USDA Forest Service
Forest Products Laboratory
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53705-2398
(608) 231-9200


Wood Technical Fact Sheet


 Dalbergia melanoxylon

African Blackwood

Family: Leguminosae

Other Common Names: Mufunjo (Uganda), Mpingo, Mugembe (Tanzania), Babanus (Sudan), Mukelete (Rhodesia), Grenadilla (Mozambique).

Distribution: A rather extensive range in savanna regions from Sudan southward to Mozambique, westward to Angola, and then northward to Nigeria and Senegal.

The Tree: Much branched, multistemmed small tree usually 15 to 25 ft high, sometimes as much as 50 ft; bole short, seldom cylindrical, often fluted; rarely over 1 ft in diameter.

The Wood:

General Characteristics: Heartwood dark purplish brown with black streaking; sharply demarcated from the narrow yellowish sapwood. Texture fine and even; grain straight; luster low; slightly oily.

Weight: Basic specific gravity (ovendry weight/green volume) about 1.08; air-dry density 83 pcf.

Mechanical Properties: (2-cm standard)

Moisture content Bending strength Modulus of elasticity Maximum crushing strength

(%) (Psi) (1,000 psi) (Psi)

12% (47) 31,000 2,980 10,800

Amsler toughness 435 in.-lb at 12% moisture content (2-cm specimen).

Drying and Shrinkage: Timber must be seasoned very slowly, end coating of logs or bets is necessary. Drying times of 2 to 3 years and more are common. Kiln schedule T2-C2 is suggested for 4/4 stock and T2-C1 for 8/4. Shrinkage green to ovendry: volumetric 7.6%. Movement in service is rated as small.

Working Properties: Sawteeth blunt rapidly, difficult to plane with hand or machine tools. Excellent for turnery and can be worked to a smooth, lustrous finish. Woodwind instruments are machined with metal-working equipment.

Durability: Heartwood is rated as highly durable, moderately resistant to termites, sometimes attacked by borers in the standing trees; sapwood liable to attack by powder-post beetle.

Preservation: No information available, reported to respond to a diffusion treatment of polyethylene glycol-1,000 to improve dimensional stability.


Uses: Used primarily for the manufacture of woodwind instruments, but also used for other turnery work, brush backs, knife handles, walking sticks, inlay work, carvings, etc.

Additional Reading: (3), (8), (9), (47)