Zebrawood: The Complete Guide to this Exotic Wood from Africa

November 20, 2023


Zebrawood, named aptly for its resemblance to zebra's markings, is well known as an appealing and beautiful choice in the woodworking space. This unique hardwood garners attention not only for its innate texture and true-to-form wood look but it’s also such a sought after wood for numerous purposes. Whether you’re getting new hardwood floors or possibly even looking into a nice wooden watch (*wink wink, nudge nudge*), understanding zebrawood, at its core, is crucial. Let this serve as a starting point, as we venture into one the realm of woodworking’s most beloved treasures!


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Origins and Species:

Known scientifically as Microberlinia brazzavillensis, Zebrawood or Zambrano, is native to the West African countries of Cameroon and Gabon. Its zebra-like, striped pattern, from which its name is derived, is made up of the layered contrasting between the light-colored sapwood and the dark-colored heartwood. It’s almost like woodgrains within woodgrains. Such a specific patterning is the result of the tree's growth rings and vascular rays, quite literally making each piece of zebrawood its own, natural work of art.

Since we’re diving deep here, Microberlinia brazzavillensis isn’t the only species of zebrawood (You didn’t think there’d actually just be one right?!). The wood’s other primary counterpart, Microberlinia bisulcata, is just as important. Even though both share that sapwood and heartwood, zebra-like striping, each carry their own distinct properties, from color variations to grain patterns, giving them such fascinating layers to explore! See what I did there??

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Zebrawood • Wood • Zambrano • Wooden Watches - Woodworking • Carpentry - Wooden Sunglasses • Cabinets • Guitars • Veneers • Sapwood • Heartwood • Decor • Woodgrain

Characteristics and Properties:

Now you need to understand, such a celebrated wood like Zebrawood isn’t just all in its looks; she isn’t just a one-trick pony folks! Its physical makeup is what makes it such a fan-favorite in the woodworking community. Zebrawood is dense, durable, and moderately hard, unlike soft woods… like softwood (Seriously, I’ve got awful wood jokes for days so don’t even get me started). This makes it a desirable material for a laundry list of reasons. Its excellent finishing properties allow for a smooth and polished surface, showcasing the beautiful contrast between light and dark stripes. It is to note, however, due to the density of said wood, extra care is needed at all times. The lack thereof could easily damage tools.

Personally, my favorite thing about Zebrawood are its natural oils. Due to the oils it produces, it's got quite the resistance to decay and insect infestation, making it last that much longer. Of course that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need proper care and maintenance to preserve its beauty over time. So make sure you show your wood some love!


Applications in Woodworking:

Zebrawood's natural mystique and impressive résumé make it a top choice for a number of woodworking projects like furniture-making, guitars, cabinets and decorative items (watches and sunglasses. I’m talking watches and sunglasses when I say that). It’s all about exotic elegance with Zebrawood and that’s exactly what it brings to any piece with its one-of-one grain patterns. The music world, for one, is a big fan of the wood when it comes to instrument crafting, where the wood's acoustic properties and visual appeal make it a preferred material for guitar backs, veneers, and other components.

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