The dinette set my wife bought in 2006, along with a lot of the other furniture and furnishings in my house, is made of narra. The dinette set consists of a dining room table and six chairs and it’s bigger than a photograph can depict without someone actually sitting in one of the chairs. If it was a foot longer, it could be used as a small conference table.
The chairs have oversized seats (designed with depression spots) big enough for my wife’s fat aunt to sit comfortably and that’s one big lady. Unfortunately, no one was around when I took the picture.
Narra, the National Tree of the Philippines
Before moving to the Philippines, I saw narra being used for furniture in the US. Without knowing what you’re looking at, you could easily mistake it for one of the various mahoganies. It is not the same wood as Philippine mahogany (which isn’t really mahogany either). The scientific name for narra is pterocarpus indicus.
Narra consists of light yellow, golden brown, and reddish brown to red heartwood. The reddish brown color is preferred for furniture while a color with less red in it is preferred for other furnishings. It’s easy to work using both hand and machine woodworking tools and it turns well.
Narra trees are plentiful in the Philippines. In fact, there’s one growing across the street from my house.
Furniture and Furnishings
Is narra suitable as outdoor, all-weather furniture? I would assume so since it’s being used along roadsides for shade and ornamental purposes. However, I believe teak furniture would be better suited for that purpose. Teak is another tree that grows in Southeast Asia and it resists mold, mildew, splintering and pests like ants and termites.
As I already stated, my dinette set is made of narra. The entertainment center in the living room is made of narra. The headboard and foot of my bed are also made of narra. It’s the only furniture that has a smooth, polished texture.
My kitchen cabinets and cupboards are made of narra. The built-in wardrobe cabinets in all three bedrooms are made of narra. Even the handrail of my staircase is made of narra. It’s polished, but not as smooth as the dining table or the entertainment center and it’s a lighter shade than the rest.
Future Use of Nara
Two sheets of plate glass in the entertainment center broke while being dusted, by two different people. One incident resulted in a cut on the upper part of a foot. Since I think plate glass used for shelving is dangerous, I’ll be replacing them with small planks of narra of about the same size, but a little thicker. Perhaps I’ll use 1/4 inch plywood made from narra.
Our front and back doors were put in without thresholds. My wife wants to use aluminum thresholds made in the US, but I told her we’d be better off making our own from narra. Low-grade narra, cut to size and painted, can be put in place without having to drill through the ceramic tile and cement flooring. The trick is to make sure the width of the wood is slightly larger than the width of the door frame so that it has to be wedged into place. Once in place, it can be varnished or painted.
Using Narra Instead of Other Materials
As with most quality hardwoods, narra is durable and will last a lifetime if it’s properly taken care of. Using solid wood like narra, unlike the pressed wood and fiberboard products in the US, makes a home more attractive and the wood lasts much longer that cheap imitation furniture.
Some people like to use glass tabletops for their dining room tables and coffee tables. My coffee table is the only tabletop made of glass and that’s only because we couldn’t find one made of narra when we bought it because we couldn’t find a narra coffee table for a reasonable price.
The next time you’re shopping for furniture at a furniture store, ask if they have anything made with narra. Chances are that even if they do, they’ll tell you it’s something else like mahogany, which is a more expensive wood.