Using the traditional forms of wood might get boring for you. A desire to seek something new may lead you to the term “Rubberwood Or Parawood”.
While brainstorming about household woodworks, most of us go in blind about rubberwood. But, if you are thinking about pursuing something, you should always have a considerable amount of knowledge about it. A little homework never hurts.
By reading this article, you will be able to know everything you need to know about Rubberwood – the ins and outs, from a to z. You’ll also get to know how it differs from other forms of woods and the answers to the questions people usually ask about Rubberwood.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s dive right in.
So, What Exactly Rubberwood Or Parawood is? and Its Origins
The lumber that’s extracted from the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) is predominantly called Rubberwood. The rubber tree is responsible for producing latex from which natural rubber is later produced. Rubberwood has other names too, such as Malaysian oak and parawood.
Just before the beginning of WWII, a rubber tree forrest was spotted in the Amazon basin, which was envisioned to please the ever-growing demand of the world for natural rubber. But right then, a more artificial kind of rubber was manufactured called “synthetic rubber”, which made the promise of rubber forests vanish in seconds. But natural rubber again found its footing in the latter half of the 20th century.
At present, rubber plantations are a major source of wood. After a rubber tree is almost 9-10 years old, only then can it go into the latex producing cycle, which continues for the coming 10-15 years until the trees age 25-30 years. After the end of their cycles, the rubber trees are felled and new rubber trees are usually planted in their place.
This is the factor that makes rubberwood the most ‘eco-friendly’ amongst all kinds of wood. The rubberwood is pretty light in color and quite straight-textured, which makes it extremely easy to stain and complement any kind of woodwork.
Properties of Rubberwood
1. Color and Texture
At the initial stage of sawing, rubberwood shows a creamy tint. But, after the kiln drying process and the subsequent direct exposure to light, it gets a far darker complexion, often with pinkish or brownish looking tints. Its heartwood and sapwood are almost inseparable, as they look extensively identical. The vessels run vertically, which give the grain a prickly outlook. They also give rubberwood some unique character. When used in making furniture, rubberwood is usually stained or colored.
Different rubberwood plantations offer different densities. But, most of the stock grown in the plantations usually run approximately 35-37lbs per cubic-foot at a meagre 7% MC. Rubberwood’s density could be compared to that of white ash. In the case of a simple piece of wood with 7% MC which has a thickness of ¾ inch, a width of 6 inches and a length of 24 inches, the overall weight would be 2.3lbs only.
3. Modulus of Rupture (Strength)
The Modulus of Rupture (MOR) of rubberwood is approximately 9500 psi. It also has an average stiffness of 1.3 million psi (approx.). The natural hardness is gauged at a whopping 500lbs. Known for its flexibility and charm rather than its strength, rubberwood is considerably weaker in its strength values than natural hard maple or even white ash, for that matter.
Rubberwood has a rapid drying process but also has a high bend (warp) development rate. Piling them up in good fashion with barbs or stickers about 12 inches from each other normally helps control the bend or warp. Some weight on the stacks also helps. Also, some cases have shown that after the drying process, a few of the lumber-edges appeared to be cracked. The dry rubberwood is highly vulnerable to “powderpost beetles”. Thus, It is advisable that if you purchase dry rubberwood, you should always heat it or fumigate it first.
Stability is one of the rubberwood’s best qualities. To cause a 1% radial change to rubberwood, a minimum moisture content change of 12% is needed. When measured tangentially, the necessary MC change is 6%. The MC change rates are much higher than those of white ash (radially 6%, tangentially 4%).
6. Engraving & Machining
Various classic and modern designs can easily be engraved on rubberwood, using CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines. CNC routers, too, can be used for rubberwood engraving and machining purposes.
7. Gluing and Machining
Gluing rubberwood is reported to be a very easy experience. It also machines well without any major difficulties or problems.
Overall Quality of Rubberwood
Rubberwood is used in a wide array of woodworking tasks. The qualities it offers are as follows:
- Sawing rubberwood is immensely easy and its surface can easily be smoothened through machining as well.
