Mar 17, 2009

Parota Table by Tassajara Designs

Michael Wells from Tassajara Designs sent us over a couple pictures of a Parota table he constructed.

He also attached a very in-depth explanation of the working characteristics and uses of Parota lumber that we think will benefit anyone who is interested in using this wood.

Someone came to my shop one day needing bullnose for "Koa flooring" he had bought at a local flooring dealer. Upon closer examination, it became apparent what the customer had been sold was Parota, not Koa.

Without commenting on the scruples of his supplier, I was able to make his bullnose - out of Parota of course. This incident does serve to illustrate how easily Parota can be confused for Koa - at least visually. In fact, I've heard it referred to as "poor man's Koa".

However, that is where the similarities diverge, as Parota's performance specifications and working characteristics differ greatly from Koa.

In particular, crotch pieces of Parota can have very dramatic color and figure, often exhibiting striking fiddle-back, swirls and a mottled or quilted appearance.

When finished, these pieces will rival the finest figured Walnut or Koa at a much lower cost.

A side benefit is that Parota is often available in widths and thicknesses unheard of with more widely-known woods.

Parota's performance characteristics should be noted by woodworkers contemplating a project using Parota.

Most important of these: First, parota is not a hard, dense wood as most tropical woods go. It's much softer, on the order of redwood, and lighter in weight.

Second, Parota's structural characteristics are also similar to that of redwood. Woodworker's should not depend on Parota to carry significant loads over any appreciable span. This characteristic would be particularly important to remember if designing a solid Parota table top or cantilevered surface.

You could expect Parota to sag under its own weight, much as you would expect plywood or MDF to do so. Plan accordingly for supporting elements.

Its working characteristics are also very similar to softwoods, such as douglas fir or redwood.

Cutting and machining in dry wood typically produces smooth, clean edges and joints although you may experience some chip-out with the planer or jointer.

Sharp tools will prevent most joint "fuzz" but not all of it.

Parota glues well with any adhesives woodworkers are likely to use in their shop. The wood will absorb woodworking adhesives, such as Tightbond, quite fast - so plan on using enough adhesive (or apply a wash coat first) so that the joint doesn't become starved.

Screws do not hold well in Parota, much as they would not in redwood.

When finishing Parota, I've had good success using the following process.
(1) Tung oil to bring up the color and figure - 1 or 2 coats;
(2) Sanding sealer - I use a wax-free shellac seal coat (2 lb. cut), then sand out the first coat with 220 grit. This seal coat will "stand up" the fuzz that Parota typically has, allowing me to "clip the fuzz".

The fuzz that Parota gets when the raw wood is sanded can't be sanded away no matter how much you try - trust me on this.

A second shellac seal coat and sanding with 320 grit usually removes the last of the fuzz and prepares the surface for your favorite topcoat.

I've used a variety of water-based and solvent-based topcoats on Parota, all with excellent results provided you follow good surface preparation procedures (same or similar as I've outlined here). Just consider the intended use.

In particular, since Parota is so soft, you might want a more durable/hard finish if the intention is to use Parota for a table top, counter top, etc. where wear might be a large factor.

Finally, when performing operations on Parota that will generate dust, I strongly recommend using a dust mask. Parota's dust can be very irritating.

Some of my favorite projects have been done with crotch pieces of Parota (see picture above), which I have re-sawn into thin stock, bookmatched and layed-up on birch ply substrate to make table tops, fireplace mantles, bar tops, etc.

With this method, I am able to overcome some of Parota's structural limitations as well as stretch a particularly dramatic piece of wood much farther.

Despite some of its limitations and peculiar working behavior, I find Parota to be a gorgeous wood to use for many projects where the customer wants something dramatic in color and/or figure and a little unusual.

Michael Wells
Tassajara Designs, Inc

1 comment:

Chad MacLNE said...

I'm planning to attach some hairpin kegs to a ~3" parota slab. You mentioned that screws will not hold well. Any recommendations?