Geographic Distribution

Makore is the common name for the wood harvested from the tree scientifically known as Tieghemella heckelii. The closely related T. africana is also sometimes sold interchangeable with T. heckelii as Makore so short of a DNA analysis there really is no certain way to know which species you have when purchasing from a hardwood vendor. It is also possible that either species will be referred to, and potentially sold as Maku or Cherry Mahogany, despite there being no relationship between either of these two species and true Cherry wood or true Mahogany. Fortunately, there is little to any difference in the characteristics of the two species that are relevant to woodworkers.

As at least one of the species names implies, Makore is an African wood.  Both species are found in a band ranging from western Africa to the equatorial region including the following countries Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.

The tree can be huge, reaching heights of up to 200 feet with trunk diameters reaching up to 8 feet in circumference.

General Characteristics

Makore is a fairly hard wood, being at least as hard as White Oak on the Janka scale of hardness. The wood is fairly dense as well.

The heartwood of Makore is often a pink to reddish brown color and sometimes there will be streaks of varying color present that add contrast and interest to the wood. The sapwood, on the other hand, is usually yellowish and can be two to three inches wide, clearly demarcated, surrounding the more desirable heartwood. The color contrast between the two can provide for interesting effects when at least some of the sapwood is retained with the heartwood, especially in turned items.

While the grain of Makore is generally straight, interlocked or wavy grain is sometimes present. Figured grain patterns (such as mottled or curly) are a common occurrence, and this figured or curly wood commands, as is it does in most any species in which it appears, a premium price from vendors since it cannot be predicted to exist and is uncommon; it is only known once the tree is felled and milling has begun.

Makore also features a fine and even texture along with a natural luster, presumably due to natural oils present in the wood.

The end grain of Makore is described as diffuse and porous with medium porosity.

Although it likely is not relevant for most of the uses to which Makore is put, the wood is reported to be very durable and resistant to rot as well as resistant to insect attack.

Working Characteristics

Makore is reported to be generally easy to work with. However, as is always the case, when interlocked or wavy grain is present, tearout during planing is a very real risk.

As is also true of some other woods, Makore will demonstrate a color change reaction when in direct contact with any iron. Makore in contact with iron will stain and discolor permanently so iron, or iron containing, fittings or fasteners must be carefully avoided to prevent this. Always use solid, or plated, chromium, zinc or brass screws, nails, or other fastenings to help prevent this reaction.

Makore has a pronounced dulling effect on tools due to its high silica content. Therefore, frequent sharpening will be necessary when working with any cutting tool on Makore. An alternative to the time and effort required for tool sharpening, as well as the necessary equipment and expertise in its use, is to employ, wherever possible, replaceable cutter heads such as those used with the Easy Wood Tool system of turning tools.