WoodCentral's Book Reviews
The Commercial Woods of Africa

The Commercial Woods of Africa
by Peter Phongphaew

Linden Publishing: 2003
Hardbound, 206 pp., $49.95
ISBN 0-941936-82-1

     At last, someone has taken the time and effort to record many of the various names and origins of African timbers becoming so widely available on world markets. In large color plates on heavy weight paper, 94 African woods are beautifully displayed with their common habitats, full descriptions, properties and common uses.
     One of James Krenov's favorites, doussie, is listed as papao in Ghana, sifu sifu in the Congo, and mambakofi in Tanzania. There are two types exported from African dealers; doussie rouge is technologically superior to doussie blanc, but they share habitats from coast to coast across central Africa.
     Raw densities are listed in grams per cubic centimeter, and an elasticity module is given in Newtons per square millimeter, but all the testing criteria and teminology is well explained. Figures are generally based on moisture contents of 15-20%, with the harvesting of heavier woods such as grenadill and ebony showing moisture contents of up to 35-40%.
     Mr. Phongphaew is German born and owns a timber consulting firm, Global Exotic Hardwood, in the United States. His brother in law has timber holdings in the Congo and Uganda. He gives an overview of the world's forest timber production, future evolution of the market, and the increased importance accorded to ecological concerns.
     The author lists a classification given to each species to rate its durability, density, bending strength, compression strength, volume dwindle and tangential and radial shrinkage. He tells which woods are used for general building construction, furniture, plywood, intarsia or veneers.
     We've all at least heard the names: makoré, zebrano, wenge, thuya, sapele, pao rosa, padouk, muninga. This book will go a long way to sorting out the confusion over mutliple names and advertised claims of these African exports. More and more African species are becoming commonly available worldwide, and this volume has been a much-needed reference for some time now.

. . . Barb Siddiqui