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Electric Guitar Tonewoods

African Mahogany

TIMBER NAME: African Mahogany

BOTANICAL NAME: Khaya ivorensis (Meliaceae)

ORIGIN: Tropical regions of Africa

TYPICAL APPLICATIONS: Bodies, necks

AVAILABILITY: Currently stocked

CHARACTERISTICS: Noticeably lighter in weight than its Honduran cousin, African Mahogany has larger and more prominent pores and tends more towards a deep-purplish brown. In conjunction with chambering, the wood’s light weight can be used strategically to balance &/or lighten a guitar, offsetting the weight of quality brass hardware, bridges/tremolos and overwound pickups.

WEIGHT: 530 kg/m3

african mahogany
American Cherry

TIMBER NAME: American Cherry

BOTANICAL NAME: Prunus serotina (Rosaceae)

ORIGIN: North America

VARIETIES OF INTEREST: Figured

TYPICAL APPLICATIONS: Top caps, bodies, necks

AVAILABILITY: Available from suppliers on request

CHARACTERISTICS: A reddish-brown hardwood with a similar heft to Mahogany, Cherry can exhibit very beautiful and dramatic figure. When left in, the contrasting cream sapwood can used to add to the visual appeal of the piece. American Cherry is readily available, although locating the more interesting figured pieces used in bookmatched top caps requires a little more effort.

WEIGHT: Weight: 580 kg/m3

american cherry
Australian Blackwood

TIMBER NAME: Australian Blackwood

BOTANICAL NAME: Acacia melanoxylon (Leguminosae)

ORIGIN: Victoria and Tasmania

VARIETIES OF INTEREST: Figured

TYPICAL APPLICATIONS: Top caps, bodies, necks

AVAILABILITY: Currently stocked

CHARACTERISTICS: Golden to dark brown in colour, Blackwood is a medium-weight hardwood comparable to American Walnut. It is durable and can be worked satisfactorily with hand and machine tools. It can be polished to a high lustre, and takes oil, stain and lacquer with little complaint. The figured variety is highly prized overseas for its similarity (it is the same genus) to the dwindling Hawaiian Koa.

WEIGHT: Weight: 660 kg/m3

australian blackwood
Cocobolo

TIMBER NAME: Cocobolo

BOTANICAL NAME: Dalbergia retusa (Leguminosae)

ORIGIN: Central America

TYPICAL APPLICATIONS: Fretboards

AVAILABILITY: Currently stocked; unlikely to be available in the future

CHARACTERISTICS: An intensely beautiful, streaky, wavy blood-red exotic wood. It’s worth mentioning that Cocobolo can act as a ‘sensitiser’ (potent allergin) to some people, so it’s worth laying your hands on it first before deciding on it as your fretboard timber. When working with it a serious respirator mask is a must, indeed there have been documented cases of collapse and permanent impairment resulting from not taking proper safety precautions. Cocobolo displays similar characteristics to Gombeira, but is denser and oilier, with perhaps a waxier feel than Indian Rosewood.

WEIGHT: Weight: 1100 kg/m3

cocobolo
Douglas Fir/Oregon

TIMBER NAME: Douglas Fir/Oregon

BOTANICAL NAME: Pseudotsuga menziesii (Pinaceae)

ORIGIN: North America

TYPICAL APPLICATIONS: Bodies

AVAILABILITY: Currently stocked

CHARACTERISTICS: A lightweight softwood comparable to the lightest of Mahoganies, Douglas Fir is a particularly striking timber with a contrasting light and dark figure. Care must be taken when sanding as the softer sections are very soft, and a lack of attention will easily render a rippled rather than flat surface.

WEIGHT: Weight: 530 kg/m3

douglas fir oregon
Gombeira/Brazilian Brown Ebony

TIMBER NAME: Gombeira/Brazilian Brown Ebony

BOTANICAL NAME: Swartzia tomentosa (Leguminosae)

ORIGIN: South America and the Caribbean

TYPICAL APPLICATIONS: Fretboards

AVAILABILITY: Currently stocked; unlikely to be available in the future

CHARACTERISTICS: A rich dark-chocolate close-pored timber, the ultra-rare Gombeira belongs to the same family as Rosewood – it is not a true Ebony (Diospyros). Under the hand, Gombeira feels slightly waxy, similar to Indian Rosewood but not as oily. It can be polished to an almost glossy sheen, making it an ideal wood for players who like to move quickly.

