Snakewood texture
Snakewood planks


In England it’s called «letterwood» because the figure was interpreted as looking somewhat like hieroglyphics.   It is also available in unfigured form, usually at a greatly reduced price.

Snakewood gun

Snakeskin patterns

Snakewood is so called for its characteristic snakeskin patterns. Wood is typically a reddish brown, with contrasting darker brown or black patches. Heartwood is reddish brown with speckles of black appearing as hieroglyphics or snakeskin markings.


Extreme hardness

In addition to its colorful figure, Snakewood is also among the densest and hardest of all wood species worldwide. Among woodworkers, it vies with Lignum Vitae as the heaviest wood in the world.


Snakewood comes from a smallish, relatively rare tree found in the forests of Central and South America and is reportedly is somewhat brittle and difficult to work, but worth the effort. It is very rare in general and fully figured pieces are even more rare and very expensive. It is also available in unfigured form, usually at a greatly reduced price.

There is generally a problem with pith checking (that is, the center of the logs tend to have long voids and splits after drying). Typically only 25% of a log will have the famous snakeskin figure and this, combined with the frequent pith checks make it a popluar wood for vendors to sell in log form by the pound because that way they put the onus on the buyer of finding out the typically bad news about what’s inside the log. The color, which can be quite bright on first exposure, and have a lot of red, darkens with age to a solid brown/

Workability: Being closely related to Bloodwood, Snakewood shares many of the same working properties; namely, the wood is extremely dense, and has a pronounced blunting effect on cutters. Snakewood also tends to be quite brittle and can splinter easily while being worked. Despite the difficulties of working it, Snakewood turns well and finishes to a high polish.

As a rare and small tree, prices for surfaced and milled Snakewood that display the characteristic snakeskin pattern are perhaps the most expensive of any exotic lumber worldwide in terms of per-boardfoot cost. Less figured sections of the wood are usually sold for much lower prices (under the name Amourette). Snakewood is also commonly sold in full and half log forms, which typically include significant pith checking and areas of both figured and non-figured wood, which can result in high wastage.




  • Cabinet doors
  • Decorative craft objects
  • Tool handles
  • Gunstocks
  • Furniture
  • Joinery
  • Veneer

Technical information

Density (kg/m3 dry) 1210 Hardness (Janka) (kN) 16.9 Resistance to split in nailing Low
Specific gravity .96, 1.21 Finish Excellent Resistance to split and screwing Good
Modulus of rapture (Mpa dry) 195.0 Stability Good Gluing Difficult
Modulus of elasticy (Mpa dry) 23.20 Crushing Strength (Mpa dry) 119.0 Durable High
Radial shrinkage % 4.7 Sapwood Lyctid Susceptible No Trees 20m tall
Tangential shrinkage % 6.0 Machining Well  Round logs  Girth of 30-100 cm
 Volumetric %  10.7  T/R Ratio  1.3  Growing regoin South America
Snakewood logs
Snakewood Logs

Round logs. Different sizes available

$Price by request
  • per ton

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See also these wood species