The heartwood of lignumvitae is a peculiar dark greenish-brown
or nearly black color, which is sharply demarcated from the
narrow, yellowish sapwood. The wood is especially oily or waxy due to a
natural gum resin,
which is responsible for about 30% of its weight. It has
a mildly scented and pleasant odor
and is slightly acid to the taste. The wood has a fine and
uniform texture with a low luster. It is extremely heavy,
in fact, on of the heaviest timbers known to commerce. The strength properties
are very high. Of 405 woods tested, it resistance to indentation
was ranked first.
The heartwood is extremely difficult to work with hand tools and very hard to saw and machine. The sapwood is much less hard and brittle.
It is excellent for turnery but sand paper will quickly clog from the resin contained in the wood. Pre-boring for screws is essential and they will hold well.
Drilling operations should be carried out at low speeds. Some glues do not adhere well, and the best results are obtained when using synthetic glues. Polishing is the only form
of finishing treatment normally given to lignumvitae.
No wood has been found equal to lignumvitae for ship's propeller shaft bushings and bearings. Because of its self-lubricating properties, it normally lasts about three
times as long as steel or bronze. Small lignumvitae bearings are widely used for clocks, fans and air conditioning units. Miscellaneous uses include mallets, rollers, casters,
small wheels and band saw blocks.