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The alternating light and dark stripes of zebrawood makes its name seem quite appropriate. Although there are numerous trees that can produce products marketed as zebrawood, the authentic products are generally recognized as those that come from trees in the Microberlinia family. These are found near riverbanks in the African countries of Gabon and Cameroon. This wood may also be called Zebrano, African zebrawood, and Zingana.
Zebrawood comes from trees that can grow up to 150 feet tall (45.7 m) with trunks that can be 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 m) in diameter. They tend to have thick bark and produce heavy, hard wood with a course texture. These trees are resistant to termites and many other species of insects.
The dark stripes can range from shades of brown to black. The lighter stripes generally range from cream to soft yellow. The stripes may be relatively consistent in some pieces but this may not always be the case. Some zebrawood has highly variable stripes with some of the lines being much thicker than others.
Zebrawood is considered an exotic wood. It is also considered a threatened species. The wood is used largely for decorative purposes such as furniture trim and wall paneling. It is also used for specialty items such as hand guns, guitars, and pens. Supplies may be available for use in larger projects, however, the price may be restrictive in this regard.
Woodworkers often find it is easier to cut the wood than it is to work with it afterward. There are several reasons that zebrawood is generally not considered the easiest wood to work with. Although it is stable and stiff, it tends to have alternating hard and soft textures. It will tear if a woodworker tries to plane it. Finishing can likewise be very difficult.
When this wood is cut, it produces an odor that may also make its animal name seem appropriate. For some people the smell is overbearing, but the odor generally fades once the wood has dried. Zebrawood can also produce allergic reactions in some people. Exposure can result in varying degrees of irritation to the skin and the eyes.
The wood can typically be glued without many problems. Many who have experience with the wood claim that the best results can be expected if hand tools are used. It is also advised that a belt sander be used to provide the best finish.