WEIGHT: Weight: 940 kg/m3

gombeira brazilian brown ebony
Honduran/Brazilian Mahogany

TIMBER NAME: Honduran/Brazilian Mahogany

BOTANICAL NAME: Swietenia macrophylla (Meliaceae)

ORIGIN: Central and South America

TYPICAL APPLICATIONS: Bodies, necks

AVAILABILITY: Available as Fijian Mahogany, which is plantation-grown

CHARACTERISTICS: Ranging from light pinkish-brown to a deep gold hue, Mahogany is a wonderful, eminently workable timber and a long-serving luthiery staple. Originally hailing from the Americas, this light to medium-weight hardwood is now sustainably plantation-grown in Fiji thanks to the British who planted Honduran Mahogany seeds there just after WWII. Mahogany is often paired with a figured top cap of US Maple, for example.

WEIGHT: Weight: 590 kg/m3

swietenia mahogany
Jarrah

TIMBER NAME: Jarrah

BOTANICAL NAME: Eucalyptus marginata (Myrtaceae)

ORIGIN: Western Australia

TYPICAL APPLICATIONS: Fretboards

AVAILABILITY: Available from suppliers on request

CHARACTERISTICS: A dense, resilient hardwood, Jarrah is an Australian staple timber found in many applications such as flooring, decking, furniture and of course musical instruments. Jarrah grows solely in the south-west corner of Western Australia, south of Perth. Jarrah has a high crushing strength and a weight slightly in excess of US Maple, and can be polished to a very high lustre.

WEIGHT: Weight: 800 kg/m3

jarrah
Macassar Ebony

TIMBER NAME: Macassar Ebony

BOTANICAL NAME: Diospyros celebica (Ebenaceae)

ORIGIN: India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines

TYPICAL APPLICATIONS: Fretboards

AVAILABILITY: Currently stocked, but supply is limited

CHARACTERISTICS: A dense, cool, hard and heavy wood, Macassar Ebony’s appearance can vary from mostly black with browns and purples to deep chocolate brown with wavy latte-coloured stripes. As with other Ebonies, Macassar Ebony is striking and durable – a great fretboard wood for even the heaviest grinding playing. Its feel is quite the opposite to the stickier Rosewoods, which only promotes fast playing and legato runs.

WEIGHT: Weight: 1090 kg/m3

macassar ebony
Padauk

TIMBER NAME: Padauk

BOTANICAL NAME: Pterocarpus macrocarpus (Leguminosae)

ORIGIN: S.E. Asia, Phillippines

TYPICAL APPLICATIONS: Necks, fretboards, top caps

AVAILABILITY: Currently stocked

CHARACTERISTICS: A rich crimson colour when cut, with beautiful wavy figure. Tough, resilient and hard to work. Weight just in excess of US Maple. Accepts either oil/wax or lacquer finish, stains well. Can be sanded to a high natural polish.

WEIGHT: Weight: 850 kg/m3

padauk
Queensland Maple

TIMBER NAME: Queensland Maple

BOTANICAL NAME: Flindersia brayleyana (Rutaceae)

ORIGIN: Queensland

VARIETIES OF INTEREST: Quilted

TYPICAL APPLICATIONS: Bodies, necks, top caps

AVAILABILITY: Currently stocked

CHARACTERISTICS: Queensland Maple is similar to Swietenia Mahogany, both in weight, structure and appearance. It is easily worked with hand and machine tools and can be polished to achieve an excellent finish. The unusual quilted variety is much more durable, harder to work and is visually much more striking.

