Long prized by furniture makers and woodworkers, rosewood is a hardwood derived from any one of the following species: Dalbergia nigra (Brazilian rosewood); Dalbergia retusa (Cocobolo); Dalbergia stevensonii (Honduras rosewood); Dalbergia frutescens (Tulipwood); Tipuana tipu (Bolivian rosewood); Pterocarpus indicus (Burmese rosewood); and Pterocarpus erinaceus (Senegal rosewood). All species are members of the Fabiaceae, or legume, family. The common name, "rosewood" comes from the fact that the wood has a distinctive fragrance, even when cut and dried. The density of the various rosewoods depends on a number of factors.
Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra) is also known as jacaranda, Bahia rosewood and Rio rosewood. It is native to Brazil's eastern forests and has a density of 47-to-56 pounds per cubic foot. Cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa) is also known as granadillo and palo negro. It is native to Pacific regions of Central America and has a density of 62-to-76 pounds per cubic foot. Honduras rosewood (Dalbergia stephensii) is native to Belize and has a density of 60 pounds per cubic foot. Tulipwood (Dalbergia frutescens) is also classified as a rosewood and is native to Brazil. Its density is 56-to-69 pounds per cubic foot.
Pterocarpus indicus is also known as padauk, padouk and Burmese rosewood. It is native to India, China, the Malay archipelago and the Philippines. Its density is 40 pounds per cubic foot. Pterocarpus erinaceus is also known as Senegal rosewood, West African kino and barwood. Its density is 50 pounds per cubic foot, and it is native to Senegal, Chad and Gabon.
Tipuana tipu is also known as tipu tree and pride-of-Bolivia. It is native to southern Brazil and Bolivia. It is classified as a hardwood tree, but specific information about the density of its wood is not readily available. The uses for Tipuana tipu are comparable to those for other rosewoods, but the tree is also sometimes planted as an ornamental park or street tree in its native area.
Rosewood is used in many applications, with the choice of species dependent on price, color, ability of the specific species' wood to take a high polish, and grain desired. Rosewood can be found in decorative veneers, fine furniture, cabinets, piano cases, marquetry, knife handles, jewelry, inlays, musical instruments--guitars, marimba keys and harps--picture frames, caskets and jewelry boxes.
The density of rosewood can be evaluated by comparing it to other hardwoods. English oak, for example, has a density of 42-to-45 pounds per cubic foot. English walnut has a density of 32 pounds per cubic foot. Madagascar ebony, used for many applications similar to those for rosewood, has a density of 68 pounds per cubic foot.