The wood commonly known as Bolivian Rosewood is known to botanists and other scientists as Machaerium scleroxylon. M. scleroxylon is native to the tropical Americas, mainly in eastern Bolivia and western Brazil.
As Bolivian Rosewood is not a member of the Dalbergia genus it can’t be considered to be a true Rosewood although Machaerium spp are closely related to Dalbergia, so it is about as close to a true Rosewood as you can get outside of the Dalbergia genus.
For the sake of simplicity and common understanding, I will refer to M. scleroxylon as Bolivian Rosewood from here forward. Please note that Bolivian Rosewood is also commonly called Pau Ferro, Morado, and Santos Rosewood.
The color of the heartwood of Bolivian Rosewood can be highly varied. It is know to range from reddish/orange to a dark violet/brown, usually with contrasting darker black streaks. The narrow sapwood of Bolivian Rosewood is a pale yellow and is clearly demarcated from the heartwood.
The grain of Bolivian Rosewood rain is typically straight, though sometimes slightly irregular or interlocked grain can occur depending on the exact Machaerium species in question. Bolivian Rosewood features a fine, even texture, and a naturally high luster. That said, some species within the Machaerium genus can have a coarser and more fibrous texture.
Bolivian Rosewood is rated as very durable against rot but it is quite susceptible to insect attack and it is not recommended for direct ground contact.
Bolivian Rosewood is considered overall to be of fair workability.
Bolivian Rosewood can blunt the cutting edges of tools.
Any irregular grain encountered in Bolivian Rosewood has a tendency toward tearout during machining operations.
Many of the same challenges in gluing true rosewoods are common to Bolivian Rosewood as well.
Bolivian Rosewood turns and finishes well.
Depending on the exact Machaerium species, the Bolivian Rosewood can have a characteristic spicy floral scent.
Pricing and Availability:
Bolivian Rosewood is in the medium price range for exotic imported hardwoods.
In this blog, I almost always recommend several vendors with whom I have done considerable business and in whom I have great confidence. These vendors are: West Penn Hardwoods, Bell Forest Products, NC Wood, WoodTurningz, Amazon Exotic Hardwoods, Griffin Exotic Wood, Exotic Woods USA, Got Wood?, and Wood Turning Blanks 4U.
Woodfinder is an excellent website that is dedicated to advertising wood dealers. In your search for Bolivian Rosewood 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. It happens to me all the time!
Bolivian Rosewood is commonly used to make veneer, musical instruments, cabinetry, flooring, interior trim, turning, and other small specialty wood objects.
Bolivian Rosewood is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and many of the species within the Machaerium genus are reported by the IUCN as being of least concern. One exception is Machaerium villosum from Brazil, which is reported as vulnerable due to deforestation.