So, right off the bat, I have a confession to make. I am a liar. A terrible, terrible liar. Bolivian Rosewood is not a ‘True’ Rosewood at all. In my defense, I didn’t name it. But more on that later….
Native to tropical South America, Bolivian Rosewood is common to Brazil and, surprise, Bolivia where it prefers the drier areas of the forest. It is a medium size tree typically around 60 - 65 feet tall, though exceptional specimens can reach 100 feet with diameters approaching 5 feet. The bark of the tree is quite striking, showing high contrasting areas of white and a darker grey.
Bolivian Rosewood is most often used in the music industry because of its breathtaking appearance and superb tonal qualities. Test this on any Dog Might product made of it by singing directly to the item then holding it to your ear, like a seashell.
A ROSE (WOOD) BY ANY OTHER NAME…
Like the Orange Roughy fish, which used to be called Slimehead, industries often change the name of a species to increase sales. Bolivian Rosewood is actually from a tree named Pau Ferro. True Rosewoods come from the Genus Dalbergia and Pau Ferro is in the genus Libidibia, which means it is not a true Rosewood. Libidibia is an amazing word to say over and over. Try it. Now. You will thank me.
So why the name change, you ask. Was Bolivian Rosewood once called Slimewood? No, the name change is due to it almost identical properties to true Rosewoods. It’s working properties, graining, and luster mirror those other Rosewoods. Even professional musicians can’t tell the difference in tonal qulaities of Pau Ferro and Rosewoods. Another reason for the change is that many Rosewoods have worked their way onto the CITES endangered list and are no longer available. But fear not, Pau Ferro is not in danger. I would also like to point out that I used the word 'Rosewood' in this paragraph 5 times. Well, now its 6.
THE ROSEWOOD DEFENSE
Spiritualists believe that Bolivian Rosewood symbolizes love, healing, change, creativity and, most importantly, blocking unwanted forces. When the zombie apocalypse inevitably arrives, be sure to have some of this fine wood around.
THOUGHTS FROM A WOODWORKER
We when first started this little venture, using Bolivian Rosewood was a far-off dream. It is roughly 6 times costlier than the domestic woods we had been using. Now, we use a butt ton of it and it is truly glorious. Looking back, I am glad that we could afford it only after we became more experienced because, much like or Foreman Puzz Longbeard, it is a challenge to work with. It is oily. Very oily. It doesn’t like glue or finishes. The first time we used it, in our Adventure Case Kickstarter, I finished it with our old Poly based Dog Might Varnish. It was a little tacky but we went ahead and took pics for the campaign anyway. Fast forward to a week later, that damn box was still tacky. I am guessing that it is still tacky today, years later. The natural oils in the wood reacted with our old finish and stopped it from drying, ever. So, we would use a ‘dry coat’ on all Bolivian Rosewood from that point on. That meant soaking it in our varnish, then wiping it off, effectively using it as a sealant but resulting in a low gloss finish that didn’t match the rest of our products. I tried Shellac. It worked but, like our Head of Ops, Zoe, it is a pain in the butt to work with.
Yeah, this is the one. Still wet 3 years later.
Once we moved to our new location, we installed the new spray booth and switched to an industrial strength Catalyzed Lacquer finish. Our first Dragon Sheath made in Rosewood went into finishing, we all held our collective breath. An hour later…voila…gorgeous finish and completely dry to the touch. Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!!!!!
Bolivian Rosewood is also very hard, coming in at 1960 on the Janka scale. The wood has a high amount of silica which makes it very tough on tools, requiring new blades often after cutting. It is heavy, making it hard on the body. Want to have a good, hard day’s work, try resawing 8/4 Bolivian Rosewood on the bandsaw for a few hours. Your body will not be pleased. Lumberjack juice helps.
So, why the hell do we use this godforsaken wood, you ask. Because it is simply one of the most luxurious woods in the world. The color is warm and rich, ranging from reddish orange to dark violet brown. The grain is organic, curving softly through each piece in strong black lines. It feels amazing in the hand when finished. It is solid and strong but the surface is buttery soft, like the bum of a newborn. The luster, even before finishing, is incredible. It is consistent, beautiful, and, like a fine Scotch, only gets better with age.