Talking Wood Blog: Different Species of Wood in South Africa for Woodworking

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Talking Wood: Surrounded by Beautiful Species

Wood brings life to the room as it comes from a living organism. Wood has got a story to tell through the grain, which indicates the conditions it was grown in and the years it’s been around. The visual characteristics of the grain are dependant on each species of wood and add to the distinguishing factors between species.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the species of woods most commonly used in South Africa for furniture making.

South African & Oregon Pine

Pine is amongst the most widespread wood in use. We love pine because it’s cost effective and adds a certain country style to the decor. It’s easily identifiable by its light yellowish colour and subtle knots.

In many ways pine lacks figure, however, it makes up for this with its ability to take to paint very well making it great for a variety of uses. In addition to this, pine has the ability to resist shrinking and swelling so if you’re sending gifts across the ocean it’s definitely a great way to package them.

Pine forest



Oak is one of the more common solid woods used in South Africa. There are over 600 varieties of Oakwood and in essence, they can be broken down into 2 varieties; Red and White. Interestingly enough, Oak derives from the Northen Hemisphere, consequently you can source over 90 different species in North America alone.

Oak by nature is quite strong, durable and heavy. It has an attractive light colour with a bespoke grain and is resistant to fungal attack, thanks to its jam-packed constitution and long-living nature. All of this means if you pick up a piece of Oak furniture it will probably outlive the rest of your other furniture. Furthermore, Oakwood can be used to create so many different styles of furniture; English country, gothic reproductions and even contemporary pieces.


Oak trees.

Oak Wood

Kiaat or African Teak


Think Kiaat, think character. Kiaat or otherwise known as “African Teak” has loads of character. You’ll typically find Kiaat wood in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Kiaat is also quite durable and strong. Moreover, it has a somewhat pleasant smell due to its spicy fragrance and an aesthetically attractive light brown-yellowish colour.  Kiaat is resistant to borer and termite making it a good choice for many South Africans to use for projects that need to last long, such as pieces of furniture or even canoes. Due to its unique characteristics, Kiaat is great for polishing and takes to finishes really well!

Kiaat Tree

Kiaat Wood

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Rubberwood is a light coloured tropical hardwood that is obtained from the still forests of trees grown in rubber plantations. Whilst Rubberwood may be perishable and has very little natural resistance to decay, it is a more environmentally friendly option. Rubberwood makes use of trees that have already served their purpose. Another positive element about Rubberwood is that it has very little shrinkage making it one of the more stable construction materials available for furniture, toys and kitchen accessories.

However, be warned, Rubberwood is not suitable for outdoor furniture! The rain draws the protective chemicals from the wood exposing it to all the elements as well as to fungi. Rather use it for some cost savvy and beautiful indoor coffee tables.

Rubberwood forest



Mahogany is a much sought after wood indigenous to Africa. There are various grades and species all sold under “Mahogany” and they vary vastly in pricing as well as quality.

Mahogany is a hardwood known for its resilience and beauty. The characteristics of this wood vary; It may display stripe, ribbon, broken stripe, rope, ripple, mottle, fiddle back or blister figures, making it a type of wood with loads of character. In addition to this, Mahogany resists swelling, shrinking and warping over time thus making it a popular choice for furniture making.

Mahogany Trees

Mahogany Wood

Finishing Must-Haves

Have Suggestions?

Let us know if you have any suggestions and we will try to add it to the blog post.


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Showing 6 comments
  • Richard

    Thanks for the very interesting information on wood. I have some white oak desks, cabinets that were bleached by the sun.
    What should I do to bring them back to the original matt finish?

    • Marius

      Hi there Richard, could you please email a picture of it to us at:, we will then be able to give more accurate advice. Thank you!

  • Gert Jordaan

    Dankie, dit was baie leersaam. Ons is nie altyd bewus van die groot hoeveelheid houtsoorte waaroor ons beskik nie. Sommige, en dit is jammer, is glad nie tot ons beskikking nie. Ek noem byvoorbeel “black ivory” (swart ivoor) wat nie by ons houthandelaars beskikbaar is nie, omdat dit so gesog is in die uitvoermark.
    Ons was byvoorbeeld 100 persent afhanklik van Oregon Pine uit die staat Oregon in die VSA tot 1945 vir timmerhout. Eers daarna het ons ons eie dennehout geplant.

    Sommige houtsoorte soos Embuja is wereldwyd in aanvraag, So geskik is dit dat daar niks in die handel beskikbaar is nie. Ek verstaan dat dit “oorgeoes” is en eers weer na 200 jaar verhandel sal word.

    • Marius

      Dis a plesier Mnr Gert!

  • Hennie Goddard

    Hi guys. I am pretty certain that the pic you have of the ‘pine’ is actually closer to maple and the pic you have of the ”oak’ is actually stained pine…enjoyed the article though…..
    Hennie …

    • Marius

      Thanks for that Hennie, we will amend it! We are glad you enjoyed the read!

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