The name rosewood applies to a group of trees spread over the world's tropical regions, each having its own characteristics and all of them rich in appearance. In the West, rosewood's popularity dates to the 1700s when affluent Europeans imported it to adorn their opulent homes.
Beginning in the 1800s, some species were overharvested. Most notable was Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra), a species that now is quite scarce and extremely expensive. Honduras rosewood (Dalbergia stevensonii) has a lighter color than Brazilian and is the most commonly available species today. Due to hardness it is a difficult wood to machine. Another rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia) comes with forenames like Indian, Indonesian, and East Indian. It is exceptionally hard, and the interlocking grain can cause tear-out when planing. This species has good bending qualities, takes finishes well, and offers excellent dimensional stability. Because of its oiliness, rosewood can be difficult to glue, making epoxy the best adhesive choice, and all species contain irritants that can cause allergic reactions.
Rosewood is generally reserved for small projects and special accents. Veneer is its most cost-effective use. High prices and limited availability have inspired man-made substitutes using common domestic veneers that are compressed and dyed to look like rosewood and machine and finish well.
Wood grain images provided by HobbitHouseInc.com