Afzelia Xylay Wood (Afzelia Xylocarpa) Uses, Properties, Pros and Cons

Southeast Asia is where the Afzelia xylocarpa tree is found. It grows in countries where the trees shed their leaves in the fall, including Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Burma.

Afzelia is a scarce wood that is sometimes used in place of high-end mahogany. The wood is a pretty reddish-gold color, but what makes it famous is the impressive figure it can show.

The wood can have a type of pommel figure known as Xylay, lay, or gator skin figure. This type of pommel figure is often found on high-end knives.

As the handle is polished to a finer grit, the figure gets stronger, and contouring shows off the interesting parts of the figure. The wood also ages very well. Instead of getting darker or fading, it turns a deeper orange or red color over time.

This makes it a great wood for knives that get much use since the oils and patina will only make the color and figure stronger.

Afzelia Xylay is one of the most sought-after woods on the market because it grows in a scarce pattern that looks like lace.

This deep impression lace pattern looks like the tunnels that ants make in their colonies and is easy to spot. This prized pattern is also often mixed with heavy blister figuring.

Afzelia Xylay other names

Afzelia, sometimes sold under the name “Doussie,” has been compared to Mahogany and Teak in terms of how it looks, how long it lasts, and how stable it is. For smaller projects, pieces of Afzelia with a beautiful grain pattern that looks almost three-dimensional are often used.

The wood is sold under the name “afzelia,” or the name of a specific species. “Pod mahogany” is one of the common names, which adds to the confusion around the name “mahogany.”

Common names for Afzelia include Chanfuta, Mussacossa (Mozambique), Beyo, Meli, Azza (Uganda), Apa, Aligna (Nigeria), Mkora, Mkola, Mbambakofi (Tanzania), Doussie (Cameroons), and Pod Mahogany.


Afzelia Xylay is one of the most sought-after woods on the market because it grows in a unique lace pattern that doesn’t happen very often.

This deep impression lace pattern is easy to recognize because it looks like the tunnels that ants make in their colonies. This prized pattern also often has heavy blister figures in it.

The extreme three-dimensional chatoyance of this species makes these patterns even harder to figure out. The color ranges from bright tangerine to warmer reddish brown, and there are sometimes darker streaks in the wood. This wood is in a class of its own because of its beautiful grain pattern and deep color.

Qualities of tone: The Afzelia Xylay is even, with deep basses, clear mid-tones, and clear, bright highs.

Afzelia Xylay Availability

The majority of Afzelia species used in commerce are found in Africa; however, there are occasions when portions of Afzelia species found in Asia are marketed.


Imported hardwood usually has average prices for clear lumber. However, Afzelia is often sold in small pieces of figured wood and burls, which are much more expensive.

The price ranges listed here are based on averages from multiple sources and refer to 4/4 and 8/4 lumber if nothing else is said. The prices are high to moderate for burls ($55/lb) and somewhat less for lumber.

The rare and distinct Afzelia Xylay species can be upwards of $250 for thin individual boards, such as 1/8″ x 10″ x 24″. In some markets, most of the afzelia wood for sale is in the form of burls.


As a commercial wood, most Afzelia comes from Africa, called doussie. The name afzelia, on the other hand, can be used as both a common name and a scientific name.

Some Asian pieces of afzelia with a lot of detail can also be found on the international market. These pieces are usually called afzelia xylay or xylay lace. Afzelia burls are also mostly from Asia.

Asian Afzelia is different from the African species, even though they are related (about the figured pieces, visually).

A small strip of deciduous forests in Cambodia and Laos has a small growing area.

The wide branches of Afzelia xylocarpa, which people in Cambodia call “Beng,” are used to make shade trees.


The wood is easy to cut with good tools. It doesn’t have much silica (less than 0.015%), and you don’t need saw teeth with stellite tips to cut fresh wood.

Some logs have gum pockets that can make it hard to cut them by dulling the saw teeth. In planning and molding, it’s best to use cutting tools with tungsten-carbide tips.

When the grain is interlocked, it is best to lower the cutting angle to 15° to keep the surface from being rough.

If you want smooth surfaces, you should use a filler. The wood is good for nailing and screwing, but it should be pre-drilled to keep it from splitting.


This type of wood is not on the CITES Appendices list, but some Asian Afzelia species are on the IUCN Red List.

The population of the most famous species, Afzelia xylocarpa, has dropped by more than 50% in the last three generations.

This is because its natural range has shrunk and been hunted.

Is Afzelia Xylay hard or softwood            

Afzelia Xylay is a tropical hardwood from Southeast Asia with many patterns. On a lathe, wood-turned items were made by hand and threaded by hand.

Hardwood threaded inserts were used in woods that did not take threading well.

An unknown piece of hardwood could be just about anything, but the possibilities get smaller as each part of its body is looked at.

Afzalia Xylay wood stain              

It can be smoothed with a polish and takes stains and glues well. It will come off when it rains because the wood is so hard that the stain can’t get in.

