Species Specs: Mesquite

The Prosopis spp. genus (mesquite) family represents a genus of flowering plants in the pea family, Fabaceae. There are about 45 species of trees and shrubs that are native to North America, South America, Central America, Africa, and Asia. The most common mesquite used in North America is the honey mesquite, most common in Texas.

Mesquite is listed by the USDA in North America as a noxious weed. Also, some species of mesquite hold fluorescent qualities. Some wood species, when exposed to black lights, will absorb and emit light in different visible wavelengths.

Used in flooring, furniture, mill work, cabinetry, decorative turnery, and barbecue smoking.

The heartwood can be a deep and rich golden to reddish or chocolate brown. The sapwood can be pale to yellowish/white to lemon colored.

The grain has a fine- to medium-textured open-grain, ranging from straight to wavy. It is a diffuse-porous grain with narrow to wider rays. The wood has a natural luster and may have ingrown bark and mineral streaks. Mesquite is commonly used as end-grain blocks due to its stability and aesthetic characteristics.

Average = 2345

Mesquite has a dimensional stability factor of 1.6 percent (radial) and 3.2 percent (tangential), meaning this species may shrink/swell up to 3.2 percent of its given width, depending on how it’s cut, when going from green (30 percent MC) to oven-dried.

Average = .00129 (tangential)

Average = .82

Due to the hardness of mesquite, tongues can split easily. The air compressor PSI will need to be reduced to avoid tongue splitting. Use of 18-gauge cleats works best when nailing mesquite.

Mesquite sands relatively easily. Due to the hardness of this species, it is often necessary to be mindful when skipping grits that all of the previous sanding scratches have adequately been removed. When sanding end-grain mesquite, do not skip grits. The final grit used is normally higher than other domestic species. Mesquite has been reported to cause skin irritation and other allergies with some users.

Sources: The Wood Database; Copyright © 2008-2016, Eric Meier / Wood Handbook (Wood as an Engineering Material), USDA Forest Products Laboratory / A Guide to the Useful Woods of the World; Copyright © 2001, James H. Flynn Jr. and Charles D. Holder / Texas A&M Forest Service

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