Knowing Suar Wood
Some would-be customers who were once contemplating an investment in a unique ‘live edge’ piece of suar wood furniture have recently been put off by fear-mongering reports that discredit suar wood from Indonesia. The authors imply that Indonesian facilities are generally neither quality-conscious nor technically adept at the treatment of suar wood, resulting in a high chance of cracking, warping and termite infestation. While inadequate treatment undoubtedly increases the chances of future damage and degradation for any type of wood, regardless of where it is done, Wood Capitol tightly controls both the sourcing of its untreated suar wood and the quality of its subsequent treatment.
A Grain of Truth and a Pinch of Salt
This article aims to set the record straight about suar wood, and restore the reputation of this naturally beautiful and durable timber.
The Tree from which It Comes
Before we get to the wood, let’s trace it to its roots. Suar wood comes from a tropical tree with the scientific name of Albizia Saman, also known as the ‘rain tree’. This beautifully formed tree is crowned by a majestic umbrella-shaped dome, which creates and shelters a thriving micro-climate beneath its branches. It can grow up to 25 metres tall.
The rain tree is native to South and Central America. It was introduced to Southeast Asia and is widely cultivated throughout the tropics. Its widespread popularity around the world is reflected in the diversity of names it goes by. In the west, it is variously called monkeypod, Samanea Saman, parota and South American walnut. In Thailand, it is known as acacia. As you know, in Singapore and also in Indonesia it is called suar wood. In Chinese, it is “雨树” – a direct translation of ‘rain tree’. Under the NatureServe conservation status system, the rain tree species enjoys the G5 status, indicating that the species is in no imminent danger of extinction.
A Natural Beauty and an Inner Strength
Suar wood boasts a light golden-yellow sapwood and a rich, dark chocolate-brown heartwood. The beautiful straight grain of the heartwood, reminiscent of black walnut, lends itself to ‘live edge’ table and bench tops. Due to the immense circumference of mature rain trees, suar wood slabs often originate from a single piece of wood. This sets them apart from slabs of other timbers such as black walnut, which often comprise two or more ‘book-matched’ slabs cut and carefully joined from the same tree.
Moreover, suar wood is extremely strong for its weight, and with proper treatment and curing, highly resistant to decay and termites. A simple wipe with soap and water is all it needs to look its best.
Just as every seashell has a different pattern, and every snowflake has its own never-to-be-repeated shape, so does suar wood. Every piece is unique, in terms the pattern of its intricate grain, its contrasting hues, and the undulating curves of its natural ‘live edge’. This endless variety makes it ideal for long trestle tables and benches in restaurants and offices, as well as dining tables and countertops in elegant homes.
Not All Suar Wood is Sourced Responsibly
The timber trade has received a lot of negative publicity, for valid reasons. Wood Capitol strongly opposes illegal logging from unauthorised areas. It sources the majority of its suar wood from South America, and a small percentage from Indonesia.
The founder personally travels to legal and ethically operated rain tree plantations and handpicks only the finest pieces of timber, which are then sent to quality-controlled treatment plants in Indonesia and China.
Not All Suar Wood is Treated Equally
At Wood Capitol, we treat our suar wood with the respect it deserves. Before sanding and varnishing, every piece undergoes a vacuum pressure treatment, followed by air-drying and finally kiln-drying to remove as much moisture as possible.
Vacuum Pressure Treatment
The first stage of this 3-part process, vacuum pressure treatment involves enclosing the suar wood in a vacuum tank, then impregnating it with water to which a special preservative solution has been added. Under pressure, this fluid penetrates the wood to a depth of a few millimetres. It prevents fungal growth, rotting, termite and other insect infestation, and lessens the risk of warping and cracking without discolouring the wood.
Wood Capitol is so confident of the efficacy of its treatment that every piece of its suar wood furniture is guaranteed against termite infestation for 30 years.
To remove most of the residual moisture from air-dried wood, we place each piece in a kiln for a total of 60 days, to reduce the moisture content to below 12 percent. Many of our competitors settle for 18 to 25 percent. This is one important point of difference that distinguishes Wood Capitol from other solid wood furniture brands. This low moisture content effectively minimises expansion and contraction of during climatic fluctuations. It also prevents warping, buckling and other moisture-related defects.
During kiln-drying, some casualties are inevitable. Those pieces of suar wood that crack or split during this process are patched and sold at a heavily discounted price, or used to create finger joints in smaller items of furniture and decorative carved wooden figurines. Sometimes, if the cracks or splits occur at the ends of a piece of suar wood, the length is trimmed and the intact core is retained to become a shorter table, counter or bench. This process of trimming the ends does not compromise the strength of the core.
The Endless Possibilities of Suar Wood
In addition to its natural beauty and superior strength, suar wood is a highly versatile wood that can be cut into almost any shape. It makes stunning one-of-a-kind tables, benches, counter tops, floating shelves, bookshelves and doors – in a myriad of shapes, sizes and stains. Anything and everything is possible.
WOOD CAPITOL: No Fancy Showroom, No Expensive Rental, Just Stunning Solid Suar Wood Slabs
Though suar wood, or any solid wood for that matter, is relatively pricier than wood veneer or laminate-covered chipboard, Wood Capitol keeps its prices affordable by cutting out the middle man and sourcing its suar wood slabs directly from legal and ethical plantations and timber merchants in South America and Indonesia. It further controls costs by deliberately not operating a retail showroom in a central city location. Instead, it sells direct from its warehouse and adjoining workshop in Mandai Estate.
See Suar Wood for Yourself
If you admire solid wooden furniture, you will fall in love with Wood Capitol’s stocks of handpicked suar wood slabs. It carries around 500 handpicked pieces, conveniently stored in sliding racks that can be pulled out for closer scrutiny. It is a wood-lover’s wonderland!
No photo can do justice to the beauty of a suar wood slab. Visit Wood Capitol and be enthralled by the rich natural beauty of suar wood, polished to perfection.