- It has considerable lumber strength and can comfortably be worked on with both machine and hand tools.
- Its lighter texture and dense grain can be very easily controlled via the kiln drying procedure.
- It supports all kinds of processing including drilling, peeling, saw milling etc. and also various kinds of painting or adhesion etc.
- Under the proper guidance and supervision, rubberwood can be used in many purposes, such as charcoal production, manufacture of furniture, particle boards, saw timber, plywood etc.
At present, rubberwood is being used substantially in the furniture industry, as well as in the manufacturing of panel products and sawn-timber.
Rubberwood is also used in the manufacture of Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) and Particle boards, which are then utilized to manufacture products such as kitchen cabinets, paneling, home or office flooring, mouldings, door and window frames, etc.
In recent years, rubberwood furniture has become extensively popular. They are now being used in:
- Home flooring and panelling.
- Manufacture of all kinds of home furniture.
- Strip flooring and staircase
- interior design of offices, shops, and brand showrooms.
- Production of shelves.
- Manufacture of hall chairs (used in cinema halls/cineplexes)
- Any kind of framing
- 3D engraving.
- Parquet making.
- Handicraft (Fine art) products.
- Joinery and moulding.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Rubberwood Furniture
1. Simple Texture
Rubberwood’s simple grain and texture enables it to be stained easily to acquire the impressions of oak, cherry, or even walnut. Having an almost identical pair of heartwood and sapwood helps rubberwood’s texture get a perfect coarse outlook. If you are looking to paint rubberwood, you only need to get yourself an acrylic primer, an undercoat and only two coats of paint gloss.
2. Extremely Durable
From a furniture building viewpoint, Rubberwood’s durability can be compared to any kind of traditional hardwood. It has a whopping Janka score of 980lbs which is enough to signify its stability for a long time period as long as its seasoning is done properly.
3. Scratch Resistant
While rubberwood’s strength can look meagre when compared to other hardwood forms, when you take its flexibility factor under consideration, it must be considered strong enough. Though it’s a tad bit softer than oak, its Janka score of 980lbs makes it almost immune to scratches.
4. Fire Resistant
Because of its natural ingredients, rubberwood is fully resistant to fire. Even if you light up a cigarette and jam it onto the surface of rubberwood furniture, it will get less damage than other hardwood furniture would. And even if it does catch fire, the fumes won’t be able to harm you, as rubberwood is completely non-toxic.
5. Easily Processed
The process of exuding rubberwood from a rubber tree is extremely easy and time-effective. You can also quicken the process further by using power tools, rather than using hand-held ones. It also stains quickly and smoothens fast — a quality every woodworker likes while making furniture.
As rubber trees are only grown in plantations, rubberwood is considered as a sustainable green product. The ultimate goal of rubber trees is to produce latex, and thus, the timber is usually harvested only when the tree comes to the end of its cycle of production.
1. Smaller in Size
Rubberwood boards have an approximate proportion of 1.8m (length) and 50mm (thickness). When compared with other forms of timber, rubberwood’s proportions are considerably more slender.
In the seasoning process, if rubberwood is exposed to chemicals, then it more often than not gets a stainy outlook. Also, if you clean it with regular cleaning products or detergents, it tends to get stains. In some extreme cases, those products can cause even permanent damage to rubberwood. It is suggested that you should only clean rubberwood using soap and mildly warm water. After doing so, you must quickly dry the rubberwood product as well.
3. Allergy Issues
You are recommended not to use rubberwood products if you have a latex allergy. If you do, you might see its adverse effects on your skin. Though you can have it in your home and not touch it yourself, or come in contact with it all, even then, you’ll be at high risk of provoking an anaphylaxis reaction.
Spilling water on rubberwood can make it extremely slippery. The kiln drying process somewhat shrinks the pores and creates a denser grain, but in turn, increases the hydroplaning of the surface. Using grease on rubberwood flooring is a dangerous ploy too, as it can harm the well-being of the children of the house or even the elderly.
