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ZIRCOTE

Cordia dodecandra

Cordia dodecandra of the family Boraginaceae, the borage family

Common variant name spellings include ziricote and, far less frequently, siricote. Google gives about 40,000 hits for each of zircote and ziricote but only a few hundred for siricote. UPDATE The previous statement was true when I wrote it (about 2002) but now (2013) I find that Google gives only 30,000 hits for zircote and 220,000 for ziricote and 50,000 for siricote. Looks like my choice of zircote rather than ziricote was a bad one.

A hard, dark greenish/grayish wood from Central America, mostly from Mexico, this wood frequently has one of the most wildly swirly and billowy grain patterns of any wood. The fairly ugly sapwood is sharply demarcated from the heartwood. Zircote is related to bocote and some dealers confuse the two, although I have never figured out how since the two really don't look alike at all.



my samples:


both sides of a sample plank of ziricote / Cordia dodecandra --- 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 vendor of this sample had it listed as a burl, which is just silly. There is nothing about it to suggest a burl as you can see from the end grain update below, which shows the the grain to be totally regular. This vendor is unreliable in such identifications. For some woods, the swirly lines might indicate a burl but for zircote it is totally normal.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of ziricote / Cordia dodecandra --- 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 zircote sapwood / Cordia dodecandra --- 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 of the sapwood and then the heartwood from the other end directly above


both sides of a small piece --- HUGE enlargements are present. The pics have a slight red tint that is not in the wood


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


planks with patina ... see directly below for pics after sanding


same planks as directly above but the patina has been sanded off


two closeups of the upper planks of the two directly above, showing the strong ray flakes, even in the sapwood


planks


planks


planks with a small amount of insect damage (see near the ruler at inch 15 on the upper plank, and directly below for a closeup


closeup of the planks directly above, showing the insect damage in particular --- I normally reduce pics one more time from this size, but I wanted the full expansion so as to show the insect damage really close (click for enlargements)


both sides of a small stick


closeups of both ends of the piece directly above


side grain closeup of the piece directly above


this piece has more green color than most pieces. The face grain shot was carefully color corrected and is quite accurate in the deep olive green color. The end grain pic was not color corrected and does not properly show the green in the actual piece.


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE of the piece directly above. The update is from the other end of the piece


these two pics each show all four sides of a single zircote stick. In the first set, all sides have been moderately-fine sanded but in the second set only the top and bottom pics show sanded sides; the middle 2 pics show rough sides. You can see that sanding had little effect on the color of the second stick. In the second set, the light tan in the bottom 2 pics is sapwood. Before sanding, the first stick was a dusty olive green, very much like the sticks in the web pic below, but after sanding, it deepened considerably. Some color correction was used here and both pics are very accurate in color.


a set of sticks that are still rough. The camera made these look pure brown with no hint of green, so I used color correction and this is now an accurate pic showing the dusty green appearance that is common to zircote before finishing. After sanding, these will take on exactly the same deep olive green and black coloration as the stick in the first set of pics directly above.


more sticks, 2 views of the same set --- these are freshly sanded


two views of a couple of little turning sticks


a set of unsanded sticks with the green patina still extant


misc small pieces from a junk lot of mixed wood --- color is too brown


another batch of small pieces from a mixed lot --- color is very accurate


both sides of a plank with sapwood, and a closeup


plank


plank and closeup


plank with the classic zircote figure


both sides and closeups of both ends of a small stick --- unlike most zircote, this piece has a faint red tint that is correctly depicted here (except that the second pic has just a little TOO much red)


small plank and face grain closeup


closeups of both end grains of the piece directly above


small turning sticks and end grain. Note that the upper stick exhibits ray flakes, which I find fairly unusual in this wood. Enlarged pic of it directly below


side grain and end grain closeups of the sticks directly above. The end grain pics are, unfortunately, little more than well focused pics of sanding scratches


both sides of a set of small planks --- unsanded and still retaining their dusty green patina


planks


planks


closeup of one of the pieces directly above --- color of pic is slightly orange-tinted but the wood is not


both sides of a plank showing some really nice ray flakes on one side


three small planks --- more details directly below



side grain and end grain closeups for the left piece in the 3-piece set above. Note how the end grain pattern is identical in the sapwood and the heartwood (except for the color, of course) and how there is a small distortion (compression) in the pattern at the transition between the two.


side grain and end grain closeups for the middle piece. Note the nice ray flakes on the side grain.


side grain and end grain closeups for the right piece in the 3-piece set above


some small pieces, one of which (upper right) has been moderately find sanded and the others of which are unfinished and exhibit the dusty-green colored patina that is typical of this species. End grain shot of the same set.


sets of planks


both sides of a plank, showing what is in this case slightly uglier than usual sapwood but with a very accurate depiction of the green patina that is typical of this wood. See directly below for a sanded pic.


the same plank as directly above but sanded, showing a color change from the green patina to a slightly reddish black brown (the pic is just a hair too reddish). The "grain line" that seems to have disappeared in this pic was actually a water stain and sanded right off.


plank with ray flakes


small planks, the first with almost no striping and the second with strong stripes.


