The Top Ten Heaviest Woods in the World

by Eric Meier

It’s just something in human nature that loves to see things organized and listed: we want a champion

One might watch a basketball game, where both teams battle back and forth in lockstep into double overtime, only to have the winning team go ahead by one basket at the buzzer

Was this necessarily what decided who the best team really was?

Maybe, maybe not; but we need finality, we need separation, we need a champion

With this innate urge in mind, I have compiled a list of the top ten heaviest trees in the world

Remember that the density of wood can vary by an average of plus or minus 10% between samples (called the coefficient of variation), so it is entirely possible that a sample of the wood ranked tenth on this list could easily weigh more than a sample of the wood listed first on this list

Some of these species, on average, weigh only a few tenths of a pound more per cubic foot than their nearest competitors: certainly no final position should be collected from the list

But even so, we want someone to take home the gold medal — we need a crowned champion — so here are the ten heaviest trees in the world:


Sometimes called Argentine Lignum Vitae, this wood is a gem: cheap, great olive green color, beautiful feathery grain pattern, and takes a great natural polish on the lathe


(Dalbergia cearensis)

Kingwood probably got its name from several French kings (Louis XIV and Louis XV) who favored the wood in the use of fine furniture

Ironwood Desert

This wood is a favorite with hobbyists

Too small to be a viable timber tree, the colorful grain and high density of this forest are limited to small specialist projects

Snake tree

It’s easy to see what makes Snakewood so unique – its patterns and markings resemble snake skin

Limited supply and high demand mean that this is one of the most expensive woods on earth!

Lead wood

Another exceptionally hard African wood, the name says it all

Lead wood is rarely seen for sale, and is said to be protected in South Africa – a hard to find wood

(Schinopsis spp )

From the Spanish “quebrar hacha,” which literally means “axe cutter” Aptly named, wood in the genus Schinopsis is among the heaviest and hardest in the world

Lignum Vitae

Widely accepted as the heaviest wood in the world – this wood is listed as an endangered species and listed in CITES

Consider Verawood as a very close substitute

African Blackwoods

(Dalbergia melanoxylon)

In some parts of the world, this forest has gained an almost legendary status

Historical evidence suggests that this wood (rather than Diospyros spp) is the original “ebony”

This small tree from South America could be considered a super-mesquite

Related to mesquite, it is very dark, very dense, and very hard; instead of good ebony

Black Ironwood

Pieces are rarely seen for sale, as this tree is too small to produce commercially viable lumber

Like the unrelated Desert Ironwood, Black Ironwood is an excellent choice for small turning projects

Water weighs 623 pounds per cubic foot at room temperature (70 degrees F), so all of the woods listed above will sink easily in water

Density lists are for woods with a dry weight of 12% moisture content

There are probably all sorts of obscure shrubs and small trees that produce timber that can be quite heavy, but they are not seen in use by the majority of woodworkers, nor have they been documented reliable in woodworking publications

The Top Ten Trees You’ve Never Heard Of

The Ten Hardest Trees

Are you an aspiring wood nerd?

The poster, Worldwide Woods, Ranked by Hardness, should be readable by anyone enrolled in nursery school

I have collected over 500 wood species on one poster, organized into eight major geographical regions, with each wood sorted and listed according to its Janka hardness

Each wood is meticulously documented and photographed, listed with its Janka hardness value (in lbf) and geographic and global hardness rankings

Consider this: the venerable oak (Quercus rubra) sits at only #33 in North America and #278 worldwide for hardiness!

Aspiring wood nerd be advised: your syllabus may call for Worldwide Woods as part of your next assignment!

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