Bloodwood – Revisted

Geographic Distribution

The wood known to wood workers as Bloodwood, or in some cases as Satine, or Satine Bloodwood, is more properly known as Brosimum rubescens, although some sources may refer to B. paraense.  As best as I can tell, the two are considered synonymous with neither having preferential use scientifically, although B. paraense, being the older designation, yields more references .

Of academic interest only, perhaps, is the inclusion in the Brosimum genus of B. guianese, otherwise known as Snakewood, one of the most perennially popular and incredibly expensive hardwoods on the market today.

B. rubescens is native to the tropical areas of the Americas, although most commercially exploited stocks that are exported to the United States tend to originate in Guyana, Suriname, Brazil, and to some extent, Peru.

For the sake of simplicity and common understanding, I will refer to B. rubescens from this point forward as Bloodwood.

I have written about Bloodwood twice in the past, in both a very early post from 2009 and a later post from 2012.  This post will serve to update the information to the most current as of 2017 and to standardize the format to be consistent with other posts about specific turning woods.


General Characteristics

As the name would imply, and indeed it is no doubt the origin of the common name, the heartwood of Bloodwood is almost always a bright and vivid red hue.  Sadly, as is often true in the case of brightly colored hardwoods, this color will darken to a brownish color over time, but there are steps that can be taken to help slow, if not entirely prevent, this color transition.  Protection from ultraviolet light is essential and this is best accomplished by keeping Bloodwood out of direct light and by using UV protective finishes.  Additional details about slowing color shifts in tropical woods can be found from this resource.

The sapwood of Bloodwood is very well defined and is of a pale yellow color.  Given that Bloodwood trees are between 4 and 7 feet in diameter, it is extremely uncommon to ever see this sapwood, although I think that the contrast between the deep red and the pale yellow would be stunning to see in a finished piece.

The grain of Bloodwood is almost always straight although some slight interlocking can occur.

When properly surfaced, Bloodwood has a fine texture with a good natural luster.  In some cases, Bloodwood will display chatoyancy, or the “cat’s eye” effect.

The endgrain appearance of Bloodwood is diffuse and porous with large pores being few in number.  Be aware that mineral deposits are common.

Although I shouldn’t imagine it is terribly important for the end uses of Bloodwood in the developed world, it is reported to be very durable in its resistance to fungal rot as well as resistant to most insect attacks.

Bloodwood Plank

Working Characteristics

While Bloodwood is unquestionably a beautiful material, there is a price to pay when working with it.  The primary difficulty is that Bloodwood is extremely dense and this causes a pronounced blunting effect on cutting surfaces.  Always remember to sharpen your tools frequently when working with Bloodwood.

Also, Bloodwood tends to be brittle, a characteristic for which its close relative Snakewood is infamous, so it can splinter easily when being worked.

However, if you are persistent and patient, Bloodwood does finish beautifully, featuring an exceptionally deep red and lustrous surface, provided that you have taken the time and care to prepare the surface properly.

And, also on the plus side, Bloodwood does have a pleasantly mild scent when freshly cut or turned.

Pricing and Availability

As might be expected for a wood as lovely and highly desirable as Bloodwood, prices will be in the moderate to moderately high range when compared to other imported exotic hardwoods, but perhaps not as expensive as one might expect.