What is viraro?

Q:

While wood shopping this weekend, my wife picked up a piece of wood she wanted me to use to make a box. It’s marked “viraro,” but I can’t find any information on it. Can you help?
—Ron Lenz, Cable, Wis.

A:

Whether you call it viraro, amendoim, ibiraro, pau fava, or by it’s Latin name, Pterogyne nitens, you’ve discovered a South American hardwood that shares much of mahogany’s beauty with the advantages of greater luster and rigidity, plus a density exceeding that of red oak.

 Like mahogany, the heartwood turns a reddish brown, as a quick wipe with mineral spirits shows in the samples above. You also can see some of the slightly darker streaks that distinguish viraro from mahogany.

Although it’s used in South America to make furniture, sources in North America can be hard to find outside flooring stores that sell imported hardwoods. We discovered our viraro sample at the Rockler store in Wauwatosa, Wis. for $6.25 per board foot.

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