What is Okoume Wood – Uses, Specifications, with Pros & Cons

what is okoume wood

Okoume tree (Aucoumea klaineana) is typically a species native to west-central Africa, especially the regions such as Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and the Republic of Congo.

The wood of this tree is also known by names such as Gaboon wood, Uume, Acoume, and Zouga.

In simple terms, Okoume plywood is a type of veneer/board processed from wood harvested from Okoume tree.

Okoume plywood (also called Gaboon or Combogala and Okoume Mahogany) comes with high strength to weight ratio and is graded as being compliant with BS-1088 British Standard for marine plywood

Properties and Identification

You can tell the lustrous Okoume wood by its unique heartwood color which is usually pinkish-brown to light red with a fine, uniform texture.

The sapwood of Okoume wood is typically pale and grayish which is clearly distinguishable from the heartwood.

The grain of the wood can vary from straight to slightly wavy, which may sometimes appear to be slightly interlocking.

If you cut the wood and leave it exposed to air and light, it may darken with age.

However, unlike many other wood varieties like mahogany, pine, and a few others, the freshly cut piece of wood is not resinous and does not have any significant odor.

If you are in the market to buy Okoume plywood, keep in mind that it’s available in a variety of sizes and thicknesses.

Widths:48″, 60″, and many more
Lengths:98″, 122″, and many more
Thickness:3mm, 6mm, 9mm, 12mm, 15mm, 18mm, 25mm

What is Okoume Plywood Used for?

While solid lumber is available around its native range and where it grows locally, imports to the US and other countries are mostly done in the form of veneers and plywood.

When processing Okoume plywood and veneer its core can be made from pine, poplar to provide the timber added strength and durability.

Due to these unmatched properties, Okoume plywood is among the very first choices for racing boats, heavy furniture, kitchen cabinetmaking, joinery, and various other applications, particularly where extra weight is important.

1- Furniture

Okoume plywood comes with excellent durability and attractive looks.

It’s therefore ideal for kitchen cabinets decorative wood paneling, hollow-core doors, and other furniture items.

Not as good as mahogany, but Okoume is also many times used for acoustic guitars due to its lighter weight and dynamic tones.

2- Decking components

Okoume plywood is found to be very useful for building wooden decks as moisture resistance and weight are important factors here.

Plus, it adds to the durability which means you can live with this plywood for several decades without much maintenance.

Remember, since Okoume is a low-density wood that is very soft (with a Janka scale wood hardness rating of only 380) it is not much suitable for flooring inside your home.

Wood flooring generally requires the timber from much harder species like red oak

3- Kayaks and boat making

Okoume Marine Plywood is the best construction material for Kayaks boats.

In addition to being strong, lightweight, and water-resistant, Okoume marine plywood comes with properties that make it foldable.

Its therefore very easy to build kayak boats, hydroplane racing boats, canoes, sailboats, hull components, and various other boat parts.

Okoume Marine-grade Plywood is also used for constructing escape hatches (small door or opening as in an airplane or spaceship), and for various other marine applications where the exterior surfaces need to be exposed to moisture for a long time.

Okoume Plywood Uses

Okoume Plywood – The Pros and Cons

Okoume is one of the tropical hardwoods that is great to use for exteriors and marine applications.

With various benefits, lumber however has some drawbacks as well.

Advantages

  1. Highly durable due to added strength
  2. Takes the paint, stain and glue very well
  3. Cost effective and needs less maintenance
  4. Can easily be curved, folded or cut in various shapes and sizes
  5. Available in different thicknesses and sizes to pick the most suited one for the specific project

Disadvantages

  1. Not suitable for steam bending
  2. Not very good in holding nails or screws  
  3. Can bend or sag if larger pieces used without any support
  4. Unlike treated wood it’s not resistant to rot, fungus and insects
  5. Comes with high silica content which can blunt cutting tools while working

Besides above, Okoume marine plywood is often difficult to identify for a common person who does not have enough knowledge about the timber.

To avoid getting cheated in the market, it’s recommended that you buy the plywood only from the trusted manufacturers and resources that are well known and experienced.

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