The wood commonly known as Zebrawood is known to botanists and other scientists as Microberlinia brazzavillensis. M. brazzavillensis is native to western and central Africa with much of the timber coming from Cameroon and Gabon. For the sake of simplicity and common understanding I will refer to M. brazzavillensis as Zebrawood from this point forward.
The heartwood of Zebrawood is a light brown or cream color with dark blackish brown streaks vaguely resembling a zebra’s stripes. Depending on whether the wood is flatsawn or quartersawn, the stripes can be either chaotic and wavy (flatsawn), or somewhat uniform (quartersawn).
Zebrawood has a fairly coarse texture and open pores. The grain of Zebrawood is usually wavy or interlocked.
The heartwood of Zebrawood is rated as durable against rot and it is also resistant to insect attack.
Zebrawood saws well, but can be very difficult to plane or surface due to the prevalence of interlocking grain. Tearout is common. Zebrawood glues and finishes well, though a transparent pore filler may be necessary for the large open pores which occur on both dark and light surfaces.
Zebrawood is reported to have a characteristic, unpleasant smell when being worked but I didn’t experience this perhaps because my wood was kiln dried.
Pricing and Availability:
Zebrawood tends to be fairly expensive, though usually not as prohibitively expensive as other exotics such as Ebony or Rosewood.
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.
At this time, most all of my favored vendors are offering Zebrawood in various sizes and formats which testifies to the wide availability of this wood. A fairly standard 6x6x2 turning blank will run in the neighborhood of $25 with larger blanks available at considerably higher prices.
Woodfinder is an excellent website that is dedicated to advertising wood dealers. In your search for Zebrawood 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!
Zebrawood is frequently quartersawn and used as veneer. Other uses for Zebrawood include: tool handles, furniture, boatbuilding, and skis.
Zebrawood is NOT listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendices but is on the IUCN Red List. It is listed as vulnerable due to a population reduction of over 20% in the past three generations, caused by a decline in its natural range. A closely-related, lesser-used species in Cameroon, Microberlinia bisulcata, is also listed as critically endangered.
To the best of my knowledge, the United States government does not place any restrictions on Zebrawood.