recommended when working with this, or any other, wood, exotic or domestic, unless you have worked with the species before and are certain you are not sensitive to it.
Complete information about health hazards associated with a wide variety of exotic hardwoods is available from The Wood Database. Additional information about how to best use a dust collection system and personal protective equipment, such as respirators, can also be found through this excellent and comprehensive resource.
Fortunately, I experienced no negative side effects when working with Angélique.
My Personal Experiences
As I indicated, I picked up a bowl blank block of Angélique at a Woodcraft retail outlet with no earthly idea what the wood was or how it would work. By the way, this tends to be my habit; I buy wood, work with it, and then later research its qualities and characteristics. Honestly, I am trying to reverse the order of operations.
I could immediately tell that the wood was quite dense in terms of relative weight for volume, reported to be 50 lbs/ft3. I carried the wood home with me and added it to the ever growing stack of wood to work with next.
I was fairly certain the wood was completely dry because it was not waxed in the way that green wood almost always is and this would be later proven correct: the wood was dry.
I marked a round on the blank and proceeded to take it to the bandsaw to cut. Almost immediately my bandsaw encountered difficulty in cutting through the Angélique. And just to be clear, I don’t use a cheap blade like the one that came with the machine, instead I use Timberwolf Blades from Suffolk Machinery, some of the finest bandsaw blades money can buy. But my blades were not carbide tipped nor did I know this would matter. Eventually I was able to cut the round although it was slow going. I then attempted to cut another blank from my stack and it was impossible. Cutting the one 3” thick blank of Angélique had completely destroyed my bandsaw blade. I had to change it to proceed with other projects, so thankfully I keep at least one spare on hand at all times.
I then tried to turn the rough cut blank to round and had a terrible experience. The wood tore out in great gouges! No matter how careful I tried to be I just couldn’t get a clean cut. I stacked the Angélique on the pile for later, dreading the day.
Finally I had learned a lesson and I researched Angélique before attempting to turn it again. Frankly, information is hard to find as the wood just isn’t common in the United States, but there are a few sources out there. Regardless of the different sources, most of the information is cribbed pretty literally from the United States Forest Service which does have a basic fact sheet about Angélique that proved invaluable to me in learning how best to work with the wood, specifically the requirement for fresh carbide cutters to work with dried Angélique.
I mounted the blank on a large face plate with 8 screws and inserted fresh carbide cutters into my Easy Wood Tools. With light passes and great patience I was able to achieve what appeared to be a remarkably smooth cut, even on the cross-grain areas. I was encouraged and proceeded to cut the divot in the base of the blank to reverse mount the blank on the Super Nova 2 Chuck.
To remove the largest of the previously inflicted gouges, I made the bottom of the bowl flared in such a way that the injured area was simply cut away. Again, it seemed that I was achieving a remarkably smooth and clean cut.
I proceeded to start a bit of what I thought would be light sanding when I encountered a surprise. The areas where the cut was following the grain were glassy smooth and needed practically zero sanding. But the cross-grain areas, once I used the sandpaper, were revealed to be incredibly rough after all and in need of significant work with multiple grades of Hi-Per Green Wave and Hi-Per Golden Wave sanding discs.
The incredibly high silica content made sandpaper relatively useless against the Angélique and the paper gummed up with deposits within seconds of using it, which doesn’t usually happen with the Hi-Per Wave product which is a prime reason why I use it.
I had to work a very long time very patiently to achieve the very smooth finish surface that is now on the bowl. And this difficulty was repeated on the interior of the bowl form where sanding is even harder because of having to reach inside the spinning bowl shape.
But I knew what to expect and I put the time into it to achieve the finish that I wanted. Once the rough end-grain areas were conquered the rest of the sanding process was a snap because the finish cut was so fine in the other areas. Unfortunately, I had to sand those areas far more aggressively than I would have otherwise in order to keep the shape round and not have divots due to excessive isolated sanding in the rough areas.
I used my most commonly chosen finish, Shellawax, for the final shine and was quite happy with the natural color and brilliant shine it imparted.
I very much like the finished piece for its depth of color, shine, slight chatoyancy effects, small patches of bright red streaks and blobs, and the nice heft of the bowl due to the density of the wood. I also appreciate what it took to achieve the final results and that increases my pleasure in the finished piece. I had to work for this one.
But, while I enjoy the finished piece, I don’t plan on hunting down additional bowl blanks of Angélique in the future. For the price and for the effort required I could make multiple pieces from other types and species of wood that I like as much, or more, as well as being woods that I find much easier to work with overall. Right now Maple, Ambrosia and otherwise, as well as Cherry top my list of preferred woods but I am discovering new favorites all the time.
I fear that Angélique will not be taking a place on the small “Wish Woods List” that I maintain of woods that I find to be exceptionally enjoyable or attractive. In fact, I think that Angélique and Kokko may be the inaugural woods on the “Hated Woods List,” a list that will also prominently feature Purpleheart.
That said, I would never discourage any wood-turner from experimenting with a new wood. My experience and my opinion is just that: mine. Another turner might have a very different experience, might just love Angélique and want to work with nothing but and that would be a wonderful turn of events. By all means, if you can find it, and Angélique intrigues you, give it a turn and see what develops. I won’t be competing with you for the limited stocks available.
As always, I wish all my readers a great experience in whatever their wood working interests happen to be and to those who like working with lathes especially, do a good turn today.