Sheesham (Dalbergia sissoo) is a hardwood that grows in the sub-Himalayan regions of India and other surrounding areas. We also call it Indian rosewood, penny leaf tree, Himalayan raintree and sissoo.
Sheesham wood is a versatile and durable wood with good looks to match. It shares many characteristics with teak, making it a suitable alternative to the King of Woods. If you have sufficient information about Sheesham, you can use it to your best advantage in making various woodworking items and structures.
Sheesham trees are not very tall and grow up to a maximum height of 65 feet. The tree trunks reach diameters of up to 3 feet. You will find these trees growing in northern India, Nepal, and Pakistan, as well as Western Asia. They also thrive on plantations across the world.
Sheesham wood varies in grain pattern so diversely that no two pieces look alike. It is a favorite choice for making furniture. Sheesham wood furniture is solid, and it lasts longer than if made from other types of wood.
Sheesham Wood: Key Features
Now, let us discuss the details of Sheesham wood and the benefit it gives to those who use it:
Sheesham wood is golden to deep, reddish-brown with remarkable, natural grain patterns. The interlocked wood grains make Sheesham extremely tough and durable.
Sheesham is quite hard with a Janka hardness rating of 1,660 lbf. It is easy to work with and takes all varieties of finish, and types of wood glue quite well. You will find it easy to work with Sheesham using hand and machine tools.
A downside of working with Sheesham is that it sometimes contains chalky deposits that make cutting blades prematurely dull.
Sheesham’s inherent resistance to dry-wood termites characterizes this wood. It will not split or warp easily due to its extreme toughness, making it suitable for making cabinets and other types of furniture. It has a natural resistance to decay but is prone to attack by wood-boring beetles, so you need to treat it adequately with insecticide.
Sheesham is not on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species but exists on the CITES appendix II. It means that some extent of control prevails on this wood, including the finished products.
Benefits of Sheesham Wood
Sheesham wood is a versatile and durable wood. We consider it a practical alternative for teak wood, which you can read about in another interesting post of ours, “Teak vs. Sheesham.”
- Sheesham is highly resistant to decay.
- It is an exceptionally dimensionally stable wood that is not prone to warping or splitting, making it an ideal choice for cabinets and other types of furniture.
- Sheesham has a natural resistance to dry-wood termites.
- It is the preferred choice for making turned objects.
- This wood has an excellent deep, brown color that takes on an impressive shine when a polish is applied to its surface.
- Sheesham is a very cost-effective wood. It shares many characteristics of teak and other expensive types of wood but comes at a fraction of the cost.
- Sheesham is a versatile wood, and we use it to make a variety of woodworking items and in turning, carving, and engraving.
Uses of Sheesham Wood
Sheesham wood is widely used in boat building and making aircraft plywood. It also makes charcoal and musical instruments, and we also use ut for sports goods, carving, engraving, and making turned objects.
The construction industry uses Sheesham wood for making doors and windows. Even the root of the Sheesham tree finds a purpose in making tobacco pipes.
Treating Sheesham Wood
Typically, once cut, we leave Sheesham wood to dry for six months before being ready to use. Mills speed up the process by placing the wood in temperature and humidity-controlled chambers.
As a woodworker, you will get wood that is already cured and dried for your projects. However, you should ensure that the wood is sufficiently dried to provide dimensional stability. It’s a good idea to use a moisture meter to check the wood.
Always store Sheesham away from heat, direct sunlight, and moisture as it can result in the wood warping or cracking. When you work with the wood, use appropriate tools with sharp blades. You need to drill pilot holes for driving screws into the wood.
If you want to bring out the natural beauty of the wood grain pattern and color, then avoid using an opaque finish. A clear varnish and wood sealer is the best combination for getting the wood’s natural color to show up.
How to Take Care of Sheesham Furniture
As mentioned above, Sheesham is a rugged and attractive wood that makes furniture that lasts for years. However, you need to take specific measures to get the best out of it. Here are a few tips:
- Avoid exposing Sheesham furniture to extreme temperatures.
- Do not place hot objects on Sheesham furniture directly. You can use insulating coasters and heatproof mats to provide adequate protection from heat and moisture.
- Do not leave Sheesham wood furniture exposed to a direct heat source like a fireplace or a stove.
- If you have to place heavy or sharp objects on a Sheesham wood surface, place a soft covering first to protect it from scratches and dents.
- Dust your Sheesham furniture surfaces daily with a dry duster to prevent grime from accumulating in the nooks and crannies of the furniture.
- Polish your Sheesham furniture frequently with furniture wax to restore the sheen.
- Reapply the varnish or stain finish to your Sheesham furniture every year or so. You may find it challenging to do it yourself to take the help of a professional.
Disadvantages of Sheesham Wood
There are a few downsides to Sheesham wood that you should consider that will make your expectations more realistic when you use this wood. Here are some of the main disadvantages in Sheesham timber:
Sheesham wood is heavy, which makes furniture made of this wood rather tricky to move around.
This wood has a fair degree of water resistance, but it is porous, making it prone to absorb water, inviting rot.
Susceptible to Insect Attack
Sheesham is more vulnerable to insect attacks than many other hardwoods.
Tendency to Tearout
The straight grain pattern of Sheesham tends to be broken at places where the grains interlock. You will not find it easy to cut and shape at such sections due to the tendency to tearout.
Chalky Deposits Make Blades Blunt
Occasional chalky deposits can cause cutting tools to become blunt quickly, requiring sharpening the blades of such tools more frequently.
Long Sections Difficult to Find
Although sheesham trees are moderately tall at a maximum height of 65 feet, they do not grow straight. It becomes challenging to find long sections of lumber from Sheesham logs.
On the one hand, Sheesham is considered an invasive species in the United States and other countries. On the other hand, this wood found itself on the CITES Appendix II in 2017, meaning it is no longer considered sustainable.
Sheesham wood is among the most durable woods on the market. It has many advantages. What used to be restricted to only the Indian subcontinent has become a widely-used type of wood in various parts of the globe.
We hope that with the information about Sheesham wood, you can understand it better. In turn, you can get the best out of this wood for your woodworking projects.