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Swartzia cubensis

Swartzia cubensis of the family Leguminosae, subfamily Caesalpiniaceae

It is possible that there are other Swartzia species that are sold as katalox, but I have not yet pinned that down. This wood is very similar to wamara (Swartzia benthamiana) to which it is closely related.

This very hard, dense, heavy, Central/Latin American wood has a generally dark purple and brown heartwood that can show considerable color variation. It can be quite attractive and it takes a high natural polish, but it can be difficult to work due to the density and it is reported to sometimes have large movement in service. Sometimes has interlocked grain that can create an attractive curl in the figure. Finishing agents will turn darker pieces almost black, after which it can be difficult to distinguish from partridgewood due to the similar wenge-like, but very tight, grain pattern.

my samples:

both sides of a big chunk of katalox and an end grain shot with each side --- the presence of varying amounts of purple is common in this wood, including large amounts in some boards.

the same piece moistened with water --- the yellow in the sapwood is excessive but correcting for it causes the heartwood color to go off, so I've left it alone; the heartwood color is shown very accurately --- it's a very pretty purple.

both sides of a small plank, the end grain of the plank, and then a smaller piece cut from the original and mositened with water --- note how the freshly exposed side grain is significantly more purple than the longer exposed side grain of the larger piece

both sides of a plank and end grain for each --- the first pic shows a freshly sanded side (lightly sanded) and the 2nd pic shows a longer exposed side that is still pretty rough

a smaller piece cut from the plank direcly above and sanded further which brought out the color a little more, then the same piece moistened with water

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

end grain closeup of a sapwood section

both sides of a plank --- the 1st pic is of a side that has been sanded, lightly, and the 2nd pic is of a side still fairly rough

the end grain of the plank directly above and the end grain of a smaller piece that was just cut from the larger piece --- as you can see, the freshly exposed wood shows purple whereas the longer exposed wood shows none.

a closeup of the plank in the pictures directly above this, showing the wenge-like grain pattern that can occur in this wood

end grain closeups from a couple of pieces that were cut from one of the samples above (I've lost track of which one). At first glance, the pic on the left appears to be of a different wood, but close examination of the enlargement shows that it does in fact have the same structure as the end grain shown in the other closeups on this page.

END GRAIN UPDATES from directly above

two small pen turning sections and end grain --- I'm only 80% sure that the piece on the right is actually katalox.

end grain closeups of the pieces directly above

both sides of a small chunk --- although it's not very clear from the pics, this piece has a slight curl (the side grain pic below shows it a little better)

face grain closeup and side grain closeup

end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above

END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above

high quality figured planks --- pic contributed by Todd Levy; thanks Todd.

web pics:

NOTE: some of the pics in this section are from the BogusColorVendor but are not so flagged because the apparently extreme variability of color in this wood makes it difficult for me to tell what might be realistic and what might not and although they are not an organization that deserves the benefit of the doubt, I give it to them anyway EXCEPT for the obvious gross exaggeration shown at the bottom of the page.

lumber stacks

planks and slabs --- some figured, some not

plank and closeup

plank and closeup

both sides and a closeup of a plank

both sides of a set of planks

both sides of a set of planks

both sides of a set of planks

plank identified as Northern rosewood / Swartzia cubensis

both sides and a closeup of a plank

both sides and a closeup of a plank

both sides and a closeup of a plank

planks and a closeup

turning stock listed as katalox / Swartzia cubensis

bowl blank

both sides and two closeups of a crotch plank

fiddleback plank and closeup

more fiddleback planks

fiddleback planks


curly scales

pen blanks that have been oiled and waxed. The first set was listed as fiddleback and the second set was listed as mottled but I don't see either type of figure --- they just look plain to me but it is kind of hard to tell

figured planks

figured plank and closeup

figured stick

listed as "pomelle" but I think that's an exaggeration, unless the picture is really bad

both sides and a closeup of a plank labled "golden katalox" --- the obvious mottle figure wasn't mentioned and I have no idea what "golden katalox" is (might be just sapwood, might be a whole different species).


burl and closeup


The pics in this section are from the BogusColorVendor and have what I'm confident is their usual incredibly gross misrepresentation of a wood. My own samples at the top of the page came from them, and this piece probably looks pretty much like my own sample.


both sides of a plank

both sides of a pair of planks