Rubber wood has gained widespread acceptance in the furniture industry, and now
at least one major cabinet manufacturer is betting that consumers will embrace
the use of the low-cost, plentiful lumber in kitchen cabinets.
Armstrong is offering the dense hardwood in three door styles and in various
stained finishes. The cabinets featured in this photo are from the Bali line.
The light "honey" finish gives the cabinets a look somewhere between maple and
hickory. Grain is less visible in darker stains.
Bali's square, recessed veneer center panels are inset into 3/4" thick solid
wood door frames. A built-in finger grip eliminates the need for knobs or
pulls, though the set featured here has wrought iron hardware.
If the name rubber wood doesn't sound familiar, the wood is also known as
plantation hardwood and para wood. If you buy a piece of furniture described
only as "solid hardwood," chances are it's made of rubber wood. The product of latex rubber plantations, the wood until recently was burned as junk wood. Furniture manufacturers discovered that this hardwood is easy to work with and inexpensive to acquire. The rest, as they say, is history.
rubber trees (often just called rubber trees) grow quickly and produce copious
amounts of sap until they're about 25 to 30 years old. When the sap, used in the
production of latex rubber, dries up, the spent trees are chopped down and new
South American rainforests were bulldozed to make way for the rubber
plantations many decades ago. Ironically the wood from this decidedly "un-green"
practice is now touted by some environmentalists (and all of the manufacturers
who use it) as a rapidly growing, renewable resource and a welcome alternative
to the use of other exotic hardwoods such as mahogany and teak.
The wood features a long, straight grain and has about the same density as
ash or maple.
The wood naturally varies in color from creamy white to
medium brown. Unstained, naturally finished rubber
wood furniture is popular in other countries, but much of the rubber wood
furniture in the US is stained or painted. Armstrong's rubber wood cabinets come
in stains ranging from soft white to nearly black, but not a natural finish.