Species Spotlight: Goncalo Alves

When I was up in New York City, I experienced a great number of different ethnic cuisines. Greek. Indian. Italian. Chinese. The works.

The best one, though, had to have been the tacos that came to lunch one day. Ezekiel, better known as EZ, told me that these tacos were not to be missed. They were delicious, and there was this green sauce that EZ recommended that I put on top of the tasty treats.

Super yummy tacos

No, it wasn’t spelled or pronounced like today’s species spotlight, but in my exhaustion and excitement, I told one of our crew that the sauce you were to spoon on the tacos was called Goncalo Alves.

Never take food advice from this woodworker.

I guess it was fitting that I messed up like that – because I had seen Goncalo Alves in person in a few woodworking projects, and all I can say is that it becomes a real feast for the eyes. This handsome South American hardwood grows as far north as Mexico, but it found plentifully in places such as Columbia and Brazil. The tree grows 100 – 120 feet tall, with a diameter of three to five feet.


It’s a very  heavy reddish-brown wood with streaks of dark brown or black found irregularly throughout.  It has a janka score of 2,250 pounds, making it nearly as hard as mesquite. Despite being very dense and hard, it works surprisingly well, although some areas of interlocked or curving grain can pose tear out challenges.

What can you use it for? Well, it’s a great accent wood for larger projects, and is great for building smaller pieces.  It also turns beautifully and can be sanded and buffed to a sheen.

A beautiful Goncalo Alves bowl from Wood and Silver

That sheen, of course, comes from the oils naturally present in the wood. Which can lead to some unwanted downsides. First, if you are going to glue it, you have got to clean the surfaces with paint thinner or some other solvent, otherwise, it will not take glue too well. Those oils, which help give the wood a great deal of rot resistance, can also lead to sensitivities if you breathe in the dust. So, be sure to wear your dust mask and use effective dust collection when working with this wood.

A sweet Goncalo Alves five string bass

OK, so I do have to brush up on my Spanish and Mexican cuisine knowledge, but I can tell you that Goncalo Alves is going to make for some tasty looking  woodworking projects.


3 thoughts on “Species Spotlight: Goncalo Alves”

  1. Wow, talk about pronounced grain !
    That wood is beautiful.

    (and so is the picture of those tacos…lol)

  2. This is most commonly known as Tigerwood here in the US and it is a decking product and sometimes flooring. I have several hand planes made from it and it is self lubricating in use due to the high oil content. If you can’t find it at your lumber mill talk to someone who specializes in decking and ask for Tigerwood.

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