As rubberwood is a slightly moderate version of the traditional hardwood, strong or brutal impacts can potentially generate dents on it. It is suggested that you should install rubberwood furniture in particular spots of your home where it’s not extensively hot or dry. Surface dents are very common but they are curable too, as most of the time it’s the finish of the product that suffers damage. So, putting on some additional finish to the product might repair the issue comprehensively.
6. More Expensive than Oak and Pine
Compared to the more traditional solid wood or hardwood products, rubberwood products are a considerably cheaper option. However, it certainly isn’t the most cost-effective form of wood product in the current international market. Rubberwood has to be imported from abroad, while homegrown oak and pine are two of the cheaper options you can opt for, especially if you are a US-based DIY furniture-maker, as they would not cost you any import or tariff taxes at all
The sap that is extracted from rubberwood is usually processed into natural rubber. Rubber trees are also used as a quality form of wood that typically is cheaper than all other kinds of hardwood and is strong enough to be highly used in the furniture industry. But one of its most highly rated qualities is that it predominantly accepts most types of stain. The basic procedure of staining rubberwood is pretty much the same as those of other woods including oak or maple. To add to that, rubberwood’s natural pale hue enables it to be easily stained any way you like — light or dark.
“is Rubberwood Toxic?”
Even after so many years since rubberwood made its entry as a viable form of wood, there is still a myth in the wood industry all over the world — rubberwood is toxic. But no research or study made on the parawood has ever exposed such qualities. Only, and if only, you have some sort of allergy to rubber or natural latex, even then you might only experience some minor skin diseases from using rubberwood. Freshly harvested rubberwood timber or logs are very much susceptible to many kinds of insects and some kinds of fungal activity.
Because of these diverse issues presented by rubberwood, its seasoning process includes the use of antifungal chemicals and quite a few insecticides. Though the Kiln drying process destroys some of these chemicals, a few allergic components (completely non-toxic) still remain within the rubberwood, just like in any other kind of wood.
We have specified the insecticides and fungicides that are normally used in the seasoning process of rubberwood, so that you identify if you are allergic to them:
Cyfluthrin, Cypermethrin, Deltamethrin and Permethrin etc.
Carbendazim, Chlorothalonil, Copper Oxine, and Benomyl, etc.
All the insecticides and fungicides used should be listed on the package in which the rubberwood is delivered to you. Read it carefully before using it, but stay relieved about the notion that rubberwood is toxic.
How to Clean Rubberwood Furniture?
Another preconceived notion about rubberwood is that it is extremely hard to be maintained or cleaned, although apart from a couple of extra considerations, the cleaning process of rubberwood furniture is pretty much the same as any other form of hardwood. These considerations include:
- Not pouring any kind of detergent or cleanser directly on the rubberwood furniture, as it will absorb the chemical which can be harmful for the furniture. Use a damp cloth instead.
- Not using the vitriolic side of a sponge to rub the furniture, as that would probably withdraw the protective coating of oil or varnish. Using microfiber cloths is more preferable to using sponge in the case of rubberwood furniture.
The best way of cleaning rubberwood, suggested by experts, is as follows:
- Dilute cleaning products, such as dishwashing liquid, in water.
- Absorb a microfiber cloth in the diluted water.
- Squeeze well.
- Rub it softly on the rubberwood to remove dust and debris.
- Wipe the surface with a clean dry cloth immediately to remove all the excess.
Comparative Application of Rubberwood
While buying furniture or raw wood (for different purposes), most people like to compare different forms of wood such as bamboo, hardwood, oak, pine, etc., in order to determine the best fit. Here is a comparative illustration of rubberwood with some of the more traditional forms of wood:
Rubberwood Vs Bamboo
Rubberwood is substantially more durable and resilient than Bamboo.
Cleaning Bamboo-made furniture is far easier than cleaning Rubberwood ones.
Rubberwood furniture costs higher than bamboo-wood furniture.
Damage by Water:
Bamboo wood is more susceptible to water damage, but rubberwood has seepage problems.
The edges of rubberwood feel softer than that of bamboo wood.
Bamboo wood is far more susceptible to scratches than rubberwood.
Rubberwood offers a very high shock absorption rate, whereas bamboo wood is a dangerously bad shock absorber.
