What Is Sheesham Wood? Everything You Need To Know About It

Sheesham furniture is very popular in Indian subcontinent. But homeowners are often ignorant about what is Sheesham wood. In order to make an informed decision before buying Sheesham furniture, it is important that you know about it. So this article covers the following aspects:

  • What is Sheesham wood?
  • Benefits of Sheesham wood
  • Difference between Mango wood and Sheesham wood
  • Difference between Teak wood and Sheesham wood

What is Sheesham wood?

Sheesham wood is also known as Dalbergia Sisso, a deciduous tree, called Sheesham in the Indian subcontinent. It is grown across the length and breadth of the sub-Himalayan region, extending from Assam in the east to River Indus. These forests go all the way across Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam. Here, it is known by various names, like Sheesham, Shishan, Shisham, Sissoo or Sisu.

Sheesham tree

Sheesham tree

It is the state tree of the Indian state of Punjab where this wood ranks No. 2 after teak in size of cultivation. It has various applications apart from supplying timber, such as being planted on roadsides and on tea plantations for shade and along canals.

This tree usually grows along riverbanks below an elevation of 900 meters but can go up to 1,300 m. It grows best in temperatures ranging from 10°C to 40°C. It can withstand an average yearly rainfall of a maximum of 2,000 mm and droughts not exceeding three to four months. Sheesham grows best in pure sand and gravel and rich soil of riverbanks and can also flourish in slightly salty soils.

Features: Sheesham wood ranges from being golden brown to a dark brown or chestnut color with darker streaks that give this wood a rich and lustrous appearance. The wood is sturdy and tough with a straight grain, though it could also be found to be interlocked. Its texture ranges from medium to coarse with a natural luster.

Benefits of Sheesham wood

  • It has an innate resistance to decay and is popular for woodcarving and for engraving goods in India.
  • This wood neither warps nor splits, so it is highly used for making cabinets and other furniture.
  • Highly durable wood and offers great resistance to dry-wood termites.
  • Due to its toughness cutting and sawing could be a big challenge, but it is great for turnery.
  • It shines under polishing and has a smooth finish.
  • The grain is so well defined that each piece of Sheesham furniture often has its own unique color. This wood accepts hand waxing which gives it a smooth surface.
  • This wood has applications in marine and aircraft plywood, as charcoal for cooking and heating food, making musical instruments, ornamental turnery, sporting goods and for carving and engraving.
  • It is also used for making doors and windows, while its root wood is often used for making tobacco pipes.
  • Sheesham wood accepts a good polish and gives a smooth finish and luster.

Difference between Mango wood and Sheesham wood

If you are in the market for wooden furniture, perhaps you’ve already zeroed in on the two likely ones–Mango wood and Sheesham wood.

So, how do you decide? Before you decide on any one, let’s explore the differences between Mango wood and Sheesham wood.

Characteristics of Sheesham Wood

Sheesham wood or Indian Rosewood, is found largely in India, but also in Pakistan and Nepal. Sheesham trees have a life of 22 years during which period they attain a height of 30 meters. Their diameter is a maximum of 1.5 meters and they are known to produce heavy and dense wood.

The strength of the wood of these trees is excellent and unparalleled, rendering it the obvious choice for high quality wooden furniture. Once polished, the wood shows up a smooth and extremely attractive surface. Its grain makes each piece of furniture absolutely unique and highly sought-after.

Characteristics of Mango Wood

Mango wood is prevalent all over Southern Asia, though it is commonly believed to have its roots in India. Mango trees grow as high as the Sheesham to about 30 meters and have a similar diameter of a maximum of 1.5 meters. The Mango tree is treated differently from Sheesham in that the former produces fruit, so it is allowed to live its life as a fruit-bearing tree. When it stops bearing fruit, it is cut and its wood is used for timber.