Afzalia Xylay Wood identification

diffuse porous wood Rarely (over 90%) are vessels completely solitary. 200 microns or greater in the vessel lumina’s tangential diameter (large). Carved pits.

Less than 6 vessels per mm2 (rare). Simple plates with perforations. Similar to inter-vessel pits are vessel-ray pits. Bands of marginal or presumably marginal axial parenchyma.

The axial parenchyma is lozenge-shaped. Chambered axial parenchyma cells or fibers with colorful crystals. Per parenchyma strand, 3–4 cells. 4–10 rays per millimeter (medium). Rays are untold. Rays 1-4 are sequential. Rays that are homogenous or sub-homogeneous (all ray cells procumbent). Fibers without septa. Fibers with simple to barely noticeable pit borders.

Color and appearance

Heartwood is a brown-red color. Clear sapwood is a pale yellowish-white color.

With time, the color tends to get darker.

Afzelia xylay, an abbreviated version of the botanical name of a certain Asian species, Afzelia xylocarpa, is sometimes used to export and sell items featuring pommele or blistered motifs.

Burls are also often for sale and usually have a lot of small knots that are very tight.


Large to very large holes; diffuse porosity.

Yellowish brown heartwood deposits are found, with few single and radial multiples of 2-3. The parenchyma is banded (marginal), paratracheal parenchyma is vasicentric, and aliform (lozenge).

Narrow rays with normal spacing are confluent.


Showy. Pink and red flowers.

Late winter or early spring is when flowers bloom.

Bisexual, zygomorphic, and sweet-smelling flowers; pedicel Bracteoles are between 0.5 and 1 cm long and have a caducous hypanthium. 1-2 cm in length.

4, 1–2.5 cm long and heavily short-haired sepals.

Petal 1 is 4-6 cm long, 2-lobed, white to pink with a red marking in the center, and has a long claw.

Embryonic stamens 2 and around 1.5 cm long, and fertile stamens 7 and 3–4 cm long.

The superior ovary is about 1 cm long and has a small, hairy stripe about 4.5 cm long.


Fruiting occurs between June and March, and fruit/seed pods frequently stay affixed to a tree even after a leaf has fallen.

Fruit: a kidney-shaped, flattened pod about 10-12 cm by 4-5 cm that dehisces with two woody valves and contains between 1 and 15 seeds.

2-4 cm long, ellipsoid to oblong-ellipsoid seeds with a 2-lobed, orange to crimson aril covering about two-thirds of the seed.

Grain and texture

The homogeneous texture of the grain, which ranges from medium to coarse, is interlocked. It is naturally shiny.

Afzelia Xylay is a dense material that is known to dull blades quickly. Since the wood is interlocked and has an open grain, it is best to use a sanding sealer before finishing. The texture is medium, with a natural shine and a lot of chatoyance.

Straight or slightly twisted can sometimes affect how the next steps are done. Usually, the wood has a rough texture.


Deciduous. The opposing leaves have three to six pairs of leaflets each.

Stipules with a base that is fused and stays in place and an upper part that is free, linear, and caducous.

The petiole and rachis are 6–18 cm long, and the petiolules are 1–6 mm long and often slightly twisted.

The leaflets are opposite, elliptic to elliptic-lanceolate, 4–16 cm long and 1.5–7 cm wide, blunt to short-acuminate at the tip, usually hairless, and have 7–13 pairs of lateral veins.

Sometimes the leaves are cooked and eaten as a vegetable.

Animals eat plants.

The aril of the seed is sweet and can be eaten.

People with constipation are given leaves.

Leaves have a lot of nitrogen and help make the soil better.


No characteristic odor.


A fully grown tree can be 120 feet tall and have a trunk up to 6 feet in diameter.

The pulp from the seeds can produce cigarettes, while the bark and seeds can be used to make herbal medicines.

The tree is a large tropical tree that can grow to 30m and lose its leaves. When the tree is very big, the trunk can grow 2m across.

The tree has beautiful wood that can be used to make pens, knife handles, carvings, musical instruments, and other things.

Size of Tree: 100–130 feet (30–40 meters) tall, trunk diameter 2–4 feet (0.6–1.2 meters).

Afzelia Xylay wood bark

The bark is brown to orange-brown on the outside, has a scaly surface, and has scars the size of hoops or plates that look like swirly rings.

The inner bark is granular and yellowish to pinkish with rough orange streaks and a smelly yellowish brown exudate.

The crown can be long, round, or flat depending on age and growing conditions. It has twisted, more or less upright branches, and the twigs can be hairy or hairless.

As a tonic, bark decoctions and macerations are used to treat gut parasites, diarrhea, menstruation problems, hemorrhoids, and rheumatism.

Pros  and Cons       

The Afzelia Xylay wood is a new type of tropical hardwood that is very strong and durable. The species’ name comes from “Afzal,” which means “strong.” This is an ideal material for furniture because it has a strength-to-weight ratio similar to solid mahogany.

