Panga panga (Millettia stuhlmannii) is well known in specialist hardwood markets including musical instruments, solid hardwood flooring and luxury furniture and kitchens.
Panga panga is virtually identical in terms of its appearance, qualities and woodworking characteristics to Wenge (Millettia laurentii) from West and Central Africa and the species are inter-changeable in wood use applications.
Panga panga’s tonal qualities make it an excellent choice for luthiers and the wood is increasingly popular for making guitars.
In fact, celebrated luthier, Ervin Somogyi, recently stated that in terms of the sound it produces, wenge / panga panga should be considered in “in the same category as the most-prized of traditional guitar-making woods, Brazilian rosewood”.
“The thing that appeals to me about wenge is that it is very live. When you hold a piece of it up and tap on it without damping any of its vibrational modes, it’ll ring like a piece of glass, plate of steel, or a crystal brandy snifter. This quality is known as vitreousness, which literally means glasslike-ness.”
“Wenge, a dense, dark-colored African hardwood unrelated to the rosewoods, has tonal properties remarkably similar to those of Brazilian rosewood.”
When a tree is first cut the wood appears distinctly yellow in colour but when processed the timber quickly oxidises and turns dark brown with a very distinctive tight grain and striped texture.
When finished with a light oil the wood turns chocolate brown with occasional light brown flecks.
As well being virtually identical to wenge, panga panga shares many qualities and woodworking characteristics with other commonly traded species from West and Central Africa including:
- Bubinga (Guibourtia spp.);
- African padauk (Pterocarpus soyauxii);
- Doussie (Afzelia spp.).