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Dalbergia retusa

my samples: --- some minor color correction has been used and all colors are quite accurate. the variation in color and grain pattern in this wood is extreme, as you can see.

both sides of a sample plank of cocobolo / Dalbergia retusa --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.

end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above

both sides of a sample plank of cocobolo / Dalbergia retusa --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. The second side is freshly sanded, which is why it is lighter than the first side.

end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above

END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above

both sides of a sample plank of cocobolo / Dalbergia retusa --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.

end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above

END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above

NOT a raw wood color
sample plank, with a finishing agent, shot in a woodworking store. HUGE enlargements are present. Clearly, age has put a patina on this piece even though it has a finishing agent and was way in the back of the store completely away from anything but the most feeble indirect sunlight.

END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above

both sides of a small piece --- HUGE enlargements are present for both these and the pic directly below. The darker, duller color on the 2nd side is a patina; the first side is recently sanded.

end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above --- the end grain was lightly sanded but not enough to remove the patina.

END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above

both sides of a sample plank of cocobolo --- HUGE enlargements are present. The face shown on the left had a dark patina which I pretty much sanded off although more sanding would have continued to lighten the color. The face on the right was only lightly sanded so still retains most of the patina.

end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above

END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above

both sides of a really nice plank. Upon sanding, the beautiful patina went away, but the wood is still gorgeous.

a couple of small planks and end grain

end grain closeup of one of the planks directly above

small plank and end grain --- this piece very nicely shows two things about the sapwood of cocobolo. First, it is sharply demarcated from the heartwood and second it is a somewhat ugly grayish tan. I have seen (and show below) sapwood that is a more lively yellow, but that is the exception, not the rule.

end grain closeup of the piece directly above

plank and closeup --- this one goes all the way across the tree and very nicely shows both the color of the sapwood and the typical clean delineation between heartwood and sapwood for this species. I forgot to take pics of any of the pieces I cut-off of this plank, but they were BEAUTIFUL --- deep rich reds and purples with a magnificent grain.

web pic as posted by the vendor who sold me the plank above --- my color is accurate

allthough the sapwood of cocobolo is more typically tan, or even an ugly greyish tan (see the solid cocobolo bowl at the bottom of this page), it is occassionally yellow, and when I was looking at this glued up piece that will become part of one of my laminated bowls, I noticed that the sapwood on the cocobolo (the small square-ended section in the upper right) was almost identical in color to the piece of yellowheart right next to it.

three "sticks" showing 2 sides of each --- the enlargements show up better than these small shots

two sides of a single "stick"

two sides of a single "stick". Note how this looks almost exactly like Bolivian rosewood, which as I recall is a close relative of cocobolo

some turning sticks donated by Jim Glynn --- thanks Jim. (NOTE: the purple color is accurate)

a set of turning sticks showing some of the grain and color variation available. (NOTE: the orange color is accurate)

a set of 5 turning sticks and then two pieces of veneer. The 5-piece pic really shows some good cocobolo grain when expanded. The sticks are 6" long and were 120-grit sanded on the surface shown. They were specifically chosen and placed in this order to show a progression of mostly orange background to mostly dark background.

a couple of sets of small sticks of a particularly orange cocobolo --- very nice; color is accurate

three sets of thins chosen (from several dozen) to show a variety of color and grain. These are rough. Some sanding would make the color look better. Colors are reasonably accurate.

a set of thins all cut from the same section of a 1 1/2" turning square

the freshly exposed inside (left) and long-exposed outside (right) of a 6" turning stick that was just cut in half lengthwise. An excellent example of how cocobolo color changes with exposure.

showing the side grain of the stick in the pictures directly above

both sides of a plank --- the side in the 1st pic has been freshly, but lightly, sanded and the side in the 2nd pic has a much longer exposure and shows a nice patina

both ends of the plank, shown with the freshly sanded side up

a smaller piece cut from the larger piece above, and the same piece moistened with water

same set as directly above but from the opposite end

end grain closeup of the piece directly above --- the dark diagonal marks are just pressure marks, not inherent in the grain

the back side of the piece direcly above, freshly, and very roughly, sanded

both sides of two different very nice-sized planks of Panamanian cocobolo. These pics were contributed to the site by John Mattson. Thanks, John.

veneer sheet and closeup --- veneer is rare for this species because the tree is typically too small to make veneer cutting feasible. The veneer, like the lumber, is expensive. If I had seen this piece with no name tag, I would have assumed it was Brazilian rosewood (they are close cousins)

quartersawn veneer sheet contributed to the site by John Chamberlain, whom I thank for this excellent quality sheet.

cocobolo picture compulsive behavior

Some people cannot stop themselves from drinking too much alcohol. I can't stop myself from taking pictures of cocobolo.

