What is a Cocobolo Desk — The Full 411

what is a cocobolo desk
Image by Jose Eguez from Pintrest

“A coco what…?!” It is most likely this was your reaction when you heard about a Cocobolo desk.  And there is a good reason why you had no idea what it was.

What is a Cocobolo desk? Why isn’t it as popular as other desks? What is it gotten from? Where can you find it? Etc.

All these questions will be answered in detail in this article.

Interest in the Cocobolo Desk

The Cocobolo desk is not a very popular desk. However, people sought to know more about this desk from late February 2016.

The reason behind this was because of the TV series Better Call Saul. The second episode of the second season of the Breaking Bad series spinoff titled “Cobbler” made the Cocobolo desk popular.

Jimmy McGill in that episode ordered a Cocobolo desk for his office at the Davis & Main law firm upon his arrival. When he intentionally got fired, he wrote the firm a check of $7,000 for the desk. (Yep, they are that expensive).

And since this is not a TV series website, you’ll have to find out more by watching the episode.

What is a Cocobolo Desk?

A Cocobolo desk is a desk made from the rare Cocobolo wood that is gotten from Cocobolo trees that belong to the Dalbergia genus.

Cocobolo desks are rare and we will tell you why.

Cocobolo Trees

The Cocobolo hardwood is produced by about four tree species that are related to the Dalbergia genus. These trees are found naturally in the forests of Central America.

Among them, the Dalbergia retusa is the most known as it contributes to a greater number of the Cocobolo wood available today. It attains a maximum size of 75 to 80 feet tall and 3 feet wide.

These trees are not fast-growers as they require decades of years to reach full maturity, therefore, they are not quickly harvested. Also, the heartwood is the only part of the Cocobolo tree used.

The Cocobolo hardwood is regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world. It has a unique floral smell as a result of the natural oil it produces. This wood can be polished so that it looks lustrous and glassy.

See also  What Is a Credenza Desk -- Meaning, Origin And Basic Uses

As a result of the high quality of this wood, the trees have been harvested over the years to the point whereby you can hardly find them in natural forests. The Cocobolo trees are now Red Listed as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

These days, you can only find these trees in reserves, plantations, and national parks. Those who want to harvest these trees from these reserves need to get a license from the government.

Due to the above, there is a shortage in the availability of the Cocobolo wood. This, in turn, makes this wood very expensive since very little gets to the market.

One Cocobolo desk can cost as much as $15,000. Oh, you thought the one in Better Call Saul was expensive, what do you think now?

Characteristics of the Cocobolo Wood

Cocobolo wood is rosewood that has lots of amazing qualities and characteristics that make it well sought after.

Wood Grain

The Cocobolo wood grain can be straight or interlocked with different colors which include pink, red, purple, blue, black, and yellow.

However, the older the tree, the darker the tone gets. Many have recommended using a varnish that is UV resistant: A product we recommend for this is the Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish 1-Quart. This will prevent the tone from darkening.

Cocobolo Tree Trunk

The trunks of Cocobolo trees possess certain flaws. As a result, getting wood boards that are straight from the tree is more difficult when compared to other hardwood. This is one of the reasons a final Cocobolo desk is as expensive as we mentioned above.


We’ve been mentioning that the Cocobolo wood is a hardwood, but how hard is it?

The Janka hardness test helps us out with that. The test conducted helps to determine the wood’s resistance to dings, wear, and dents. A higher number indicates how hard the wood is.

The Cocobolo wood is tested to have 2,960 lbf (14,140N) Janka hardness. This is impressive if we take the Janka hardness of the Hard Maple 1,450 lbf (6,400N), White Oak 1,360 lbf (6,100N), and Red Mahogany 2,697 lbf (12,000N) into account.

In other words, the Cocobolo wood is very durable, tough, supports much weight, and won’t scratch or dent easily.


While the wood isn’t toxic, it is quite allergenic. The Cocobolo wood is known to produce oil which has a floral smell. When inhaled or in contact with the skin, it can be allergic to some people. Reports have been made that the wood causes asthma-like symptoms.

See also  How to Organize Your Desk -- 15 Quality Tips You Must Follow

It is advisable you wear a complete protective gear if you are working with the Cocobolo wood. Also, during lumbering, we recommend you possess a method to collect the wood dust.

