Rubberwood is a low-cost, light, tropical hardwood timber. In many aspects, it is comparable to teak. Rubberwood is well-suited for a wide array of woodworking and timber projects. It quickly is becoming one of the most important export timbers of many Southeast Asian countries. Although rubberwood is a common component of many imported wood products, many Americans are not familiar with it. Over time, it is likely this wood will continue to gain popularity, possibly replacing more traditional hardwoods in many applications.
Rubberwood is derived from the rubber tree. The rubber tree gets its name from the commercially harvested, milky latex it exudes when cut. This latex is used to make rubber. Rubberwood is a whitish lumber that gradually fades to a light brown over time. It is a moderately hard, medium-textured, straight-grained wood that is approximately the same density as ash and maple hardwood.
What is a “Hardwood?”
The term "hardwood" is a taxonomic tree classification. It does not imply a superior hardness, density or quality of wood produced. While hardwoods tend to produce strong wood, some softwoods produce even stronger wood. In addition, individual species of hardwoods vary considerably in terms of strength, density, color and texture. Hardwood trees, such as the rubber tree, generally have broad leaves and are deciduous. Softwood trees are evergreen conifers that possess needles and cones.
“Green” Aspects of Rubberwood
Rubber trees are plantation-grown trees. Rubber latex is harvested annually from all trees 5 to 30 years old. Essentially, latex extraction continues until production of it stops – in most cases this occurs approximately 30 years after tree planting. Unproductive trees are felled and replaced with seedlings. Rubberwood is considered an agricultural byproduct, because the primary agricultural harvest is the latex. Rubberwood timber is considered more environmentally friendly than many other hardwoods.
The name "rubberwood" might evoke the impression of a rubbery, bendable wood. In actuality, this dense-grained lumber is hard and durable. In addition, because of its low shrinkage rate, it is stable and easily manipulated into a large variety of applications. Over the past few decades, the amount of rubberwood timber and finished product exports has skyrocketed. There are numerous products on the market made from rubberwood, including novelty items, paneling, flooring, cabinet-making and furniture parts.