Rubberwood Vs Hardwood
Rubberwood is a kind of hardwood which comes from rubber trees, whereas hardwood usually comes from angiosperm trees.
Hardwood is way more expensive than rubberwood.
Hardwood has a harder and more dense texture than rubberwood.
Rubberwood has a lighter weight than hardwood.
Hardwood is suited best to construction work, musical instruments and building boats etc., whereas rubberwood is more suited to making toys, kitchen accessories and furniture etc.
Rubberwood Vs Oak
Oak comes from the Oak tree (from the beech family), and rubberwood from the rubber tree.
Rubberwood costs a bit more than oak.
Oak has a denser and more porous texture than rubberwood, with additional rings.
Oak is used in the heavier works by woodworkers, such as making veneers, in interior finishing or flooring, as well as in kitchen cabinets etc. On the other hand, rubberwood is used predominantly in much lighter tasks.
Rubberwood has a far more eco-friendly nature than oak which is felled and grown exclusively for lumber.
Rubberwood Vs Pine
The rubberwood (also called “parawood), originate mainly from the Amazon basin. Pine has a more North American origin, and has many sub-categories like sugar pine, yellow pine, southern pine and white pine etc.
Rubberwood is lighter in texture than any kind of pine as well.
Pine is a lot cheaper than rubberwood.
Pine has similar applications to oak, and it’s also traditionally used in making cabins and decks. Rubberwood, as mentioned before, supports a lighter functionality.
Latex Vs Resin:
Rubber Trees exude latex, which adds to the strength of the wood, whereas the resin that pine trees exude has a rather piney odor and often gums up woodworking tools (i.e. saws).
Price of Rubberwood
Being a direct agricultural byproduct, rubberwood offers a very cheap raw material cost. Because of that, it has become one of the cheapest kinds of solid wood in the world.
In addition, rubberwood has an added aspect which makes it more preferable to anybody who cares about nature and natural resources — rubberwood is extremely eco-friendly. That aspect also adds value to any product that is produced from rubberwood. Since rubberwood is very rarely imported in its pure lumber form because of the extensive import costs or taxes, it is, therefore, transformed into consumable products such as furniture, flooring material or many kinds of household items and then imported and marketed internally. This process also decreases some internal import costs.
If you look up simple rubberwood furniture online, you’ll find distinctive and unique designs within a budget of $500, whereas other traditional solid wood furnitures might cost you two to three times that amount. Within the hardness and density ratio that rubberwood offers, no other form of solid wood can provide you a lower import cost, which, among many other things, makes it a very viable option for your forthcoming woodworking projects.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is rubberwood one kind of hardwood?
Yes. Rubberwood is a lighter-textured and medium-density version of hardwood.
Is rubberwood furniture worth a try?
If you are bored with the traditional hardwood designs, or looking for a cheaper and lighter alternative to that with the same, if not a superior, durability, you can certainly opt for rubberwood.
How durable is rubberwood?
If used with proper care, rubberwood furniture usually lasts for 15 to 25 years.
Can I stain rubberwood, if yes, then how?
Yes. You can stain rubberwood by following an easy 5-step process.
To stain rubberwood, follow these steps:
- Sand the rubberwood with a hand-held sander. Remove the splinters using 80 to 100-grit sandpaper. Clean the dust off with a rag when you are finished.
- Use a paintbrush to apply a coat of good quality wood conditioner. Then let it dry for a few minutes.
- Use any color or stain for rubberwood to give it a new look. Water-based or oil-based stains are recommended more by experts.
- Let the stain get soaked by the wood for a few minutes and then wipe the excess stain off with a rag or a piece of cloth.
- Apply a clear finish, only hours after applying the initial stain.
Is rubberwood safe enough to use?
Contrary to popular belief, rubberwood is not toxic. Barring a couple of minor allergy issues, rubberwood is completely safe to use.
Does rubberwood get scratched easily?
Rubberwood is a strong material and can rarely be scratched.
Is rubberwood better than MDF?
Rubberwood has a far larger functionality than MDF (Medium-Density Fiberboard), and also is the more eco-friendly of the two.