What is Sal Wood – Everything You Need to Know About it

Sal WoodOne of the toughest timbers available today, sal wood has a hard and coarse grain. It is naturally a light-coloured wood but it turns dark on constant exposure to sunlight. It is highly resinous and durable, making it value for your money. For these reasons, it is highly prized in the construction industry.

The Sal tree: It is derived from a tree popularly grown in forests in India and Nepal. It is one of India’s most important sources of hardwood. When freshly cut, it is identified by its light color and coarse grain. However, exposure to sunlight darkens its wood.

Why Sal wood is used for windows

Sal wood is cost-effective, very strong and durable, hence it is ideal for making the body of a truck. It is also used in the construction industry and to make furniture.

It is readily available in a variety of shapes and sizes. So, customizing this wood for your specific needs is not a problem.

This wood is strong enough to withstand water, making it ideal for use in cold climates. It is also heavier and tougher than teak and is resistant to fungi, water and termites.

It is best to season the wood before using it as this helps display the properties of sal wood better.

Differences between teak and sal wood

Applications: Teak wood is highly prized in the finishing industry. Once the desired item is made and polished, it acquires a very rich look. Sal is valued in the construction industry for its strength, but not for its finishing.

Maintenance: Teak requires very basic maintenance because it is strong and durable. Wiping teak furniture with a dry cloth every day is enough, while you can re-polish it once every few years. On the other hand, sal is durable, termite- and fungi-resistant. It should not be kept in the glare of direct sunlight as it will form cracks.

Why sal wood is ideal for furniture: Sal wood is highly durable and very strong, for which reason it is ideal for making window sills, door, frames and beams. It can also withstand moisture, so it is easy to carry your sal furniture to a cold place and use it there without worrying about how it will react to the cold.

It is also heavier and much tougher than teak wood. It is also resistant to termites, fungi and water. If you buy sal wood that has been seasoned, it will display better features and give you more satisfaction.


  • Sal wood is 25% to 30% heavier than teak wood and 45% to 50% harder and more durable than teak.
  • It is resistant to white ants, termites and fungi.
  • It is durable and water resistant.


  • Being very hard, sal wood isn’t easy to saw.
  • It cannot be polished.
  • It cracks under exposure to direct sunlight.
  • It is not a good choice for furniture or for exterior doors.
  • It shrinks and swells.
  • When compared to metal, it is very expensive.

Some other important features of sal wood tree

Sal wood: The wood is highly resinous and durable, making it sought-after by the construction industry. However, it doesn’t take well to polishing and planing, but is considered suitable for making windows and door frames.

Sal seeds and fruit: They are used to make vegetable fat and lamp oil. Sal seed oil, better known as Shorea robusta seed oil, is an extract from the seeds and used in cooking.

Sal leaves: Leaf plates (paatravali) and leaf bowls found in northern and eastern India use dry sal leaves. When fresh, these leaves are used to make paan or betel nut preparations and other Indian snacks. Used leaves are usually the food of cattle and goats. In Nepal, its leaves are used as food plates.

Location: The sal tree is found on the banks of the Yamuna, and in Assam, Bengal and Nepal. In central and north-east India, it grows up to a height of 1700 meters. It is also grown at the base of the Himalayas, in the Bandhavgarh National Park, Dudhwa National Park and Corbett National Park in India.

Description: The Sal tree is known as Shala, Sakhua, Sargi, Sakher, Sarai, Kandar and Shal in different parts of the country. This tree grows slowly, and reaches a maximum height of about 30 m to 35 m and has a trunk diameter of about 2.5 m. Its leaves are about 17.5 cm long and about 10 cm broad on average. When grown in wet areas, the tree is evergreen; in drier areas, it is a deciduous tree that sheds its leaves mainly between February and April, with leaves growing again between April and May.

It has large leaves, leathery in texture, with yellow flowers. As sal trees age, their linear crown becomes flatter and rounder in shape. Its sapwood is white in color, not as durable as the wood but thick. Its wood pores are full of resin.

Uses: The sal tree is used for a variety of purposes, such as:

Medicinal uses: Sal resin is used as an astringent to relieve diarrhoea and dysentery. For skin infections and ear problems, it is used as an ingredient in ointments. It is also used as an ingredient in foot creams.

Its fruits are used to treat epilepsy, excessive salivation and chlorosis. Its seeds are very good insecticides and treat dental problems. It is also effective in drying oily complexions and serves as a good shampoo.

Other uses: Tribal folk use its leaves to make rice cakes and to smoke, apart from making baskets, bowls and other containers. When distilled, the leaves produce an oil that is used in making perfumes, and to flavor chewing gum and for tobacco. When dried, the leaves are used as fertilizers, caulking ships and boats.

The seeds produce an oil better known as sal butter. It is used in cooking and to light lamps. The resin of this tree is used as an astringent in Ayurvedic medicine. The Hindus use it like incense in their ceremonies.

Cultural significance: The sal tree is worshipped by the Hindus and Buddhists. The Buddhists believe that the Buddha was born and died under this tree. The Adivasis believe that all bridegrooms must sit on the altar on a pole of this tree, else the marriage is meaningless. For people in the Chota Nagpur plateau, it is the chief attraction at the festival of Sarhul or the Sal Blossoms Festival.

Author: John Clax

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