Rubberwood has become very popular around the world mainly because its use is considered to be environmentally friendly. This has left many people who want to take part in preserving the environment to consider using rubberwood for their daily needs, including creating furniture. But is rubberwood good for furniture? This article will answer this and other related concerns.
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Common in some parts of Africa, Asia, and South America, rubberwood is a light-colored, medium-density tropical hardwood cut from the Para rubber tree. This tree, which is botanically referred to as Hevea brasiliensis, is grown in tree plantations for its latex. When it’s no longer producing latex, this tree can be used as rubberwood lumber.
Environmentalists won’t consider it harmful to the environment if you cut the Para tree when it reaches the end of its useful life. You’re supposed to harvest it for timber and create space for newer and more productive Para trees on your plantation. In 2002, the government of Malaysia marketed this wood as “Malaysian Oak”.
Traditionally, latex farmers used to burn the Para trees when they stopped producing latex. Furniture makers had not yet discovered its viability in creating furniture, especially since it’s a medium-density hardwood that can break easily.
But in the late 20th and early 21st century, furniture makers started using it on a large scale to create furniture after they discovered chemical treatments that could protect the wood against fungal and pest attacks.
Today, latex farmers are no longer burning their old Para trees when they reach the end of their latex-producing cycle. Instead, they cut down the old trees and plant new ones. Then they sell the logs to timber and furniture manufacturers for processing. Since rubberwood is harvested from renewable sources, it’s considered completely eco-friendly.
Rubberwood has straight grains and is light-colored. This allows furniture makers to easily stain and match it in woodworking. One of the main reasons why the furniture industry adopted the use of rubberwood in producing furniture was to reduce the use of light straight-grained hardwood that was mainly harvested from South East Asia, endangering the region’s wetland Ramin (Gonystylus).
However, rubberwood is highly susceptible to insect and fungal attacks. These attacks limit its shelf life, making its furniture products less durable. But today furniture manufacturers have discovered ways to treat the wood to make it more durable.
Rubberwood should be treated immediately after sawing through pressurized soaking in boron wood preservatives. Then it should be taken through kiln-drying to draw out the chemicals and regulate moisture content. This treatment method has made rubberwood suitable for creating furniture and door frames.
Is Rubberwood Real Wood?
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Many people assume that rubberwood is some kind of elastic wood that can be stretched or bent without breaking. On the contrary, rubberwood is a type of medium-density hardwood that’s completely rigid like other types of wood. Despite this, rubberwood is quite similar to oak and teak, especially in terms of appearance and properties.
It also comes in various colors, finishes, and lovely grains, making it a perfect choice for buyers who want unique furniture that will add an element of style and individuality to their interior spaces. Natural rubberwood isn’t very robust, but it turns out to be a perfect choice for both indoor and outdoor fittings when it’s properly treated with chemicals.
Soon after sawing, rubberwood has a light-colored blonde look but after being exposed to light and taken through chemical treatment, the wood turns darker. After treatment, rubberwood gains some medium brown lines and pinkish shades. It’s difficult to differentiate between its sapwood and heartwood.
Its vertically drawn vessels make the grain appear rough and give it a touch of personality. A freshly cut rubberwood has a creamy homogenous color that makes it hard for you to differentiate between its sapwood and heartwood. When rubberwood is used to create furniture, it’s either stained or colored to give it look like a full-density hardwood.
Pros and Cons of Using Rubberwood as Furniture
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After confirming that treated rubberwood is good for furniture, the next big concern would be the benefits and setbacks of using this medium-density hardwood to make furniture. This will help you know if it’s worth your hard-earned money. Here are the main pros and cons of using rubberwood to make furniture.
Contrary to what many people believe, rubberwood isn’t elastic and fragile. It’s quite robust, especially when it’s treated with preservatives. After all, it’s a hardwood that belongs to the maple family, which is known to be very durable and resilient.
Rubberwood’s strength is estimated to be around 9500 psi with a hardness of about 500 pounds. Its stiffness is estimated to be about 1.3 psi. This proves that rubberwood is a strong and tough type of wood.
With the ongoing climate changes, environmentalists are working hard to discourage people from cutting down trees. Therefore, the furniture industry has been forced to look for alternative and more sustainable sources of wood.
Fortunately, Para tree plantations have proved to be sustainable sources of wood because only the old Para trees that have reached the end of their latex-producing cycle are felled for wood harvesting.
Furthermore, Para tree farmers plant new Para trees when they remove the old ones, reducing the negative effect on the environment. Instead of burning the old Para trees, farmers sell them to furniture manufacturers and replace them with younger trees immediately, thus preventing soil erosion, floods, landslides, and other negative effects of felling trees.
Since this wood is sold as a byproduct, its price remains fairly low compared to other types of hardwood. Its demand also remains quite low compared to other types of wood like maple, cherry, oak, etc. Therefore, you’re going to get it at a pocket-friendly price.
When rubberwood is properly processed and treated, it becomes very stable. This treatment process also reduces its chances of shrinking or cracking. Therefore, it’s great for furniture. Furthermore, this wood has an amazing blonde to medium tan shade that’s great for furniture and other wooden fittings.
5. Easy to Stain
When it comes to staining and finishing your furniture, rubberwood allows you to be as creative as possible because it takes dyes and polishes quite effectively. Therefore, you can easily change the appearance of your furniture to suit your preferred taste and style.
Unfortunately, rubberwood is highly perishable. It decays easily, especially if it’s not treated. Furthermore, it’s very prone to fungal and insect attacks. That’s why it’s important to make sure your rubberwood undergoes an unforgiving chemical treatment before you use it for making furniture.
2. May Cause Latex Allergies
If you or any member of your family is allergic to latex, rubberwood furniture may act as a trigger. Some people who are allergic to latex claim to have developed allergic reactions when working with rubberwood.
3. Warp and Twists Easily
Rubberwood tends to warp and twist after drying, especially when it’s exposed to the sun for a long time. But it can become quite strong and tough when seasoned.
4. Unsuitable for Outdoor Use
Since rubberwood absorbs moisture very quickly, it shouldn’t be used for outdoor fittings, especially if you live in an area that receives rainfall for prolonged periods. Don’t expose your rubberwood to a lot of humidity because it will accelerate its decay.