three shots of the same long plank

three shots of the same plank; in the first pic, the wood is raw as I received it and then I rough-sanded it for the next two pics. In some aged cocobolo, sanding takes off a substantial patina and significantly changed the color, but that didn't happen on this one, so I assume the piece hadn't been aging all that long by the time I got it.

before and after pics of a piece that I sanded (the 2nd pic is cut-off and sanded)

another piece shown both raw and sanded --- on this one, the removal of the patina is noticable

a pair of scales, with one side raw (with patina) and the other side freshly sanded. Good example of how freshly sanded cocobolo is sometimes very purple. In the first pic, the upper piece is the raw side and in the 2nd pic the lower piece is the raw side.

just more examples of my compulsive behavior --- all of these small pieces are freshly sanded

the middle piece is unsanded, with patina, the other two are freshly sanded.

side grain example, freshly sanded

small plank freshly sanded

plank raw, then freshly sanded.

freshly sanded piece

several shots of some small cut-offs that have a particular purple color, freshly sanded, and that also exhibit some good sapwood views

just another end grain shot

some relatively bland-colored pieces, freshly rough-sanded (and boy are those sanding marks visible)

OK, that's it. I'm going to join a 12-step program for people who can't stop taking pictures of cocobolo, and I'm never ever again going to post any more pictures of cocobolo, at least not for several more days.

OK, more than several days have gone by and I have some new pieces to show:

large plank and closeup --- this was apparently planed some time ago, as it has acquired a nice patina

plank and end grain cut from the larger plank directly above --- I've sanded off some of the patina, but not all of it. If I went down another 1/16th inch, it would be purple, as you can see from the side grain closeup below

end grain closeup of the piece directly above --- when I first sanded it, this view was a lighter purple, somewhat like the side grain directly below, but as I used finer sandpaper, it turned darker.

side grain closeup of the piece directly above --- this shows how the plank is purple down beneath the red/orange patina (the top and bottom of this pic show the red/orange patina that goes down into the wood less than 1/16th of an inch)

a 'side-and-top' angled shot of an extremely dark 2" square turning "stick" --- the slight mottle shown in the unsanded face pic has been listed by at least one vendor as "bee's wing" (see web pics below for an example) but as you can see on the sanded face pic, the mottle pretty much disappears upon sanding and it is not in any case a true bee's wing mottle. Generally, cocobolo that is very dark like this is advertised as Guatamalan. I have never seen any this dark advertised as Mexican.

small plank and end grain, cut from the larger piece directly above --- I thought that when I opened this up, it would be a lighter purple inside, but it was hardly lighter at all and at first I thought it might be kingwood, not cocobolo, because of the consistent deep purple.

end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE of the piece directly above

side grain closeup of the piece directly above --- on the first enlargement you can clearly see the marks of the orbital sander that I used for a final 320-grit sanding on this piece.

another very dark cocobolo plank (probably Guatamalan) and end grain

end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE of the piece directly above

both sides of a plank with a lot of sapwood and closeups of each side. The first closeup is a little too dark --- I too out too much of the red when doing the color correction.

both sides of a long plank and a combined closeup of both sides together

dark plank and closeup

two planks showing some of the color range of this species (the tan colored section is sapwood)

set of small planks, some of which show the extreme color change that can occur in the heartwood of a single plank (the lighter color is NOT sapwood --- if you check out the sapwood on many pics on this page, you'll see that it is a grayish white and can sometime have a stong yellow tint, but it is NOT orange)

small plank


set of small planks --- the first pic is with the patina still on and the 2nd pic is right after sanding. The grain shows up more clearly in the enlargements.

plank and end grain

end grain closeup of the piece directly above

plank and end grain

end grain closeup of the piece directly above

set of small, not very attractive (for cocobolo), planks

another set of small, not very attractive (for cocobolo), planks

a couple of the small planks from the 2 sets directly above, but with one side still showing the patina and the other side freshly sanded. This demonstrates what I meant when I said the planks were not very attractive for cocobolo.

a couple of thin-wood planks, freshly sanded

a stubby turning piece and and end grain closeup of same

highly figured pair --- pic contributed by Todd Levy; thanks Todd.

A bunch of book matched scales loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. The first pic shows the book matched faces and the 2nd pic shows the other side. One level of enlargment is present for each pic

web pics:

bookmatched sets of highly figured Mexican cocobolo
that prorated out to just a hair over $1,000.00 per board foot !!!
Now, this is REALLY fancy wood, but $1,000/BF ???

plank with wet and dry sections --- in my own experience, wetting cocobolo does NOT have this dramatic an effect on the color. In fact, it has practically no effect at all if the wood is fine sanded, because the wood is practically waterproof. If this is a rough-sanded piece, then the moistening has had the effect of lessening the light reflected from all the sanding marks --- that's the only reason I can think of why there is such a large difference between wet and dry.

tree section with sapwood

planks, most showing both heartwood and sapwood

log image provided by Larry Newsome, whom I thank.

