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Chechen Metopium brownii

Chechen is a beautiful lumber in the style of an aged mahogany, being dark reddish brown with a wavy, striped grain. The tree, which can grow up to 50 feet high, grows in Central America and particularly Mexico, but has probably been saved from exploitation by the poisonous bark and sap. The toxins have the same effect as poison ivy. Fortunately the wood itself is not poisonous.

Type Tropical hardwood
Other names Honduras walnut (U.K.), chechen nigro, black chechen, black poison wood, chechem
Alternatives Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra), though this is very difficult to find and is vulnerable to extinction.
Sources Central America and Mexico
Color Dark and deep reddish brown, with lighter and darker stripes
Texture Fine to medium
Grain Straight, with a gentle wave, and likely to have some interlocking grain
Hardness Hard
Weight Heavy (53 lb./cu. ft.) (850 kg/cu. m)
Strength Strong
Seasoning and stability Seemingly good to season and stable once dry
Wastage Low. Few imperfections, but there is contrasting yellow sapwood.
Range of board widths Variable
Range of board thicknesses Variable
Durability Used for construction work in Central America, so it must have some natural durability.

The plain-sawn sides have a marvelous grain pattern, and this, combined with the rich red-brown color, makes the lumber resemble a rosewood.

Certified supplies are now available. This is the sort of lesser-known species that woodworkers should be encouraged to use, from certified sources, to stimulate demand for abundant tropical species.


Moderately priced, but you may have to search to find it from a specialist in exotic hardwoods.

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