plank shot at a lumber yard because it shows fantastic ray flakes over much of the face


misc planks shot at various lumber yards. HUGE enlargements are present. The far right plank in the last pic almost doesn't look like zircote, but it is


plank pair --- pic contributed by Todd Levy; thanks Todd


wild-figured plank --- pic submitted by Neal Kuwabara who reports that this particular plank not only gave off the fine charcoal dust that is common for the species, but also that it was extraordinarily oily, which has not been my own experience with this wood. It IS oily, but he said this piece makes cocobolo feel downright dry, and that is the opposite of my own experience, so clearly this species has a lot of variety in oil content. Also, I have had no trouble at all in gluing this wood, and gluing is sometimes a problem with oily woods such as teak and cocobolo. Neal further reports that the lighter areas are turning from gray to brown.


veneer sheets --- I almost never see zircote offered as veneer --- I was fortunate to obtain these as part of a large mixed-lot veneer purchase.


This veneer sheet was loaned to me by John Koehn whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.



web pics:


planks


a bunch of planks, all from the same vendor. I don't know if the color differences (some are gray, some are brown) are from the photography or from the wood itself


both sides of a plank --- huge enlargements are present


planks with colors that are just silly


plank and closeup


plank and closeup


plank and closeup


planks and a closeup. I found these pics when I was looking for kalimantan ebony, which is what these pics were listed as, but that is absurd. These an unquestionably zircote.


turning stock


turning stock with a red tint in the pics


bookmatched scales, all from the same vendor, some showing very nice ray flakes and most of them showing the really good grain "clouds" that make zircote so attractive





long plank and a closeup


not sure if this is the same plank (other side) or a different one

The four pics directly above were contributed by cane-maker Meilie Moy-Hodnett whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.





quartersawn plank showing ray flakes


pic of a lot I won on eBay --- I'll get my own pics of it posted soon. Ah, well, no I guess I won't, as the vendor didn't send it after all. The piece on the left is quartersawn --- see comments direcly below


quartersawn plank --- you don't see zircote much in quartersawn form because that loses much of the amazing swirly nature of the grain that makes the wood so distinctive and interesting. I would hardly say that this piece is boring, but it isn't as interesting as the more swirly-grain flat cuts.


The web shot on the left shows a pile of turning blocks, showing mostly end grain where you can see the bulbous nature of the growth patterns in this wood. The combination of bulbous growth pattern and strong grain contrast make zircote unlike any other wood I have experienced, and that is emphasized by the incredible swirls in the 2nd piece (the orangish color of which is unlikelY)


piece of zircote with cluster burls and a closeup of the left side. This is the only zircote burl I've ever run across. The colors in the original pic were a very unlikely violet and I've tried to change the color to make the wood look more like zircote really looks in terms of color.


veneer


thin bocote sheets in a bookmatched pair laid out for a guitar back --- an excellent example of the green color that zircote sometimes has (I find this color totally believable based on what I've seen)


more web shots including a piece with a lot of sapwood and some turning sticks that seem to have some of the green shown in my first sample above. I doubt that the sapwood is as yellow as shown in the first pic.


more web shots


pen blanks that have been oiled and waxed and photographed by a woman who makes pretty much all of her wood look purple regardless of what color it actually is.


pen blanks


thin wood laid out for a guitar back


guitar blanks


guitars


all labeled "Mexican" zircote



The pics below are all from the BogusColorVendor and are obviously misrepresentations of the color of the wood


pics showing the commonly added red color, by this vendor. To show pretty much what these SHOULD look like (that is, what the WOOD actually looks like), I have color-corrected one of their pics, shown below:


here's one of their pics with a verion that I have corrected to show what the wood probably really looks like. They actually have to go out of their way to get the extra red into the pics.


a slightly less bonoxious addition of some red in this set, but they have still gone out of their way to misrepresent the wood.


a plank and closeup showing a completely outrageous red --- no zircote on the planet has ever come even CLOSE to looking like this and it is this kind of pic that makes it so completly obvious that the person who posted the pic could not POSSIBLY believe that it was an honest representation of the wood.


plank and closeup


plank





zircote bed headboard picture submitted by one of my correspondents, a doctor who designed it and had it made for him in Belize. Gorgeous, huh? It really shows up better if you click to enlarge.





platter, making interesting use of sapwood/heartwood, although I'm a little puzzled at the almost pure white of the sapwood, since my experience (see my own samples above) is that the sapwood is more of an off-white tannish color. Perhaps this sapwood was bleached and that doesn't change the heartwood color.


bowl


8" bowl by Steve Earis; BIG enlargements are present




zircote highlight on a turned bowl, and the entire bowl after an application of natural stain --- note that the light color in the pores of the zircote is NOT natural to the zircote but is an effect of my having fine-sanded the bowl and then not removing the resulting dust from the pores before taking the pic.


zircote section on a laminated bowl. As you can see particularly well in the pic on the left, which is fresh off the lathe, this piece has spectacular ray flakes for the species. The 2nd enlargement of the pic on the right, which is after the application of one coat of natural stain, also shows it pretty well, although the stain does subdue it to an unfortunate degree. The yellow wood is osage orange, the orangish wood in the rear is paela and the yellowish wood in the right rear is canary. To the left of the zircote is bocote backed by paela. The swirly wood in the center is cocobolo.