Common Name(s): Cocobolo, Cocobola, Cocabola.
Scientific Name: Dalbergia retusa.
Distribution: Central America.
Color/Appearance: Cocobolo can be seen in a kaleidoscope of different colors, ranging from yellow, orange, red, and shades of brown with streaks of black or purple. Sapwood is typically a very pale yellow. Colors are lighter when freshly sanded/cut, and darken with age; for more information, see the article on preventing color changes in exotic woods.
Grain/Texture: Grain is straight to interlocked, with a fine even texture. Good natural luster.
Odor: Cocobolo has a distinct spice-like scent when being worked, which some find unpleasant: though it has been used in at least one women’s perfume.
Common Uses: Fine furniture, musical instruments, turnings, and other small specialty objects.
Comments: One of today’s most prized lumbers for its outstanding color and figure; yet also one of the most infamous for its difficulty in gluing, and its tendency to cause allergic reactions in woodworkers.
Also, there are a few misleading reports of Cocobolo’s Janka hardness being only about 1,100 lbf, and it’s modulus of elasticity at only about 1,100,000 lbf/in2: which is almost certainly either a typo or a different wood than what is commonly called Cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa). Reports indicate that Cocobolo is stronger and denser than Brazilian Rosewood, and that is the basis for the strength values (bending strength and modulus of elasticity) that are quoted at the top of this page. Specific gravity is used to predict the hardness of wood with a fair degree of accuracy, and given its incredibly high density, (it sinks in water: see video below), Cocobolo’s hardness (and other strength properties) is most likely several times higher than the 1,100 lbf which is sometimes reported.