Letterhout (Snakewood)

Piratinera guianensis / Bronsimum guianensis

Commercial Name(s): Snakewood
Other Name(s): Amourette, Slangenhout, bois de lettres, Letterwood
Botanical Name: Piratinera guianensis / Bronsimum guianensis
Botanical Family: Moraceae (Mulberry)

Shrinkage Radial


One look at a highly figured piece of Brosimum guianense and it’s easy to see why it’s called Snakewood: the dramatic specks and splotches bear a close resemblance to the skin of a snake. Such figuring can be so pronounced that it has been compared to the writing of hieroglyphics, and is sometimes called Letterwood. In addition to its colorful figure, Snakewood is also among the densest and hardest of all wood species worldwide. It is difficult to dry and has a strong tendency to form cracks.

Snakewood is so called for its characteristic snakeskin patterns. Wood is typically a reddish brown, with contrasting darker brown or black patches. Color tends to darken and homogenize with age and exposure. Snakewood originates in South Amercia.  Snakewood is difficult to work with. Cutting tools get blunt very quickly. As if this was not enough, snakewood dust is toxic. Due its limited availability we have to ask for a surcharge for Snakewood instruments. Due to strong darkening its spectacular grain will get more discreet over time.Snakewood is an excellent tone wood. Instruments made from Snakewood sound similar to those made from ebony.

Typical use

Inlay, veneer, violin bows, tool handles, and other small turned or specialty objects.

Technical Information

Color: Reddish brown or darker brown with black patches
Trees Size: 20 – 25m high
Trunk Diameter: 15 – 30cm
Hardness (Janka) (kN):: 16.9
Crushing Strength (Mpa dry): 119.0
Basic Specific gravity: 0.96, 1.21
Density (kg/m3 dry): 1210
Grain: Straight, with a fine even texture
Texture: a fine even texture
Modulus of rapture (Mpa dry): 195.0
Modulus of elasticy (Mpa dry): 23.20
T/R Ratio: 1.3
Finish: Excellent
Stability: Good

All information without guarantee

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