What Is Nyatoh Wood?
Nyatoh wood is a tropical lumber used in outdoor furniture and other projects where durability is a concern. It can come from a number of species in the Sapotaceae family, primarily members of the Palaquium and Payena genuses.
Light woods from this family are usually sold as nyatoh, while heavier members are marketed as bitis. Nyatoh wood may be harvested in ways that damage its native rainforest.
Species marketed as nyatoh produce yellow to straw-colored sapwood that does not differentiate strongly from the heartwood. The heartwood itself can vary from pale pink to purple or reddish brown. It may be streaked with darker colors. Nyatoh has straight or shallowly interlocked grain, with an even medium to coarse texture and a slight sour odor. Lumber taken from Planchonella euphlebia has white to straw or pinkish-brown heartwood with pale brown or medium brown markings, and a glistening surface.
Nyatoh wood ranks around 1,195 on the Janka hardness scale. This measurement is comparable to many Northern Hemisphere hardwoods, such as oak and maple. Some species sold as nyatoh may be significantly harder, ranking over 3,000 on the Janka scale. Nyatoh heartwood has moderate decay resistance and can be used in outdoor projects without treatment. The heartwood and sapwood are both vulnerable to attack by termites and boring beetles. Heartwood resists preservative treatments, but the less-durable sapwood is considered permeable.
The wood contains some silica, though the percentage of this mineral varies significantly by species. Nyatoh wood can quickly blunt saws and other cutting instruments. Its sawdust may also cause nose and throat irritation in sensitive people. Nyatoh is difficult to plane, bore and mold as it tends to gum up cutting tools. It polishes well, and accepts nails and screws without splitting.
Nyatoh wood peels well into veneers. It also glues well, making it a popular choice for ornamental surfaces. It is used for cabinet making, indoor and outdoor furniture, boats, utility construction and to produce dowels and concealed parts for pieces made from different woods. Nyatof wood works well in parquet and strip flooring. It may also be used in plywood.
According to Rainforest Relief, nyatoh wood is harvested from rainforest species in southeast Asia, frequently against environmental regulations. Irresponsible rainforest logging threatens human and animal habitats in this region. Choose only sustainably harvested nyatoh, or substitute non-rainforest wood of similar hardness.
G.D. Palmer is a freelance writer and illustrator living in Milwaukee, Wis. She has been producing print and Web content for various organizations since 1998 and has been freelancing full-time since 2007. Palmer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and studio art from Beloit College in Beloit, Wis.