Wood Species Guide

Wenge

Wenge

Scientific Name: Millettia spp., Millettia laurentii (wenge), Millettia stuhlmannii (panga-panga)

Other Names and Species: Awong, Mpande, Panga-panga

Origin: Found in Central Africa, especially throughout the Congo and southern regions of Tanzania and Mozambique.

Appearance: When freshly cut, the heartwood of wenge (millettia laurentii) is a yellow-brown color, but then in a few months it darkens to a deep, uniform brown, almost black, with alternate layers of light and dark tissue, forming a decorative figure. So it is important to buy well-aged wood before laying the floor. Clearly demarcated from the heartwood is the yellowish-white sapwood. This coarse-textured wood has a straight grain. A related species from East Africa, panga-panga (millettia stuhlmannii) has similar graining but does not darken as much as wenge. One of the best known of the exotic dark woods, wenge is used primarily where a bold dark color or contrasting light and dark accent strips are desired.

Properties: Wenge is very hard, heavy, and durable, with an excellent dimensional stability. Actual installations may show significant movement in use, however.

Workability: Because of its hardness, wenge is difficult to cut and machine. Carbide tooling is recommended due to rapid dulling of tools and cutting edges. This wood sands well and has good holding ability; because of its hardness, however, pre-boring nail holes is recommended. Some solvent-based stains do not dry well when applied to this wood.

Principal Uses: Because of its great resistance to abrasion, wenge is very suitable for flooring that will receive high use and traffic. It is principally used for parquet and strip flooring, general construction, joinery, and for specialty items. It can be substituted for hickory in decorative veneers and in sporting goods.