Brazilian Rosewood

Brazilian Rosewood

The decorative nature of Brazilian rosewood as used in furniture and veneers.

Craftsman Style

¶ Brazilian rosewood is the most expensive of all woods in general use in Europe and America, and is celebrated for its beautifully figured grain; great skill is exercised in imitating its grain, in front doors for houses and in various kinds of cheap cabinetware and in carved legs for pianos. It is a very porous wood, although so hard and firm, and contains an acrid oil which destroys the adhesive qualities of glue. This oil must be removed by steaming or by long seasoning; steaming is preferable, as the wood looks fresher and the grain is more perfectly defined if seasoned quickly by this process. Time in seasoning darkens the wood too much when exposed to the action of the atmosphere.

¶ Rosewood should always be worked solid in sofas and chairs in the part where the sections are not wide, and where a slight warping would not be observed. In bedroom furniture, or in any article where there are wide, plain surfaces, such as rosewood dining tables, or in long sections, even if narrow, it should always be veneered on soft wood, the growth of the country or latitude in which the furniture is to be used.

¶ It is certain that nature has adapted the wood of a country to the wants of its inhabitants; for instance, French cabinet-makers veneer fine woods on oak such as grows in Europe, and it answers well for the purpose there, as the climate is moist and wood does not shrink so much as it does here; the oak is also of a softer and more porous nature. In America, cabinet-makers would not dare to use oak for that purpose, as it is of much closer grain; poplar, pine, ash, or cherry is much better.

¶ Rosewood is imported in rough logs, most generally split in two pieces through the heart, and sold in this condition almost exclusively by weight; it is very rugged and gnarled, and is very valuable, bringing, in rough logs, from 4 to 15 cents a pound. The finest grained logs are cut with circular saws into veneers, yielding, with careful sawing, from fifteen to twenty veneers to the inch. This veneer is used by cabinet and piano makers, and for fancy boxes, etc.; a fine rosewood piano is only covered with rosewood the fortieth part of an inch in thickness, and it is well that it is; the thinner the veneering is on the work, the better it will stand the changes of the climate.

¶ A veneer of this thickness possesses great contractile power - in fact it is almost incredible; a plank of solid wood, six inches thick and two feet wide, can be warped ¼ of an inch by the contraction of a veneer one thirty-second part of an inch thick. This is caused by the glue wetting and swelling the veneer which the wet glue penetrates, while it does not penetrate sufficiently into the plank to have the same effect on it. The action of the atmosphere in drying the veneer, when it is firmly glued, canses each particle to contract, and the instant contraction of particles is sufficient to draw the plank as described. It therefore requires great skill in the construction of furniture to avoid warping and shrinking.

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