Okoume, pronounced oh-kuh-mey, plywood is made from the wood of the Okoume tree. It is sometimes called Okoume Mahogany and has a pinkish-brown or pale red hue. Okoume has a uniform texture and the grain is straight to barely wavy that looks interlocked and attractive.
Okoume plywood is commonly used for building racing boats and other uses where lightweight wood is needed. It can also be used for building furniture or on kitchen cabinets because of its lustrous appearance.
The Origin of Okoume Plywood
Aucoumea klaineana, or Okoume, is an African hardwood that can only be found in the Congo, Gabon, and Africa’s equatorial Guinea. The tree grows in close stands and can reach over 100 feet. It also grows quickly so regeneration is usually not a concern. The name Okoume Mahogany is a misnomer, because it’s not true mahogany.
By law, no Okoume logs can leave the country of Gabon, where Joubert’s Okoume comes from. The veneer mill has to be in Gabon where it can benefit the local economy. No more than 7 percent of Joubert’s Okoume can be taken annually in order to ensure sustainability.
Okoume Plywood Quality, Size, and Thickness
Okoume wood is typically a high-quality product coming in 4’ x 8’ two-sided marine grade panels in thicknesses ranging from ⅛” to 1”. It is very soft and plywood made from Okoume are usually not pressure treated. The core can be made from pine, poplar, or hardwood to give it added strength. A cubic foot of Okoume weights over 25 pounds.
How to Use Okoume Plywood
Okoume is primarily used for marine applications, but it can be used for other applications as long as the edges and faces are well sealed. It is the easiest to bend of the marine plywoods making boat construction of the stitch-and-glue variety much easier than if a wood like fir were used.
Okoume is durable, lightweight, and attractive, which makes it appropriate for woodworking. You can reface kitchen cabinets using Okoume plywood, for example.
The Downside of Okoume Plywood
Okoume is not the most durable wood available. It needs a fiberglass or epoxy coating on it because it isn’t rot-resistant. It must be sealed to prevent any moisture from getting in, which is why most okoume panels are painted and finished with epoxy and varnish to prevent any problems from exposure to the elements.