Basic Facts About Cocobolo
Cocobolo is scientifically known as Dalbergia retusa. This hardwood comes from Central America and only the Cocobolo heartwood is used. The Cocobolo sapwood does not hold any particular appeal since it lacks the distinctive coloration and figure associated with the Cocobolo heartwood. The heartwood of Cocobolo is very dense and will sink in water.
Uses of Cocobolo Wood
Cocobolo wood is naturally oily, and as such, it stands up well to use in gun grips and knife handles, where contact with skin oil is a constant. Cocobolo wood finds use in high-end pool cue sticks, hair brush backs, and musical instruments, especially luxury guitars. Clarinets and oboes have also been successfully made with Cocobolo. Specialty and luxury turned wood pens are also made from Cocobolo.
Availability and Cost of Cocobolo Wood
Cocobolo wood has been considered highly desirable for many decades, and this popular demand, coupled with the slow growing nature of the Cocobolo tree, has caused the natural reserves to be severely depleted. It is rare to find a mature Cocobolo tree standing outside of national parks or nature reserves in its native area. Because of the rarity and ongoing popularity of Cocobolo wood, the timber commands a premium price in the exotic lumber market. Per board foot, Cocobolo costs in the neighborhood of US$24.00, placing it easily within the top 5 most expensive exotic hardwoods available by the board foot. For one of the most comprehensive selections of exotic lumber available in the United States, visit Bell Forest Products, a delightful company with very knowledgeable and dedicated staff in the upper peninsula of Michigan.
Information For Woodworkers About Cocobolo Wood
The oils in the Cocobolo wood will cause clogs in wood working equipment since clumping of the dust is common. Woodworkers should be aware of this possibility and clear their equipment routinely when working with Cocobolo wood. Because of its oily nature, Cocobolo wood can be polished naturally to a high lustrous finish with no additional additives. However, this oily nature can also make Cocobolo wood difficult to glue or finish without first treating the surface of the wood with a mineral spirit, or other organic solvent, to temporarily remove the surface layer of oil.
Cautions Associated With Using Cocobolo
The dust from the Cocobolo wood can induce allergic reactions so proper protective measures should be practiced, including the use of a respirator, covering exposed skin, and the correct installation and use of a dust collection system.
My Experiences Working With Cocobolo Wood
I have personally found Cocobolo to be a dream to work with on the wood turning lathe to make turned wood pens and pencils. I have been cautious in the drilling processes to ensure that I am boring small length runs with frequent pull backs to clear the oily dust from the bit and the bore, but with that proviso in place, I have had no problems with burn out or breakage. The oily nature of the wood has never yet prevented brass tubes from bonding to the wood with the use of basic cyanoacrylate glues. However, if you are concerned about this or if you have experienced difficulty, I personally recommend applying lacquer thinner to a cotton swab, which is then run up and down inside the bore hole immediately prior to gluing in the brass tube. This will temporarily remove the surface oils and provide a clean and dry gluing surface. The high volatility of lacquer thinner causes it to evaporate almost immediately, which is a plus prior to glue application since you can be easily certain that the treated surface is dry. The lower volatility and longer drying times of paint thinner and mineral spirits may prove more problematic in this application.