Bubinga comes from at least three species within the Guibourtia genus (G. demeusei, G. pellegriniana, G. tessmannii). It is essentially impossible to know to which of the three species any one piece of wood marketed as Bubinga belongs. There are another 10 species of Guibourtia in Africa that are not commonly harvested or known as Bubinga, and there are an additional three species native to South America.
The wood sold as Bubinga is most commonly harvested in equatorial regions of Africa in countries such as Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of Congo, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The range of Guibourtia trees, however, can extend to the north and west as far as Ghana and to the south and east as far as Zimbabwe.
Bubinga may also be sold as Kevazingo when it is in veneer form. I will refer to all of the commercial Guibourtia spp. sold as Bubinga as Bubinga for sake of simplicity.
Bubinga heartwood shows a range of colors from a slight pinkish red up to a much darker reddish brown that may have even darker purple or black streaks. The sapwood, which is clearly demarcated from the heartwood, is of a pale straw color.
In addition to a range of color possibilities, pieces of Bubinga frequently feature a variety of figure which includes: pommele, flamed, waterfall, quilted, and mottled.
The grain of Bubinga is often interlocked although it can be straight. The texture is uniformly fine to medium, in my experience quite fine is thoroughly sanded, with a moderate natural luster.
Depending on the exact species being sold as Bubinga, the wood is moderately durable to very durable in terms of rot resistance. Bubinga is also reported to be resistant to termite and marine borer attack.
Overall, Bubinga is easy to work with, although some species can have a high silica content which is likely to prematurely dull cutting edges. If, as is often the case, the piece you are working with has a high degree of figure and/or interlocked grain, tearout is a concern especially when planing or using other surfacing machines.
Bubinga can be resistant to gluing due to its very high density and natural oils.
Bubinga turns exceptionally well and also takes a nice finish.
When wet, Bubinga is reported to have a foul odor but this disappears as the wood dries. In working with kiln dried Bubinga I have only occasionally detected a whiff of a vinegar odor and I can imagine this would be very unpleasant if stronger in wet wood.
Pricing and Availability:
Up to very recently, Bubinga was a common wood sold by most every exotic wood dealer in the United States. This ready availability kept supplies high and prices relatively low. This, however, has changed with the listing of Bubinga in the CITES Appendix II, about which more will be explained further on. This action by CITES will not only severely limit Bubinga supplies entering the United States, it will effectively end the trade in Bubinga in the United States. I have noticed supplies dwindling quickly and prices increasing. If you have an interest in working with Bubinga, now is the time.
Generally speaking, and this will change as supply dries up, Bubinga should command no more than a moderate price in the marketplace. Having said that, if the piece in question feature high level of figure, such as waterfall, pommele, flamed etc., expect to pay top prices.
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.