Advantages of the Cocobolo Desk


If you seek to have a vintage desk, then look no further. The Cocobolo desk is all you need. It is timeless yet not out-of-date and bound to last long that you won’t need a replacement.

Mixable with other woods

The design and look of the Cocobolo wood allows you to mix it with other woods.

You could make your Cocobolo desk have a combination of different woods like soft maple for the drawers, or cherry for the feet.

Can be worked with easily

Unlike some other woods, the Cocobolo wood makes it easy for craftsmen to work with. Nailing and screwing is a delight as the wood holds well.

Sanding also reveals a smooth finish that does not necessarily require finishing materials.

Disadvantages of the Cocobolo Desk

Rare and Expensive

You can only enjoy the Cocobolo desk if you can lay your hands on it in the first place. And even when you do, you need to pay a lot to acquire one. You’ll be forced to ask yourself if $15,000 is worth one desk.

Dangerous to the health

Crafting a Cocobolo desk might pose some certain health risks. The sawdust of the Cocobolo wood like many other kinds of wood causes allergic reactions for some people.

The lumber dust can cause skin reactions, eye irritations, nausea, and respiratory issues that are like asthma-like. Inhaling the dust can be lethal.

It bleeds

If you aren’t careful when using a finish, the wood will bleed and affect another wood nearby.

Hard to glue

Many have complained that the wood is hard to glue. That gluing requires much glue before it bonds as a result of the wood’s oily nature.

Many have recommended sanding before gluing. Others have advised wiping the surface of the wood with a solvent and gluing it immediately. Solvents that will work well include acetone, denatured alcohol, lacquer thinner, and naphtha.

What Else is Cocobolo Wood Used to Make?

Cocobolo desks are durable, waterproof, scratch-resistant, and impervious to insect attacks and rot. However, desks are not the only things made from the Cocobolo hardwood.

The wood is also used for musical instruments. This includes guitars, flutes, clarinets, oboes, and bagpipes.

The wood’s dense nature allows the production of a clear musical tone when it is hit. As a result, it is sometimes used to create drums.

Furthermore, you can make knife handles, gun grips, and duck calls from this wood. It is suitable for these items because of its ability to withstand exposure to water and frequent handling.

See also  What Is a Credenza Desk -- Meaning, Origin And Basic Uses

Brush packs, high-end cue sticks, jewelry boxes, desktops, pipes, bowls, police batons, and many other items can be made with this durable wood.

Alternatives to a Cocobolo Desk

As we have mentioned already, Cocobolo desks are rare as well as very expensive. As a result, not many might be able to lay hold of this rare item.

However, other alternatives can be considered when you can’t get a Cocobolo desk.

Douglas-fir Wood Desk

Douglas-fir wood is generally acquired from plantations in Europe. This means they are FSC approved.

Although it is a softwood, it isn’t as resilient as a Cocobolo desk. Nevertheless, one thing we are certain of is that you will be able to afford it.

Pine Desk

Pinewood desks are very affordable as well as durable. It is FSC approved which means it is acquired legally. Nevertheless, some pine woods acquired from China are illegally logged.

Cherry Wood Desk

This wood is majorly found in North America. It is quite popular in office settings.

It can be made into a laminate finish desk or a hardwood solid desk. This makes it an excellent substitute for the Cocobolo.

Red Cedar Desk

Looking for a close aesthetic equivalent to the Cocobolo wood, then your choice should be the Red Cedarwood.

Its red tint look makes any office or room where a Red Cedarwood desk is found classy.

Maple Desk

The Maple wood is light blonde in color. While it is very durable, it is quite affordable, unlike the Cocobolo desk.

The Maple wood allows one to stain it to look like the wood grains of Mahogany or Cherry.

Walnut Wood Desk

The Walnut wood desk when compared to Maple and Cherry is more expensive. But it isn’t as expensive as the Cocobolo.

The brown wood grain makes it attractive and appealing. It is equally as solid a wood as they come.


The Cocobolo desk is an exquisite desk that everyone should have. It will look great wherever you put it as far as it is well organized. If you can find and afford one, by all means, go ahead.

Learn how to organize your Cocobolo desk here.

However, being able to find and purchase this desk is quite a task. Not every one of us can get it easily as Jimmy McGill did. Therefore, alternatives exist that will equally look good in your office or room.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know in the comments section.

Leave a Comment