Originally, found in Brazil by the early explorers in the early 1600’s. The indigenous tribes used the sap from these trees to make sport balls. Intrigued with its properties, the explorers brought the seeds back with them to Europe. Eventually, rubber trees were found to grow well in the European colonies in Asia. French Indo China, (Viet Nam), Thailand and Hynan Island off the China coast.
Like many maples, rubberwood is also a sap producing species, producing specifically rubber. After the useful economic lifespan of rubber tapping, the older practice was to burn the “useless” tree. As a farmed lumber, it’s “Sustainability” feature is paramount. Rubberwood is the most ecologically “friendly” lumber used in today’s furniture industry. Unlike other woods that are cut down for the sole purpose of producing furniture, rubberwood is used only after it completes (18-25 years) its latex producing cycle and dies. This wood is therefore eco-friendly in the almost every sense. No part of this farmed tree goes to waste for it’s full lifecycle.
Rubberwood is wood from the Pará rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis), often called the rubber tree. Rubberwood, also called parawood in Thailand, is used in high-end furniture as it is valued for its dense grain, attractive colour, minimal shrinkage, and acceptance of different finishes. It is also prized as an “environmentally friendly” wood, as it makes use of trees that have been cut down at the end of their latex-producing cycle.
Rubberwood is often misunderstood as a species of wood utilized in the furniture industry.
The name of rubberwood itself invokes a variety of misconceptions as to its features and to its durability. It is one of the more durable hardwood lumbers used in the manufacturing of home furnishings of this decade. A member of the Euphorbiaceae family, rubberwood has a dense grain character that is easily controlled in the kiln drying process. Rubberwood has very little shrinkage making it one of the more stable construction materials available for furniture manufacturing. Rubberwood lumber takes easily many different types and colors of wood finishes such that rubberwood as used in furniture can mimic rosewood, or oak or other more expensive lumbers creating confusion in the identification of the type of wood used in the furniture.
Once Vulcanization was perfected, which prevented the rubber from rotting, production was increased for the production of Bicycle tires. Later car production required massive increases again in production. WWII required so many tires America needed to replace rubber for tires with synthetic materials. Production kept falling until about 1960 when it was discovered what a hidden resource rubber wood was. As a furniture wood, it is almost as hard as oak. Very nice grain patterns abound. The rubber from the rubber trees is now mostly used for rubber erasers, condoms, and rubber gloves.
The finishing of Rubberwood is no different than any other fine hardwood. The secret to an even finish is in the even sanding of the surface. The smoother the sanded finish the lighter the finish tends to be. Instead of using your eyes to determine the surface, use your hands. Feel the entire surface feeling for rough spots. These rough spots will stain darker than the smooth areas around the rough spots.