Aucoumea klaineana (Angouma, Gaboon, or Okoumé) is a tree in the family Burseraceae, native to equatorial west Africa area. It’s mainly found in Gabon, the Republic of the Congo, and Rio Muni. It is a medium-sized hardwood plant growing to 30-40 m tall with a trunk 1-2.5 m diameter, which is above the normal basal buttresses. Okoume generally grows in small stands, the roots of the trees intertwined with neighboring trees. In Gabon it is the most important timber species.
It is a weak species with low decay resistance, moderate dimensional stability. The major use of Okoume is in the manufacturing of plywood. It is about 9- 13% lighter than the marine plywood Meranti which is mainly used in boatbuilding, but is not as strong.
This is useful when a boat design calls for tight radius bends near the bow because of its flexibility. However it does not resist impact damage well as Meranti and is often sheathed in resin to increase stablity and give more impact and abrasion resistance. This is to increase water resistance against normal marine enamel paints.
It is often used in sandwich construction using the West (and other similar) epoxy system. Its attractive appearance means that okoume is often used decoratively as the top surface veneer in panelling and furniture or, in solid form in luxury items such as boxes for cigars or other high value items (e.g. audio equipment).
Okoume plywood is also used in the aircraft industry to make tiny aeroplanes. It was used extensively to manufacture the Jodel aircraft, which are popular throughout Europe but no longer factory-built. However, the wood’s nice grain, flexibility and light weight make it a popular choice for amateur builders of Jodel aircraft today.
When used for the backs and sides of high-end acoustic guitars Okoume exhibits many of the properties of maple. Guitars made with Okoumé are obviously lighter than those made with mahogany or rosewood.