By Abhijit Phadke
Gurjan plywood, made from the wood of the Gurjan trees (pronounced as Garjan) is quite popular in India and other South-East Asian countries. The medium hardwood obtained from these trees is of a good quality and is engineered to produce the Gurjan plywood sheets that we use. These trees grow in abundance in most South East Asian countries. The Gurjan wood available in India is often imported from other countries (such as Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia) and is quite expensive.
Compared to teak wood Gurjan is slightly heavier and stiffer, and has excellent strength, durability and a beautiful reddish-brown colour. While in India it is called Gurjan plywood, in other countries it is also known by the name Keruing plywood.
The Gurjan trees belong to the botanical family of Dipterocarpus which has about 70 different species. Out of these species the Dipterocarpus Turbinatus (which is Gurjan), is an important source of commercial timber. Amongst other uses, the trees also yield an Oil (called Gurjan ka Tel) which is also commercially marketed.
A very large number of these Gurjan trees are found on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands near India. Located on the northern tip of the Andaman Island is the Chatham saw mill that is well known for being one of the oldest and biggest saw mills in Asia that gets the good quality local timber available such as the premium Padauk wood, Gurjan, Satin and Marble wood and works on it, and exports it other parts of the world. So chances are that even if you happen to buy Gurjan plywood in India, it may have had its origins on the beautiful island of Andaman and may have passed through the saw mill over there.
What is 100% Gurjan plywood?
Plywood is made peeling the trees to obtain veneers (slices/sheets of wood). These veneers are then stacked upon each other and firmly bonded using resins. Since several sheets are thus bonded together, the core of the plywood and its front and back faces need not necessarily be of the same material. So only that plywood whose core, front and back faces is made out of Gurjan hardwood can be truly called as 100% Gurjan plywood. Since Gurjan is imported into India and is very costly, such 100% plywood also turns out to be very expensive compared to other varieties.