Did You Know?
In the year 2002, rubberwood was termed as 'Malaysian Oak', and marketed by the Malaysian Ministry of Primary Industries.
Wood has been used by mankind for decades. It is widely used in the construction industry. While most types of wood are grown deliberately for use, others are readily available, and rubberwood is one such type.
What is Rubberwood?
Pará rubber trees are the source of rubberwood supply. These trees consist of yellow-white colored flowers, and leaves having leather-like appearance. These trees produce latex which is a white colored liquid substance. The latex production stops after a specific time period, post which, their wood can be used.
Hevea brasiliensis or Sharinga are alternate names to this tree. Initially, they serve their main purpose of providing latex, which is used to make rubber. On completion of this cycle of latex-production, which is generally after the tree completes about 25 - 30 years of age, its wood can be used.
Alternate names used for rubberwood are parawood or plantation hardwood. Its production happens on a very small scale. However, this variety of wood has gained a lot of popularity over the last few years.
Texture and Appearance
Pará rubber trees yield a dense or a tight grain. The word 'rubber' usually denotes elasticity. However, rubberwood is a firm-grained and straight-grained wood, with no ability to stretch. Hence, it must be noted that it derives this name from its parent family, 'pará rubber'.
Hardness and Durability
Rubberwood is advantageous because of its hardness and durability. It is known to be harder than the wood produced by many coniferous trees. Its hardness value is more than that of mahogony, similar to that of teak wood, and lesser than that of oak wood. The Janka hardness value of rubberwood is 980 N (Janka hardness refers to the force required to implant a small ball of about 11.28mm into a sample of wood to be tested for wearing).
Rubberwood offers less resistance to fungus or mold. Hence, proper finishing and drying should be imparted to it. It is not resistant to the oxidation process, and can get discolored if subjected to heat or sunlight for a longer period of time. Apparently, some employ the method of infusing chemical solutions such as a borax-based solution in order to avoid fungal plagues.
A vacuum-pressure method is used to impart pressure to rubberwood to increase its life and make it more durable. Rubberwood is known to have a high moisture content. This treatment further adds moisture to this type of wood, and makes it susceptible to bending or twisting. This shortcoming demands for an effective drying process to reduce its moisture content.
Habitat and Occurrence
Pará rubber trees are native to South America. They are mostly found in the Amazon region of Southern America. These regions include Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Columbia, and Ecuador. In addition to the native plantations, rubber trees are grown widely across the southeastern regions of the Asian continent too. The Asian countries include Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. These trees are found in some parts of Western Africa too. Considering its availability and uses, this popular wood type makes for a very significant export commodity.
Uses and Applications
Latex is the harvest from the rubberwood trees, whereas, rubberwood is the byproduct. Only when the tree becomes incapable of producing the gummy liquid, is it used for timber. Products made from this wood are strong and sturdy. Besides being used for construction purposes, rubberwood is used in making furniture, panels, flooring components, and interior decoration.