Rot resistance

Known to last a long time. Termites and marine borers don’t bother it too much, and other insects attack it differently.

Strength and Durability

Very hard to break down; it doesn’t need to be preserved. This species is especially good for uses with permanent or long-term humidity risk.

Not easy for termites to eat. Attacks from Lyctus can’t hurt heartwood.

The heartwood is strong and resistant to attacks from fungi, termites, and borers, but marine borers can get into it. Lyctus can get into the sapwood and attack it.

Preservatives don’t soak into the heartwood very well.

Fungi and termite resistance are used in climates that are not too hot or too cold. With a few exceptions, natural durability is based on how old the heartwood is.

Sapwood is never strong enough to stand up to agents that break down wood.

Allergies and toxicity

Even though all of the reports talk about African species of Afzelia, likely, Asian species would also cause the same reactions, such as sneezing and irritation of the skin, eyes, and lungs.

Some parts of Afzelia are poisonous, so please find out which ones they are before you eat them or use them as medicine.

Water resistance

No- it cannot be used in a marine environment or in brackish water.


Generally thought to be hard to work with because its grain is interlocked, which causes tear-out when it is being machined.

The wood is also very good at making cutters dull.

It works well with machines and sands to a smooth finish. When nailed, it stays in place well. The yellow deposits in the wood’s pores make it easy to stain and polish.

SAWING: Sawing of this species requires powerful equipment.

ROTARY VENEER CUTTING: Suitable for slicing.

SLICED VENEER: Suitable for slicing.

BLUNTING EFFECT: Moderate blunting effect; satellite blades for sawing and carbide tools for machining are advised.

MACHINING: It needs powerful tools for processing.

PLANNING: Moderately easy; tools must be cautiously sharpened.

MOULDING: Easy; no particular problems.

BORING: Easy; no particular problems.

MORTISING: Easy; no particular problems.

NAILING: Pre-boring is necessary.

GLUING: Difficult to glue because of the content of the extract.

SANDING: Easy to perform; it gives good results.

POLISHING: Needs pre-coating.

STEAM BENDING: This species can be used for steam bending.

RESPONSE TO HAND TOOLS: Working with hand tools is difficult.

Afzelia Xylay wood uses

Furniture, cabinets, veneer, flooring, docks, boats, exterior millwork, construction turned objects, inlays, and other small specialty wood items.

Pens, knife handles, gun grips, inlays, and musical instruments are some traditional uses. This species is usually only used as an accent wood because it is hard to find and small.

Afzelia Xylay for outdoor equipment

  • Decks and pool areas
  • Raised decking, balconies, and boardwalks
  • Shelters, outdoor furniture, and play equipment
  • Gates
  • Visual barriers, windbreaks, and pergolas

Afzelia Xylay for structures and panels

  • Lightweight structures
  • Glued laminated timber
  • Finger joints
  • Plywood, inside face and outside face
  • Plywood, inner layers
  • Sliced veneer

Afzelia Xylay for exterior joinery/building facades

  • Cladding and other exterior protection
  • Windows and doors
  • Screens and solar shading
  • Shutters and blinds

Afzelia Xylay for carpentry and interior fittings

  • Wooden floors and staircases
  • Doors and door frames
  • Moldings and interior paneling, and cladding
  • Design features and furnishings
  • Furniture and cabinetry

Afzelia Xylay for industrial use and heavy work

  • Hydraulic applications in submerged marine environments
  • Bridges and buildings that come into contact with soil or freshwater
  • Urban regions with acoustic fences along roads and railroads
  • Sleepers and dunnage
  • Industrial flooring and heavy framework
  • Vehicle, wagon, and container linings

Afzelia Xylay for shipbuilding

  • Boat decks and planking
  • Boat and yacht layouts
  • Pleasure-boating pontoons

Afzelia Xylay Related species

The heartwood is weakly fluorescent, but not always, like chanfuta, another African African species of Afzelia.

Like the African Afzelia species, Not to be confused with pyinkado (Xylia xylocarpa), a distinct Asian hardwood that resembles it and shares the same scientific name.

Pyinkado is much heavier than Afzelia species, and people in the area sometimes call it “ironwood.”

Chanfuta (Afzelia Quanzensis)

Chanfuta is a beautiful tropical plant with a crown that spreads like an umbrella. It usually gets between 12 and 15 meters tall.

Generally thought to be hard to work with because its grain is interlocked, which causes tear-out when it is being machined. The wood is also very good at making cutters dull.

This Afzelia species is sometimes sold under the spelling “chamfuta.” It has the same qualities that make the other woods in the genus so popular.

Afzelia (Afzelia spp.)

Most Afzelia species are used for their wood, but some are also used to make medicines.

The pale straw-colored sapwood is different from the reddish-brown heartwood. When left out in the air, the heartwood turns a color that looks like mahogany.

Because the grain is uneven and tangled, the wood is rough and even. Yellow or white spots can cause stains. Afzelia is a type of wood that can be used in many ways.

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