ROSEWOOD

ROSEWOOD

Post 376 ⇒   by Gautam Shah 

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Rosewood refers to any number of dark red to brown hued woods with darker veins. It is accepted that genuine rosewood belongs to genus Dalbergia. It is known as Brazilian Rosewood, and also as Bahia Rosewood. Its popular name rose-wood derives from the long lasting strong sweet smell and reddish colour. The woods of Dalbergia are now listed as endangered species, and its felling and trading, are banned. The Dalbergia has many subspecies such as Dalbergia nigra, Dalbergia maritima (Madagascar rosewood known as bois de rose), Dalbergia latifolia (East Indian Rosewood or sonokeling wood), Dalbergia oliveri (S.E. Asia Rosewood) and Dalbergia sissoo (also known as Indian rosewood, sissoo or sisam).

Hans Wegner chair in Pompidou, Paris

Rosewood has become a generic or representative name for hard dark reddish-purple to brownish coloured woods of tropical regions. No agency regulates, the use of word ‘rosewood, and anyone can use it freely. So we have ‘rosewoods’ of Brazil, Honduras, Jamaica, Africa, Burma, Thailand, China, Nepal and India, differently named as Indian rosewood, African rosewood, and Burmese rosewood or Amboyna wood. Not all woods of genus Dalbergia provide rosewoods. Other woods of in the same family include African Blackwood, Cocobolo, Kingwood, Tulipwood and Australian Rose Mahogany (Dysoxylum fraserianum).

Rosewood working

Rosewood has denser grain near the core, but its outer sapwood is soft and porous. Rosewood trunks are very large, but squared logs or planks are rarely cut because before the tree reaches maturity, the heartwood begins to decay, making it faulty and hollow at the center.

Rosewood chess pieces

Rosewood veneer

Rosewood is strong and durable than teak. Rosewood is dense so pre-drilling or hole punching is advisable before nailing or screwing. Working with rosewood can dull cutting blades and put a heavy load on power tools. Some varieties of rosewoods have oily grain, which do not allow oil varnish coating or adhesive joining. Rosewood items must be finished with Nitro cellulose lacquer or waxed with little oil. Its lighter colour grains are stained with spirit soluble waxoline red dye (similar to dark tan show polish).

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Rosewood Dining table + chairs at Falaknuma Palace Hyderabad

Rosewood ceiling at Rameshwara Temple in Keladi S India

All rosewoods have dense grain, so take good polish and retain it for long period. Rosewoods are considered ideal material for tool handles (chisels, screw drivers, hammers) door-window handles, wood pegs for joinery, paper weights, scales, rulers, decorative table pieces, agriculture implement, diamond polishing handles, weaving shuttles, silk yarn bobbins, chess sets, musical instruments, billiard cues, weapon handles etc. Rosewood shavings and sanding dust are added to hair-oils as a natural dye. Rosewood veneers and borders are highly valued items. Rosewood allows very thin sections for furniture items such as chairs, teepoys, tables, etc.

Sisam wood

Rosewood Herter Brothers Parlor Cabinet

INDIAN ROSEWOOD

In India best rosewood is called sisam, and is found almost everywhere. Mysore or Karnataka rosewood is of a deep red purple colour with black streaks. Dangs in Gujarat, MP, Nepal border areas with Bihar and UP, and Haryana, provide rosewood of ruddy brown to purplish-brown colour. India padauk or narra wood is usually of red or rose colour, often variegated with yellow, and is hard and heavy. Narra wood is known also as Burmese rosewood, Andaman redwood, and kiabooca wood. A Jacaranda is a tree of Brazil origin with timber of purple to blackish colour, often stained to match sisam for veneer making.

Sisam in India (or shisham) is known by other names: aguru (Sanskrit), Bombay Rosewood (English), Dalbergia (Arabic), nakku katti (Tamil Nadu), ostindisches Rosenholz, pradu-khaek, pradu-khaek, shinshapa (Sanskrit), shisham (Hindi), shishu (Bengali), shisu (Bengali), sisam (Hindi), sisham (Nepali), sissai (Hindi), sissau (Nepali), sisso (English), sisso (Tamil), sissoo (English), sissoo (Arabic), sissoo (Hindi), sissu (Hindi), sisu (Bengali), sisu (Spanish), sisuitti (Tamil), skuva, sonoswaseso (Javanese), tali, yette (Tamil).

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5 thoughts on “ROSEWOOD

  1. I can see why Indian rosewood is a popular type of lumber around areas like Nepal and Bihar since it grows abundantly along those borders. I’ve always liked the purplish-brown color that it comes in. What’s the best way to use this type of lumber? I can see that it’s good for building lounge chairs, tables, and parlor cabinets from the pictures, but I have other projects in mind that I would like to use Indian rosewood for.

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    • The Rose coloured wood -the rosewood, best coloured and comparatively smooth grain and straight pattern variety is available in Karnataka. The ‘Rose wood’ of Terai region (Indo Bihar border) is harder, less intensive in colour (some sections almost like dark walnut colour), with variegated grains (crooked lines). It was used for handles, textile bobbins, furniture, and loom shuttles. Karnataka Rosewood was extensively used for carpentry and other craft’s handles, diamond polishers’ holding tools, formerly T squares and parallel bars of architects. National Institute of Design Ahmedabad, first few building blocks (1966-1970s) have Rosewood windows. They also used same for design of furniture items.

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