Using Lyptus

Here's a detailed thread on woodworker experiences using Lyptus wood. April 20, 2008

I have a bid to do on replacing some furniture in a chapel. The existing is pretty old and looks to be either mahogany or a look-alike species with a dark walnut stain. I was thinking this may be a good time to try out Lyptus. From what I've read, it seems like Lyptus is a harder (denser) wood than mahogany, with a similar grain appearance. Price-wise it is much more attractive, though a bit harder to locate locally (for me anyway).

Have you used Lyptus yet? If so, what do you think of it? How well does it finish? I've noticed the color varies widely, but I'd be using a dark stain which would hopefully blend the colors together well. Does it match the ply version well? Is it a stable wood, and how does it work with hand tools?

I should say that I'm also looking at khaya (though it sounds like a tougher wood to deal with), and sapele. I'm pretty sure the SA will be too expensive for them. The one trait I like about Lyptus over the others, though, is its hardness. Especially for the top on one of these pieces, which will see a lot of use.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor D:
Lyptus sucks. It's twisty and stringy. I have seen some good stuff, but mostly I don't want to use it.

From contributor W:
I'm building my own kitchen out of Lyptus currently. I like the look and the green factor of the wood, but everything else about it sucks. The ply version is always darker and the few sheets I just bought were almost purple. The lumber, at least locally, seems to be mostly what I am guessing is sapwood. It is lighter in color, not as dense or as hard. In the past I have been able to pick through the yard's stock and find some good boards, but not lately. Like contributor D said, it is very stringy. If you are trying to break an edge with a sanding block, you have to be very careful because the paper will catch and tear a big splinter off of it. Edge banding is a nightmare also. I would recommend avoiding it if at all possible.

From contributor I:

We have used quite a bit of it and it can look very nice, but the product is very inconsistent. In my opinion, with a WB toner and a dark WB stain, it is a great wood if you just use sheet stock and edgeband. Making doors from it is a challenge. You never know if they are going to stay straight or warp. The slivers from this wood are by far the worst I have ever encountered. There is usually quite a bit of bloodshed when handling the lumber.

From contributor J:
I haven't tried any yet, but our door company is pushing andiroba in lieu of Honduran mahogany. What I've seen has been very straight grained and looks very similar to mahogany. They say it works much easier and doesn't split as much as Lyptus does.

From contributor B:
Did a large job in Lyptus and finished about 13 months ago. Splinters horrible, so the bloodshed post is right on. Finished beautifully with Minwax English Chestnut stain and pre-cat lacquer. No problems with plywood matching hardwood, and actually used a lot of okume plywood interchangeably with the Lyptus for a nice cost savings. No problems at all with warp of doors. No other problems that I know of.

From contributor P:
If you can get sapele at a comparable price, do it. It's a reasonable substitute for mahogany, works nicely, and is easy to finish.

From contributor M:
I have used a lot of Lyptus and personally, I love it. I have never had any problems with color between hardwood and veneer. The veneer I have used was on MDF substrate and buying from a good wholesaler makes a big difference. Color and straightness of material or, should we say, stable material, has always been very good. Cost has been great as well, around $3.80 bf for 4/4 in the NE. I have also milled it for flooring inlay as a band around a room stained dark mixed with natural maple. The only negative I can agree with the others on is the slivers! They are terrible! I also have found that it machines as well as mahogany with nice sharp tooling. I say go for it - you won't regret it at all.

From contributor S:
We run Lyptus flooring and millwork by the truckload and love it. The only issue we have is that the dust from the Lyptus, when it is run through the moulder, is extremely fine and gets behind the impeller in our DC's second stage, jamming it up on startup the next morning if we don't extend our cleanout runtime at the end of the day.

We buy common and rustic Lyptus for flooring and there can be significant color variation, although Weyerhauser has gotten much better on tightening the color range. We buy superior for millwork and stair parts and have never had an issue with the color. We sell our excess lumber and narrower rips locally to a few cabinet shops and have never had an issue with stability or stringiness reported to us.

It stains exceptionally well, better than any domestic we have used and second only to Euro beech in its flexibility in imitating other species. It does have very small, very fine splinters, especially off of the gangrip, however we have never had issues with stringiness when machining.

As a substitute for mahogany, I would recommend it or sapele. Lyptus should be 30% less than comparable grades of sapele. I would recommend it much more than andiroba or khaya/African mahogany, both of which are far too coarsely grained to substitute for Honduran, in my opinion.

From the original questioner:
Wow, a lot of great responses here. Seems like opinions are going in both directions, but I wonder if some of the different experiences are due to the quality of lumber used? I know Weyerhauser has their own grading terms for Lyptus and I would be going with the superior grade to hopefully get better color matches, but also the dark stain should blend it well.

I suppose the main reason I'm still leaning towards using it is because the sample I have seems much harder than sapele, or even SA mahogany for that matter, and I want that for the tops of these pieces.

The types of pieces I would be doing for this project would not use any edgebanding. They're really furniture pieces, so I'd have some plywood panels but mostly hardwood for the doors, legs, etc. Anyway, you've given me some good feedback and I appreciate it. I guess now I'll just have to get my hands on some and see for myself. Bring on the splinters!