In addition to the log image above, Larry also gave me this pic of some slabbed cocobolo. To me this looks exactly like kingwood, but Larry tells me it is Costa Rican cocobolo. You can see it more clearly if you click for an enlargement.

three views of a spectacular plank, pics provided by James Taglienti, whom I thank for these and other pics. Both levels of enlargement are there for all three.

misc planks and slabs

plank and closeup

bookmatched pair of planks and two closeups, all moistened (rather heavily) for the pics

planks in bookmatched pairs

turning blocks

a plank listed as "bee's wing" pattern, but I have purchased such planks and the mottle almost disappears when the wood is sanded, and it is most emphatically NOT a true bee's wing pattern. You can see an example of this in the dark plank up in my own samples.

turning stock


pen blanks

bookmatched pairs of thins

waxed bowl blank

knife handle scales --- even for cocobolo that first pair of scales has a pretty amazing grain pattern

burls --- I find the brilliant red of the last one to be particularly unlikely for a raw wood color

two slices from a large chunk of cocobolo where the whole thing looked like it might be a huge burl, but inside it only some areas were burl. In these two pics you see a heartwood cluster burl and then a section of burl in the sapwood

unseasoned crotch wood

crotch sections --- last one is 2nd one moistened

unseasoned planks

big cocobolo planks:

a 10" wide, 3" thick plank, a huge figured plank that was listed at $50/BF, and an 8" wide plank


more big planks

veneer --- I rarely see cocobolo offered as a veneer, probably because the trees are fairly small and of irregular form which does not lend itself to veneer production.

listed as cocobolo veneer, although it does not look to me to be cocobolo, the vendor who listed it is reliable.

veneer sheets and 2 closeups

a bunch of planks from the BogusColorVendor, put here to show the outstanding grain patterns that are available, but the colors are absolutely not to be believed.

both sides and a closeup of a bookmatched plank pair



extreme swirling grain

colocobol grows in a number of places in South and Central America and is generally not listed by place of origin, but some vendors breaks out Mexican cocobolo for separate listings. All the wood in this section was listed as Mexican cocobolo

Mexican cocobolo planks and turning stock

planks and turning stock, some waxed, all from the same vendor and all listed as Mexican cocobolo

bookmatched pairs of Mexican cocobolo

figured Mexican cocobolo bookmatched pairs

figured Mexican cocobolo turning sticks

other cocobolo listed by country of origin:

Panamanian cocobolo planks

Nicaraguan cocobolo plank and closeup and then another long plank

two bookmatched pairs of spalted Nicaraguan cocobolo, both of which are just stunning. Pics submitted by Todd Levy. The first pair is 21" x 34" and the second is 23" x 34", both of which are very large by cocobolo standards

Solid cocobolo knives from a correspondent named Ason who is a Lord Of The Rings fan (in case you can't tell)

knife and sheath both made from the same plank

sword and sheath by the same woodworker

cocobolo coffee table tops

bottle stopper

globlet with captive rings

hollow forms


bowl --- this uniform bright red is outside of my experience but I cannot say that it is not correct.

bowl --- color is extreme but believable since a finishing agent has been applied.


two bowls by Steve Earis. The smaller is 7"x2" and the larger is 10"x3" and they were made from the same blank and are also shown nested. My thanks to Steve for this and other contributions to the site. BIG enlargements are present.

another bowl by Steve Earis, this one is 8.5"x2.5" and BIG enlargements are present

two more bowls by Steve Earis

bowls by Bryan Nelson (NelsonWood). Bryan fine-polishes his bowls with 1200 or even higher grit sandpaper while they are spinning at high speed on the lathe and then finishes them there with a friction polish of his own devising, thus achieving a shine and color vibrancy that is beautiful to behold.

bowl w/ an unusually light (but completely believable) orange color

guitar sets

guitar --- looks as much like kingwood as cocobolo

back side of a guitar made by Neal Moser for Glenn Brown. The body is solid cocobolo and the front was made from a beautiful piece of quilted maple (can be seen on my quilted maple page).

cocobolo highlights on turned bowls --- the first bowl has only a natural stain finish at the time of the picture and the 2nd bowl has a much lighter piece of cocobolo and several coats of polyurethane.

cocobolo sections in the middle of a laminated bowl, shown after the application of one coat of natural stain.