Its wood is strong and hardy and offers great resistance to water. Though not as dense as Sheesham wood, yet people who want to have a different kind of wooden furniture generally opt for it. This is particularly true of formal dining table furniture because when made with mango wood, it is easier to maneuver, so moving out of homes and into others is far easier with mango wood furniture.


mangowood furniture

Mangowood furniture

It is generally liked for its greenish-brown color and its coarse texture. The wood also allows for exquisite carvings since it can be cut and shaped easily, yet another reason for preferring Mango wood furniture. Though it is classified as hardwood, it is known for its unique pattern of grain and can easily merge with several colors.

People usually prefer to buy mango wood in its natural form, as it is a combination of light pink, light and dark green, making it unique in its finish and giving it a distinctive rustic look. It could also vary from light tan to dark brown and be appealing in these shades too. Overall, mango wood is softer in texture and comes with intricate patterns. It is also easy to cut, carve and shape. However, it is highly prone to fungi.

How to decide between Sheesham wood or Mango wood

Though both these woods are comparable in strength, durability and beauty, yet for wood with a smooth finish and natural marking, you can’t beat the natural grain, texture and chestnut color of Sheesham.

However, if it’s solid furniture you’re after, which is also resistant to water and allows for woodcarvings, mango wood should be your choice. Whichever you choose, you will always be proud and happy to own the furniture of your choice and enjoy it for decades.

Difference between Teak wood and Sheesham wood

Teak wood: Among hardwood types, teak leads the way. Sourced from the species, Tectona Grandis, found in India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Burma and Thailand, and other parts of south and Southeast Asia, teak wood is known for its smooth texture and grain. Teak is famous for its distinctive yellowish-brown color, which often matures into a silvery-grey patina finish.

what is sheesham wood

Sissoo wood

teak wood

Teak wood

In fact, teak’s chief features are its abundance in oil, high tensile strength and tightly structured grain. It is highly resistant to garden pests and termites. It is used to make furniture, indoor flooring, carvings, veneer and turnings. It resists water, rot, mildew and fungi due to its rich oil content. Since teak has a higher resistance level to the outdoors, it is better suited to outdoor furniture than Sheesham.

Teak costs more than Sheesham

Its characteristics of high oil content, tight grain and tensile strength have made it unique and important for manufacturing of furniture especially countertops, indoor flooring, carving and cutting boards. Teak wood can be used in areas having high moisture content as it has low shrinkage ratio. It is used for severe blunting on edge tools as it contains silica in its wood. Due to high concentration of oil in its wood, it is resistant to water, fungi and mildew as well. It is also used for making boats and decks.

Teak wood has high oil content than Sheesham. It is also more water-resistant than Sheesham. It comes with a low shrinkage ratio, so it can be used in those parts with fluctuating moisture levels. Despite this, we should not forget that teak also contains silica, which could cause extreme blunting of edged tools. So, carpenters with experience and skill should attempt to cut this wood.

Teak is used to make not just all kinds of indoor furniture like countertops, sofas, chairs, indoor flooring, carving, turnings, etc, but also doors, columns, windows and beams, among other things. it is considered ideal for outdoor furniture because of it high natural oil content that makes it resistant to water, fungi, rot and mildew.

Sheesham, is a popular furniture choice, it is chiefly used to make cabinets because its wood is very durable. Its texture ranges between medium to coarse and it has a natural sheen.

However, both kinds of wood belong to the hardwood genus. Both are excellent for making wooden furniture that will last decades. If you have carpentry skills and want to create your own furniture, you should choose Sheesham because it cuts easily.

Final caveat

Sheesham has gained international attention as good quality wood for furniture, such as cabinets. This is because its wood is very durable and lasts generations. It is also decay-resistant. Its heartwood is very durable and is highly resistant to dry-wood termites, but it is susceptible to wood boring beetles. Sheesham wood is also used to make plywood and veneers, flooring, boatbuilding, carving, turning objects and musical instruments.


Author: John Clax

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