Amazakoue is one of the common names of a wood scientifically known as Guibourtia ehie. It is easily a contender for the record number of diverse common names including, but not necessarily limited to: Amazique, Amazoue, Mozambique, Ovangkol, and Shedua. Amazakoue is native to tropical West Africa, ranging across Cameroon and Gabon, and north and west into Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Liberia. Given this geographical range, the common name of Mozambique makes zero sense, given that Mozambique is located on the southeastern edge of Africa, nowhere near the actual range of the tree. Amazakoue trees prefer closed rain forests and transitional forests, where they often grow in small groups. As is true of many tropical woods, it is threatened by habitat loss and is listed by conservation authorities as “threatened.”
Amazakoue heartwood usually presents with varying shades of yellowish to reddish brown with darker brown, gray, or black stripes. In this regard, it may in fact resemble Wenge, another African hardwood. The sapwood is a pale yellow and is not generally of interest to the woodworker. It is common for Amazakoue to present with a curly or rippled grain pattern.
Amazakoue presents with a medium porosity that reminds me of walnut.
Amazakoue is rated as moderately durable in terms of decay resistance as well as receiving a good rating for resistance to insect attack, although these characteristics should be of little relevance for the most common uses of Amazakoue.
Overall, Amazakoue is a fairly easy wood to work with and it cuts quite nicely on the lathe. However, it is important to remember that like some other tropical hardwoods, Amazakoue does contain silica and that will dull cutters prematurely, so frequent sharpening, or the use of disposable carbide cutters, is recommended when working with it. In those specimens with interlocked or curly grain patterns, planing and machining may be subject to tearout problems, although again, this is common with woods with these grain patterns. Sharp tools and patience should see the woodworker through unscathed. Once the machining is done, Amazakoue does glue and finish well given its low oil content. It is overall an excellent wood for turning and carving given its density and figure.
Some authorities report that Amazakoue presents with a strong and unpleasant odor when it is wet, but this scent disappears on drying. In my specimen, I detected a strong spicy scent that was not at all unpleasant.
Amazakoue is likely to be somewhat expensive, but not on the extreme end of exotic wood prices. It is likely to be just a bit more than other mid-range priced imports such as Bloodwood or Chechen. However, if strong figure is present, such as curl, the price is likely to be much higher.
The only stock I could price was listed as Shedua and was only in flat lumber format, no turning blanks for either pens or bowls, and these lumber pieces are selling for between $35 and $43 each. If you could locate bowl blank sizes you would expect to pay more than that, or equal to it at least. Woodfinder is a website that is dedicated to advertising exotic wood dealers and I can’t speak to the quality of any of them, but they do have the advantage of performing searches based on your location which might allow you to visit a wood dealer in person to hand pick what you want to work with at a price you are comfortable paying.
Given its threatened status, Amazakoue finds limited uses. However, it has been known to be used for such applications as veneer, solid furniture, cabinetry, turned objects, musical instruments, and flooring.
In particular, it has been used by guitar manufacturers such as Yamaha (Japan), Taylor (USA), Esteve Turner (UK), Warwick (Germany), Framus (Germany), Warmoth (USA), Alhambra (Spain) and Ibanez (Japan).
It has also been used for parts of longbows manufactured by Martin Archery.
Severe negative allergic reactions are uncommon but Amazakoue has been known to cause reactions in sensitive individuals, particularly lung problems from breathing in sanding dust. Therefore, care should be taken especially if an individual has experienced allergic reactions with other woods or wood dust.
Complete information about health hazards associated with a wide variety of exotic hardwoods is available from The Wood Database along with additional information about the best use of a dust collection system, coupled with the use of personal protective equipment such as respirators, which is highly recommended when machining this wood. Fortunately, I have never experienced any negative side effects from working
My Personal Experiences
My entire experience of Amazakoue consists of two pen blanks so I am far from an expert, but it is a challenge to find even that much of this particular hardwood in the United States as far as I can tell. I found that the wood turned nicely, cut easily, and the moderate hardness really made it an excellent turning wood that required little sanding before final finish. I enjoyed the sweet and spicy scent of the wood as it was being turned as well. Overall, Amazakoue rated highly with me and I would be pleased to work with it again in pen blank format, or preferably, in bowl blanks sizes should such become available for a reasonable price in the future.