Cocobolo grows in the regions of Central America and Southern Mexico. More specifically it is found in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and the Pacific Coast Regions in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico. Cocobolo is a slow growing tree and is considered a tropical rosewood. It grows in steep, rugged terrains as well as in tropical highlands, ranging in altitudes from 500 to 2500 feet. Cocobolo wood is relatively difficult to find, because it is presently in danger of extinction.
Cocobolo is an extremely dense wood, and weighs approximately 68 lbs/cu. ft. It is so dense that it is one of the few woods in the world that will not float in water. Cocobolo is a very beautiful, rich wood with many colors in its heartwood. The main colors range from orange to a reddish-brown with dark brown to black streaks throughout. Its sapwood is a whitish color and is not frequently used for commercial purposes. It has a fine texture with a straight to wavy grain pattern. On occasions, cocobolo can have interlocked grain patterns which make it more beautiful and desirable. It is a very hard, stiff, strong and tough, as well as possessing excellent
shock resistant qualities. Also, cocobolo possesses high natural oils, which makes it an extremely durable wood, and resistant to insects and decay. In addition to its oil content, its extreme dense quality prevents water absorption.
Cocobolo has excellent woodworking qualities unless it is highly figured, then tearing can occur when planing. Cocobolo is also considered an excellent wood for turning. Due to its hard nature, hand tool work can be difficult. Cocobolo holds fasteners extremely well, but pre-drilling is a must. Gluing can be a problem, due to its natural oils and the dense nature of the wood. Acetone should be used to clean the surface oils prior to gluing. The dense nature of the wood will prevent any glue from penetrating very deep, so polyurethane type glue is recommended because of its superior strength. Cocobolo can be sanded to a beautiful sheen, but progressively finer grit sizes should be used. It is recommended to finish the sanding with a number 400 grit size or finer. Because of its beautiful colors and grain patterns, cocobolo usually does not require staining. Prior to finishing, clean the wood surfaces with acetone and then apply a seal coat. The seal coat will help prevent the oils from bleeding through. A penetrating oil finish works well followed with wax coats. This will provide a high glossy finish. Cocobolo will darken with age if not properly finished and maintained occasionally.
Wood Species Index
Due to its natural beauty, this exotic wood is highly sought after for flooring, jewelry boxes, gun and knife grips, clock cases and musical instruments. When large enough pieces are available, fine furniture is in demand. Turned items are very common, such as fancy pens, pool cues, pepper mills, bowls, chess pieces, specialty items and trinkets. Carved items are available also, but the hard nature of cocobolo requires very sharp tools for success.
All Exotic Woods: