Snakewood - the music wood

Snake wood is a little-known wood species, which is used almost exclusively in musical instrument making. What distinguishes this tropical wood, and what you should know about its processing, you will learn in detail in this post.

Technical values

Reading Descriptionvalue
densityabout 1.2 - 1.38 g / cm³
Darrdichteabout 500 kg / m³
modulus of elasticity 19,000 N / mm², for comparison: oak approx. 13,000 N / mm², spruce approx. 10,000 N / mm²

Other terms and definitions

definition of Terms

In general, snake wood refers to the wood of Brosimum trees (also called Piratinera trees) growing in South America. Rarely, however, is the wood of Southeast Asian brechnuss called "snake wood" or "snakewood". However, it has little economic significance beyond local use.

Other names

For the South American Brosimum wood, there are still some different names. In English it is not only called Snakewood, but occasionally "Letterwood" (as well as some other woods), in French it is called "Amourette". In German, the term Letternholz or letter wood is occasionally in use. Leopard wood is a very little used name.



The texture is medium-fine, the fiber growth is straight, ager can be very strong irregular. The pores are scattered, the structure is overall very regular and fine.


Typical is the snake skin pattern of dark spots, which can be seen on the reddish brown heartwood. The wood surface has a slight shine. The sapwood, however, is - as typical for tropical woods - yellowish to whitish.


Snake wood is very heavy and very hard. It has above-average strength values ​​in all categories, which is due to the high wood density. Snake wood is very difficult to work because of the sometimes very irregular fiber growth. It can be polished but excellent. A bending of the wood, however, is hardly possible, not even in the steam.

Shrinkage and drying

Drying is difficult and snake wood is prone to cracking. The shrinkage, however, is only moderate.


Basically snake wood is very durable and durable, also weather resistant. It is very resistant to fungal and insect attack. However, these properties are irrelevant given the use.


Snake wood is used exclusively in musical instrument making (wind instruments and bow). Only to a very small extent is it sometimes used as a lathe. It is available in only very small quantities.


Snake wood occurs naturally only in South American countries, especially between Paraguay and Venezuela. However, the wood used today comes to a large extent from French overseas territories (Guyana), partly from Suriname and Trinidad.

Here you will find an overview of the most important types of wood worldwide. An overview of the most important tropical wood species, such as Snakewood, can be found here.

Tips & Tricks

Any surface treatment on snakewood must be done very carefully and carefully. In addition, planed surfaces often have a strong "horny" look, tools quickly dull on the wood.

Video Board: Snakewood guitar length musical instrument wood