BELALU Albizia falcata
Native from India to the Philippines, belalu has a low density and is quite soft. White in color, and depending on local conditions, brown at the
heart, the grain is not straight, making it unsuitable for carvings that have delicate detail.
Belalu is usually used for painted souvenir wood carvings that do not require much work.
However, the root area can be interesting in texture and color and, of course, much
more dense and hard.
A member of the magnolia family, capaka
wood is of medium hardness and very durable. It's white to yellow fragrant flowers are
used in Balinese offerings and bloom all year. The wood is tan to white and somewhat
striped. A bitter alkaloid in its tissues makes the wood insect resistant. A native of
India, it can be found throughout Southeast Asia.
As a coarsely textured, medium density
hardwood, this wood is generally used for painted or partially painted statues. However,
when properly finished, this wood can be quite smooth and beautiful to look at with its
visible grain and irregularities of pattern. The bare wood is tan to yellow in color. The
chinaberry tree (as well as mango) are often attacked by tropical mistletoe which causes
a gall formation. After the mistletoe dies away and rots off, it leaves a perfect
attachment imprint on the host stem, which look like a fungus. This intricately sculpted
impression is called a wood rose. The nearby wood is darkened, sometimes
with a reddish hue, creating interesting contrasts in color. Wood roses are carved into
many kinds of figures, animal, human and even Gods. Each carving is unique and
exactly like none other.
The Indonesian name,
panggal buaya, literally translates to crocodile teeth, referring to the knobby, tooth-
shaped protrusions which cover the trunk. Native to lowlands from India to the
Philippines, crocodile wood is usually white in color, some pieces have narrow, dark
stripes. The heart is sometimes purple. The grain is straight and easy to carve and the
wood is of medium hardness. Older trees produce darker wood than younger ones and
the higher up in the tree, the lighter the color. A narrow-trunked tree, the wood is well
suited to the elongated impressionist style of carving, popular in Bali since the 1930's.
Crocodile wood is often called the Ivory of Woods because of its similar color
and smooth finish.
A very dense wood, heavier than water, ebony
is a wood that can be highly polished. It is imported from Sulawesi (Celebes) and
Kalimantan (Borneo). Only wood from very old trees or the heartwood is black or very
dark. Usually it is black with reddish to brown stripes that run parallel to the grain.
Sometimes the sapwood is actually white. It is always carved when wet (before it dries
out) in order to be malleable for the chisel. Its hardness and straight grain make it ideal
for the carver. Usually, the finishing is done with a black wax to make the wood look
darker, but the natural color is very beautiful. One unusual quality of ebony is that if it
cracks before it is dry, the crack will quite often close up again, leaving no trace of any
Evidence has it that frangipani, a native
of Mexico, was brought to the old world by the Spanish. Jepun bali, as it is known in
Bali, has been in Indonesia since at least the 17th century and grows all over tropical
Asia. It is treasured for its medicinal value as well as its beautiful, fragrant flower.
Carvers of free-form statues love this wood because of its contorted shape. A strong
and hard, the wood is white to yellow or tan in color.
Gegirang is more of a shrub than a tree. A
hardwood, it is left outside to weather and resembles driftwood. It is the favorite wood
for carvers who semi-conceal figures in the wood, giving their work a combination of
rough, natural texture and smooth carving. The sapwood is white and the heartwood is
tan. The root has an attractive maroon color. The plant is indigenous to Southeast Asia
from Sumatra to the Philippines.
Known as waru in Indonesian, grey
hibiscus is of the same genus as that of the flowering shrub, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, but
of a different species. Although commonly called grey hibiscus, this is really not correct.
The sapwood is white to light gray and is sometimes mistaken for crocodile wood. The
heartwood is dark gray and sometimes almost black. When the wood is quarter-cut, the
resulting statue will have a pleasing combination of the light and dark colors. Grey
hibiscus can be well-sanded and will polish well with natural or brown shoe polish.
However, shoe polish will darken the color somewhat. Some of the trees have knobby
lower trunks which, when emphasized in the finished product, create an unusual one-of-
Called Ketewel in Balinese and
Nangka in Indonesian, jackfruit is a hard, strong, durable wood used for carving, musical
instruments (drums, and metallophone stands) and carpentry. It's grain is deeply
interlocked and resists cracking. Lemon yellow in color, it darkens to a light brown with
age. It is grown as a shade tree and for its fruit, which is served both sweet and
Known as kepelan in Indonesia, this wood is used
for making furniture and carved panels and never for statues. The wood is hard, but
chips easily, making it difficult to carve. Tan to brown in color, the finishing is usually
done with a brown stain. The incredibly intricate panels are carved in deep relief, from 1
to 5 inches in depth. The usual themes are from nature and the Ramayana
This average hardwood has a straight grain
and rather coarse texture and easy to carve. Known as suwar or suar in Indonesia, rain
tree is a native of South America, but has been dispersed throughout the tropics for at
least 100 years. Because the trunk is huge in mature trees, rain tree is suitable for
creating very large statues. A fast-growing and easily replaceable wood, it is the
favored wood of importers outside of the tropics because the crisscrossed, interlocking
grain keeps the wood from cracking when moved to drier climates. It can be finished to
a fairly high gloss.
Sometimes called brown hibiscus
(waru lot in Indonesian), sea hibiscus is not a member of the hibiscus genus or species
even though the tree resembles grey hibiscus. The sapwood is white to cream and the
heartwood is reddish brown. The brown predominates in trees over 20 inches in
diameter. Sea hibiscus can be highly polished and is usually finished with brown shoe
Similar to ebony in hardness, sonokeling has an excellent grain for carving. It is chocolate in color, sometimes with lighter colored stripes. It is an expensive wood, because the tree needs to be about 200 years old to produce a good large log. This is one of the reasons why carvings in this wood are rather rare. Native to India, sonokeling is called black rosewood in English. The Indonesian Department of Forestry has encouraged the planting of sonokeling trees in Java and in Bali.
Well known as a wood very suitable for furniture and
boat building, teak wood is very durable and resistant to decay and insects. It is of
medium density, but its hardness varies and is easy to carve. Teak is native to India,
Burma and Thailand and grows well in Java, Lombok, Sumbawa and Kalimantan
(Borneo). Statues and masks made of teak can be found in Java, but it is primarily used
for carved panels in Bali.