What Is Rubber Wood? (Detailed Features, Pros & Cons)

If you are a fan of carpentry and often wander around looking for the perfect piece of artwork, you might come across an item claimed to be made from rubberwood. But what is rubberwood exactly? Where does it come from? What are the specifications? And how can you best utilize rubberwood for household usage?

The answer lies in the details below. Learn more about the ins and outs of this amazing material through today’s article!

What Is Rubber Wood?

Also known as plantation hardwood or parawood, rubberwood is an affordable, light material extracted from rubber trees.

After the trees reach a certain age, farmers will harvest them for latex, which starts roughly from the 6th-7th year to the 25th-30th year. Once the latex already dries up, the rubber trees are cut down. Subsequently, their cores go through a few steps of treatment before turning into rubberwood as we know it today.

Everything You Need To Know About Rubber Wood

History

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While rubber trees are originally native to the Amazon region, they have spread out all over the world and become prominent in different areas, especially in Southeast Asia. Another country famous for its rubberwood production is Brazil, where impressive plantations grow deep within the Amazon forest. 

In the past, rubber trees were only known for their latex yields. It was not until the 1980s that people noticed the qualities of their heartwood and sapwood. Upon closer inspection, rubberwood has proven to be an excellent addition to the timber industry due to its low cost, durability, and environmental friendliness! 

Specification

The name rubberwood can be misleading since many customers are under the impression that rubberwood is bendable and elastic, just like latex. This cannot be further from the truth. When compared to other traditional, well-known types of wood like ash or maple, rubberwood shows the same level of weight and density. Furthermore, it provides a medium texture that can be used for multiple purposes and is relatively hard upon direct contact.

If you want to have some visual aids of how rubberwood looks like, here is a Youtube video offering a closer look. 

Appearance

When freshly taken out of the woods, you can instantly see the heartwood and sapwood of rubber trees sharing the same shade of light blond or medium tan. Due to this similarity, it is impossible to tell the two parts apart. After extensive usage and frequent exposure to the heat and light, the initial hue gradually turns darker. Brown streaks are developed on the surface, along with stains and discolorations. In some cases, a layer of pinkish tint is also visible.

Workability

Rubberwood is arguably among the easiest materials to handle. Whether with hands or professional tools, whoever is working on rubberwood can safely implement different processes without much struggle. It takes well to glue, finish, or stain and remains highly stable after being dried and seasoned. So feel free to paint, engrave, or nail it in any way you like!

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Odor

When first sawn, rubberwood exudes a sour smell, which can be appalling for workers. It resembles the smell of newly harvested latex and is highly aggressive when being greened. But rest assured that after kiln-drying, rubberwood will come out virtually odorless.

Sustainability

One of the reasons why environmentalists love rubberwood is its nature. To put it simply, rubberwood does not require cutting down trees indiscriminately. 

Before the wood is collected, any rubber tree has already gone through approximately 30 years of producing latex. Farmers usually wait until the latex production drops in both quantity and quality before chopping the trees off. Thus, rubberwood is the second item that comes from a single plant, effectively maximizing its usefulness throughout an entire life cycle.

If it had not been for rubberwood consumption, the futile rubber trees would have been burned anyway. And you do not have to be a scientist to understand the negative impact such an action can exert on the ecosystem.

Availability

As stated above, rubberwood comes from a renewable source. Rubber trees are planted and felled on a regular basis, so they never end up running out of stock. Therefore, this material is highly accessible at any time of the year.

Application

After being chemically treated and processed, rubberwood prides itself on being highly durable and sturdy. That is not to mention its tendencies to stay intact despite any shrinkage or cracking. When combined, the material is perfect for indoor furniture or other household wooden gadgets.

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Typically, you can find chairs, tabletops, bed frames, wardrobes, countertops, cutting boards, cabinets, etc., made from rubberwood. Children’s toys are also an area dependent on this type of timber. 

Still, there is one thing worth noting when it comes to rubberwood pieces. Due to their perishability and susceptibility to external attacks, rubberwood does not do well when placed outdoors for a long time. Rains and other extreme weather conditions will otherwise affect the protective layers of chemical substances, exposing the insides of the wood to fungi and insects. 

Water resistance

Rubberwood is not waterproof and can quickly deteriorate if the humidity rate is too high. 

Pros And Cons Of Using Rubber Wood

Pros

  • Rubberwood does not cause any harm to the environment when being grown, harvested, and treated.
  • Rubberwood has a high level of fire resistance. Even upon direct contact with the heat source, the burn damage is still significantly less worrying than other types of lumber.
  • Rubberwood is not toxic or allergic to the average person. 
  • Rubberwood is robust and can withstand the test of time, with a hardness of nearly 500 pounds and stiffness of 1.3 million PSI.
  • Rubberwood is cheaper than many counterparts while still having the same level of quality.
  • Rubberwood is crafted into many household items, which are easy to buy from anywhere.
  • Rubberwood is simple and elegant, making it blend in with any rooms 
  • Rubberwood is easy to stain, so dyeing it into another shade is pretty much effortless.

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Cons

  • Rubberwood usually comes in small boards. If you want to have anything bigger than the standard 1.8m in length and 50mm in thickness, you need to buy joint rubberwood boards. 
  • Rubberwood is not for people with a latex allergy. This material has all the characteristics of latex, thus becoming unusable for those suffering from allergies.
  • Rubberwood is slick and slippery, especially when it comes into direct contact with water. 
  • Rubberwood can develop dents if exposed to direct heat for a long time. The maintenance required is, therefore, a bit more complicated.
  • Rubberwood twists easily before kiln-drying, resulting in distortions.
  • Rubberwood – if left untreated – can decay with time.
  • Rubberwood is only suitable for indoor use.
  • Rubberwood absorbs water and other forms of liquids, drastically affecting its lifespan.

FAQs

1. How does rubberwood get treated chemically?

Rubberwood is subject to chemical treatment before being widely used. In fact, most pieces of rubberwood cannot work out as expected without external intervention. This is due to their vulnerability to insects, natural decay, and fungi. 

Therefore, after harvested, rubberwood is deeply submerged into a container of boron preservatives, using both the substance and the water pressure to add an extra layer of protection. Afterward, the wood is dried using a kiln, which lowers the concentration of chemicals and reduces the moisture percentage.

2. How can I clean rubberwood furniture?

Rubberwood is best known for being the number one material in furniture manufacturing. If you happen to own a piece, make sure to follow the tips below for easy maintenance.

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  • Use a piece of dry drag to wipe off dust and other solid accumulations on the surface. Remember to pick an intact cloth with no irregular edges or hanging threads. Otherwise, these tiny strings can end up getting caught inside the grooves or dents of the furniture.
  • If there is any stain or spillover, dip a microfiber piece of cloth in water and carefully clean it. Do not rub it aggressively or use any material that may cause scratches and destroy the protective finish. When wiping the rubberwood with water, try to move your hands in oval movements so that they fit the wood grain.
  • After wiping the surface with liquid, use a dry drag to botch up any residue. Then, let the furniture dry on its own. 

Conclusion

Hopefully, after reading this comprehensive guide, you can address the question “What is rubberwood?” with confidence. If you find this piece of article helpful, do not hesitate to bookmark it for later use!