Lignum Vitae Wood, Uses, Pros And Cons

Lignum vitae wood comes from trees of the genus Guaiacum, native to Central America and northern South America. The name “lignum vitae” means “wood of life” in Latin, which refers to the durability and hardness of the wood.

What is Lignum Vitae Wood?

Lignum vitae is one of the world’s hardest and most durable woods. It is famous for its excellent strength and durability. It is used for shipbuilding, bearings, and tool handles.

Lignum Vitae is also highly resistant to water and rot, making it useful in marine environments. The wood is also known for its beautiful dark green color and attractive grain pattern.

#Lignum Vitae Wood
Scientific nameGuaiacum officinale and G. sanctum
Tree Size30 – 40 feet (10-13m), 1-2 ft (.3-.6 m) trunk diameter
Dry weight78.5 lbs/ft3 (1,260 kg/m3)
Janka Hardness4,390 lbf (19,510 N)
Modulus of Rupture: 17,970 lbf/in2 (123.9 MPa)
Crushing Strength: 12,380 lbf/in2 (85.4 MPa)
Shrinkage: Radial: 5.3%, Tangential: 8.7%, Volumetric: 14.0%, T/R Ratio: 1.6

Lignum Vitae Uses

Lignum Vitae wood is used for Shipbuilding, tool handles, bearings, bushing, pulley wheels, and carvings. It can withstand constant saltwater and moisture exposure, which is most commonly used for marine applications.


The heartwood of the Lignum Vitae ranges from greenish-brown to olive, sometimes darker. And the sapwood is light green to greenish, which gives it a distinctive appearance. 

When exposed to light and UV rays, the wood color tends to darken with age. The color of the wood can be preserved by proper sealing. Wood has a straight or interlocked grain pattern and contains natural oil, making the surface look oily.

Working with Lignum Vitae

Lignum Vitae wood is not easy to work with, the wood being tough, dense, and heavy, especially with hand tools. Due to its hardness, it dulls the cutter blades. You will need sharp tools, Carbide-tipped tools or blades are recommended for best results.

Lignum vitae have a naturally oily surface, making it difficult to glue joints. For best results, use high-quality epoxy or polyurethane glue.

If you’re working with lignum vitae, wear appropriate safety gear, such as eye protection and gloves, to prevent injury.

Lignum Vitae Wood Pros and Cons

Lignum vitae wood is an excellent wood species, but it has some pros and cons that should be known before use. Its pros and cons are as follows.


  1. Appearance: Lignum Vitae wood has a unique color, which makes it look great.
  2. Durability: Lignum Vitae is one of the most durable woods in the world, making it very resistant to wear, rot, and insect damage.
  3. Moisture Resistant: Lignum Vitae has a natural oil content that makes it self-lubricating and highly resistant to water, making it a good choice for use in marine environments.
  4. High strength: The wood’s high strength makes it ideal for use in applications with a lot of pressure.


  1. Rare and Expensive: Lignum Vitae is a rare and slow-growing tree, which makes it more expensive than many other kinds of wood.
  2. Toxicity: The sawdust of Lignum Vitae wood can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation in some people. Additionally, the wood contains a toxic resin that can cause problems for asthmatics.
  3. Difficult to work: Lignum Vitae is tough, and heavy wood makes it difficult to work with machines and hand tools.

Lignum Vitae Wood Price

The price of Lignum Vitae hardwood depends on several factors, such as its quality, size, and availability. It is expensive because of its natural properties and rarity. Typically, Lignum Vitae lumber costs range from $40 to $100 per board foot.

It is important to note that Lignum vitae is also an endangered species protected by international trade regulations. Before purchasing lignum vitae wood, ensure it is purchased sustainably and legally.


Is Lignum Vitae the Hardest Wood?

No, Lignum Vitae Wood is not the most complicated wood in the world, but it is very hard. Its Janka hardness rating is 4,390 lbf (19,510 N). 

Here is a table of the hardest woods to give you an idea of how hard Lignum Vitae is.

Wood SpeciesJanka Hardness
Quebracho4,570 lbf (20,340 N)
Lignum Vitae 4,390 lbf (19,510 N)
Australian Buloke3,760 lbf (16,740 N)*
Verawood3,710 lbf (16,520 N)
African blackwood3,670 lbf (16,320 N)
Kingwood3,340 lbf (17,240 N)
Gaboon Ebony3,080 lbf (13,700 N)
Cocobolo2,960 lbf (14,140 N)
Honey Mesquite2,340 lbf (10,410 N)

Is Lignum Vitae Wood Good for Bearings?

Lignum Vitae Wood is an excellent choice for making bearings because of the presence of natural oil that works as a self-lubricant so that as a bearing, it works for more than 100 years without using oil or grease.

Is Lignum Vitae good for furniture?

Lignum Vitae Wood can be used for furniture, but it is not recommended for many reasons, such as it is a very expensive wood that is rarely available. The second reason is that it is very heavy. The woodworkers have to face many difficulties while working on this wood. Therefore it is used for smaller applications such as tool handles or carving rather than for furniture.

Is Lignum Vitae good for outdoor uses?

Lignum Vitae can be used outdoors as it can withstand moisture and extreme weather for a long time. It is rot and insect resistant so that it does not rot even after contact with the ground or moisture.

Is Lignum Vitae rot resistant?

Yes, Lignum Vitae is excellent natural rot resistant. It does not need to be treated like other wood.

Is Lignum Vitae Sustainable?

Lignum vitae wood is considered a protected species due to excessive harvesting. This species is listed as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in CITES Appendix II and is on the IUCN Red List. The growth rate of Lignum vitae trees is very slow, and the tree may take up to 100 years to reach maturity.