Ipe vs. Tigerwood: Which One to Use?

Ipe vs. Tigerwood: Which One to Use?

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Knowing the specifics of various types of lumber is great knowledge to have as a carpenter or woodworker. This knowledge shows that you are interested in the materials you are using and can be a leading factor in securing jobs with future clients.

In the following article, we will look into two different types of hardwood: ipe, and tigerwood. We will discuss what these types of timbers are, how they are identified, and what uses they have. Additionally, we will run through comparisons for these two hardwoods such as strength, hardness, color, and price.

What Is Ipe?

Ipe is widely regarded as one of the hardest types of wood in the world. This type of hardwood is sourced from the rainforests of Central and South America. Ipe is sometimes referred to as Lapacho or Brazilian walnut although it has no relation to the walnut tree.

This type of hardwood has been used heavily across the globe for its excellent rot and insect resistance. This resistance makes it an ideal wood for any construction near water. Decks around pools and boardwalks are common uses for ipe, as not only does it have great insect and rot resistance, but it also doesn’t heat up in the sun.

What Is Tigerwood?

Tigerwood, not to be confused with the famous golfer, is a type of hardwood that is sourced from several species of tropical trees across the globe. This timber is sourced from the Lovoa Trichilioides tree in Africa, the Goncalo Alves tree in Brazil, the Erythrina standleyana, and Erythrina rubrinervia in northwest South America and Central America, and also the Mia bisulcatacroberlini tree in Cameroon.

This type of wood is commonly known as Jobillo, Brazilian tigerwood, and Goncalo Alves. Woodturners use the name Jobillo to describe tigerwood that is sourced at its highest grade.

Ipe Vs. Tigerwood: What Are the Differences

Throughout this section, we’ll discuss the differences between ipe and tigerwood. As we examine each timber, we will consider its hardness, strength, durability, appearance, price, and ease of working.


The dark brown tone of ipe is known to range from yellowish-brown to reddish-brown or a darker blackish-brown.

Tigerwood, on the other hand, is named after its appearance as it displays a beautiful reddish-brown color with irregularly spaced stripes of dark brown to black. This beautiful wood is known to darken a lot as it ages.


The Janka hardness test is used when comparing the hardness of different types of timber. This measurement is found by forcing a 0.4” steel ball into an off-cut piece of wood until half of the diameter of the ball is embedded. The force it took to embed half of the ball is then measured and that gives us the timbers’ Janka hardness reading.

If we compare the results from this test, ipe has a Janka hardness of 3,510 lbf, while tigerwood comes in at 2,170 lbf. As we can see from these results, ipe is quite a bit harder than tigerwood.


When measuring the strength of timber, we use another type of test called ‘the crushing strength test.’ This test is performed by applying weight to the end grain of the timber, and calculating how much force it can take before it crushes.

If we compare the crushing strength of ipe and tigerwood using this test, tigerwood has a crushing strength rating of 10,770 lbf/sq in and Ipe has a crushing strength rating of 13,600 lbf/sq in. Once again, ipe shows that it is stronger than tigerwood.


The durability of these types of wood is a pretty even match.

Both types of timber go very well when used outdoors, and have great decay resistance. They are also both heavily resistant to insect attacks. The one small difference may be that some species of ipe are susceptible to attacks from marine borers.

Ease of Working

The hardness and density of ipe can make it a difficult timber to work with. Ipe blunts your blades quickly when cutting or planing and can present problems when gluing. It is heavily recommended to make sure you properly prepare your surface before gluing ipe.

Compared to ipe, tigerwood is a much easier timber to work with, even though it is still a very hard and dense type of wood. Straight-grained tigerwood is easily planed, machined, and cut but still has a moderate blunting effect on blades and cutters. Gluing tigerwood is similar to ipe as they are both heavily resistant to moisture absorption. So once again it’s recommended to properly prepare the surface you are trying to glue.


We’ll use an average price for both ipe and tigerwood to keep this comparison as fair as possible. The following prices are per square foot of decking material to show a rough comparison. As always, check with your local timber supplier for their actual prices.

Tigerwood is currently priced at $9.00 – $16.50 per square foot of decking material whereas ipe is $3.50 – $7.50. As you can see from this, tigerwood is much more expensive due to its availability and appearance.

When to Use Ipe Wood?

Ipe is the perfect timber to use in any heavy-traffic decks or boardwalks, due to its toughness and weather resistance. It also is a great timber to use as flooring or for tool handles, because of its high resistance to wear and tear. Ipe isn’t the most visually appealing timber so if that’s what you are looking for, tigerwood may be a good alternative.

When to Use Tigerwood?

Because of its beautiful appearance, tigerwood has many uses, but it is mainly a finishing carpentry material. Most commonly this timber is used for flooring, veneers, cabinetry, and furniture. Tigerwood is also used for small specialty timber objects such as tool handles, knife handles, pool cues, and archery bows.

Alternatives To Ipe And Tigerwood

If you are looking for an alternative to ipe or tigerwood, garapa may be a good substitute.

Garapa or Brazilian ash, as it’s sometimes known, is less strong and hard than both ipe and tigerwood. It still makes for a great alternative when used for flooring, general decking, or pool decks. This type of wood is a nice vibrant colored hardwood which makes it the perfect material for finishing carpentry.


Comparing two types of hardwood will always end in the same question: ‘Which one is right for the job I am doing?’

When comparing these two types of timber, it’s quite easy to make a decision. If you are looking for a beautifully colored type of wood that’s going to produce a lovely visual effect, go for tigerwood. If you are looking for something a bit cheaper, but with lots of strength, ipe is the wood for you.

Best of luck with your future building projects using ipe or tigerwood.