When a cocobolo log is freshly cut, it reveals a rainbow of purples, reds, oranges, and yellows. The colors eventually mellow to a rich reddish orange, accented by waves of crimson and black, making cocobolo one of the greatest treasures in woodworking today. The tree grows along Central America's Pacific seaboard, where it is harvested for both local use and export.
Cocobolo is part of the rosewood family, but its unique colors set this wood apart from other family members. For a highly dense and hard wood, cocobolo is relatively easy to work with both hand and power tools. Care is required when handling the sawdust as, like many tropical woods, it contains toxins that can produce allergic reactions. Dust masks should definitely be worn. The oiliness of the wood presents a gluing challenge, but using an epoxy or a polyurethane adhesive will improve your rate of success.
Due to a combination of heaviness and high value, cocobolo is generally used only for small applications. An unlikely choice for large projects, it can add a distinctive touch when used as an accent. The wood is generally featured in small, highly polished items like brush and cutlery handles, music boxes, carvings, and turnings. It is possible to sand and finish cocobolo as smooth as polished stone, which makes it perfect for use as jewelry.
Wood grain images provided by HobbitHouseInc.com