What Is Parawood? It’s Popular Than You Think
If you have ever visited a furniture shop before, you might have heard the name Parawood. Also known as Rubberwood, Parawood is popular in the furniture industry because it is highly durable. Although common, it’s not generally available in lumber yards in the US, so only a few people actually know it. You might even have it in your house, and you just don’t know. So, exactly what is parawood?
The Parawood actually has many names. It’s called Rubberwood, Plantation Hardwood, Para Rubbertree, Malaysian Oak, White Teak, and Hevea. It grows extensively in countries like Indonesia and Brazil, and in Central America. It’s also cultivated on rubber plantations in many parts of Asia.
The primary harvest from Parawood is a milky liquid known which is used in natural latex and rubber. The tree starts the production from 5 or 6 years old, but stop when the tree reaches 25 to 30 years old. When that time arrives, the tree is felled, and a new one is grown. This is what makes the tree environmentally friendly-- it can be harvested from a renewable resource.
The first information about the tree can be found in the journals related to Christopher Columbus’ trip to America. The natives were found playing with a ball made from the latex of the Parawood. In the 19th century, seeds of the wood were transported to England for germination. The seedlings were taken to the Malay Peninsula for planting. Now, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia make 70% of the worldwide number of rubber trees.
Characteristics of Parawood
The Parawood has a straight and long trunk. It can grow up to 75 feet tall and 3 feet wide. However, in a natural habitat, it can actually grow over 100 feet. Thus, the Parawood can produce a large number of lumber. However, it’s only harvested after its stops producing latex.
The tree has a light color, almost like pale yellow, which makes custom color possible. However, it tends to be dull and in need of polishing. It has open grains like that of mahogany, which you can control through kiln drying. It has more density than the Birch tree, but lesser than the Ash tree. Its strength group is 0.5, which is the same as that of the Maple tree.
The Parawood has very little shrinkage which makes it more stable and perfect for furniture making. However, it is highly perishable, too. Its resistance to rot and decay is low. Thus, it’s not usually used for outdoor furniture as extreme weather conditions can lower its lifespan. Because it has high starch content, it’s vulnerable to fungal staining and insect attacks. However, wood production factories usually apply a chemical treatment to the lumber to prevent these things from happening. If maintained properly, the Parawood can last up to more than 20 years after cutting.
Application of Parawood
The first use of the Parawood is for latex it produces. However, since it stops the production at 30 years old, it becomes firewood and fuel. As experts discover its characteristics, it has become popular in furniture making.
Because of its dense grain and little shrinkage, the Parawood is used for stable construction woodworks like toys, furniture, and house accessories. One can easily work with and staining it uniformly is not a problem. It's durable and allows strong cuts. And since it's a hardwood variety, it comes in different grades of quality. The following are the varied applications of the wood:
- Furniture and cabinetry
- Laminated veneer lumber
- Packing cases
- Wood carvings
- Wooden shuttle block
- Flush doors
- Construction millwork
- Fiber boards
- Toys and children’s furniture
Why Choose Parawood
Why is Parawood in demand in the furniture industry? Why is not fit for the shipyard and outdoor use? Every wood has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s explore the characteristics of the Parawood a bit more.
Advantages of Parawood
Here are the advantages of using parawood at home and in other infrastructures:
- It is durable - Parawood lumber usually lasts 20 years or more, if taken care of properly. This is a testimony of its resilience and durability.
- It is low maintenance - Taking care of the Rubberwood is not at all difficult. It’s often stain resistant.
- It is soft - The Parawood is soft, so it's comfortable to walk on, and it can lower the stress on your joints. It is for this reason that it’s often used as flooring in senior homes.
- It is fire resistant - The wood doesn't burn even if the source is a cigarette butt. It is also not toxic and does not release fumes when there is fire.
- It is a good shock absorber - The wood provides good cushioning which helps avoid injuries when someone falls. Thus, it’s often used as flooring in gyms.
Disadvantages of Parawood
Like other wood, the Parawood is not perfect. Here are its disadvantages:
- It is prone to slippage - The wood is slippery when water has been spilled on it or if polished.
- It is expensive - Because it’s usually exported from Asia, the wood can be more expensive than other wood types.
- It is not water resistant - The reason the Parawood is not fit for outdoor use is that it can’t withstand rain. It has seepage problems.
- It has a dull finish - This is why the wood is always polished. If you want to give a bright effect to a room, the Parawood is not the choice for you.
- It is prone to infestation - High in sugar content, the wood is prone to insect infestation and fungus.
- It warps - Because it already has high moisture content, it can warp, bow, twist, and split easily.
Working with Parawood
You can’t work on two wood varieties the same way. There are specific things you must take note when working with the Parawood, which you might not be aware of when working with other kinds of wood.
Chemical Treatment Parawood
Since Rubberwood is prone to insect and fungal attacks, it has limited use in the past. Then in the 1980s, people have discovered a chemical treatment process that allows the wood to last longer. As soon after sawing, the wood is treated by pressurized immersion in boron preservatives. Then, it undergoes kiln drying, which diffuses chemicals and controls the moisture content.
In cutting Rubberwood, back sawing is usually used. It allows faulty parts like those infested with fungus and insects to be cut around. Moreover, it is used to cut the log where the rings are parallel with the face of the board. Since there is more strength in the direction of the growth rings, the useful parts of the Parawood are reaped.
You can go over the rough spots of the wood with a #120 sandpaper. Then, you can follow it up with a finer grade of #220 sandpaper. When sanding, you must follow the wood grain. When the wood is already smooth, use a lint-free cloth to remove the sanding dust.
Staining and Finishing Parawood
In staining the Rubberwood, follow the direction of the grain. You can test it on a small area first and see whether you like the result or not. Allow 5 to 15 minutes to soak the stain into the wood. After which, wipe the extra liquid with a lint-free cloth. You can apply a second coating if you like. When the stain has completely dried, apply a protective finish coating.
The Parawood is highly used in furniture making for several reasons. It is durable, low-maintenance, soft, fire-resistant, and shock absorber. However, it is also prone to slippage, expensive, dull, prone to infestation, and can’t withstand water. In order to minimize the disadvantages of the wood, you must follow proper procedure when working with it.
If you have more questions about Parawood and how to work with and maintain it, leave a comment below. We’ll respond to your inquiries as soon as we can.