WEIGHT: Weight: 550 kg/m3

queensland maple
Queensland Silky Oak (a.k.a. Lacewood)

TIMBER NAME: Queensland Silky Oak (a.k.a. Lacewood)

BOTANICAL NAME: Cardwellia sublimis (Proteaceae)

ORIGIN: Queensland

TYPICAL APPLICATIONS: Bodies, top caps

AVAILABILITY: Small quantities available from suppliers

CHARACTERISTICS: This timber has unique appearance (and peculiar smell) which varies greatly depending on the way it has been sliced and the part of the tree it has been cut from. Its nickname Lacewood comes from the lace-like appearance of quartersawn pieces of this very porous timber. A lacquered finish is a must to seal the reptile-like eyes found throughout. Silky Oak is a light to medium-weight hardwood which is fairly easy to work either by hand or machine. Quality pieces of this wood are hard to encounter nowadays and quartersawn boards are even tougher to come by.

WEIGHT: Weight: 530 kg/m3

queensland silky oak
Silver Quandong

TIMBER NAME: Silver Quandong

BOTANICAL NAME: Elaeocarpus grandis (Elaeocarpaceae)

ORIGIN: New South Wales, Queensland

TYPICAL APPLICATIONS: Bodies

AVAILABILITY: Limited stock available

CHARACTERISTICS: An incredibly lightweight hardwood, Silver Quandong was once used in vast proportions in wartime prop-planes and by the Queensland building industry. Old-growth timber is near-impossible to find, however, it is starting to have a resurgence thanks to privately-farmed sustainable plantations having been established in Queensland over the past 20 years. Silver Quandong’s greyish-white appearance is somewhat similar to the common guitar wood Alder, however it is nearly a third lighter making it an ideal wood to augment a heavy cap or double-cap.

WEIGHT: Weight: 495 kg/m3

silver quandong
US Maple (a.k.a Hard Maple)

TIMBER NAME: US Maple (a.k.a Hard Maple)

BOTANICAL NAME: Acer saccharum (Aceraceae)

ORIGIN: North America

VARIETIES OF INTEREST: Flamed, Quilted, Birdseye, Spalted

TYPICAL APPLICATIONS: Necks, fretboards, top caps

AVAILABILITY: Currently stocked

CHARACTERISTICS: US Maple is one of the most popular guitar timbers on the planet. Brutal on hand tools and machine cutters due to the abundance of silica in its composition (think sandpaper!), it is tough, takes stains, oils and lacquers easily and moves moderately in service.

WEIGHT: Weight: 720 kg/m3

us maple
Victorian Ash (a.k.a Tasmanian Oak)

TIMBER NAME: Victorian Ash (a.k.a Tasmanian Oak)

BOTANICAL NAME: Eucalyptus regnans (Myrtaceae)

ORIGIN: Victoria, Tasmania

VARIETIES OF INTEREST: Figured (flamed)

TYPICAL APPLICATIONS: Bodies, necks; top caps (figured variety)

AVAILABILITY: Currently stocked

CHARACTERISTICS: A cream to light caramel colour, Vic Ash has a slightly coarse and porous structure. Its weight is similar to that of American Walnut. It can be worked moderately well using hand and machine tools, but its grain structure, at least for guitar applications, demands that it be grain filled and lacquered. Figured varieties are exceptional to this however due to their tighter grain structure and can also be oil/wax finished to good effect.

WEIGHT: Weight: 700 kg/m3

victorian ash
Walnut

TIMBER NAME: Walnut

BOTANICAL NAME: Juglans nigra (Juglandaceae)

ORIGIN: North America

TYPICAL APPLICATIONS: Bodies, necks

AVAILABILITY: Currently stocked

CHARACTERISTICS: A medium-weight hardwood comparable to American Ash, Walnut has a rich chocolate hue and often displays a beautifully subtle cathedral figure. It works well by hand and machine, sands to a fine finish, and can be steamed and stained successfully.

WEIGHT: Weight: 640 kg/m3

walnut
Wengé

TIMBER NAME: Wengé

BOTANICAL NAME: Millettia laurentii (Leguminosae)

ORIGIN: Across central band of Africa

TYPICAL APPLICATIONS: Necks, fretboards, top caps, feature strips

AVAILABILITY: Currently stocked

CHARACTERISTICS: In its raw form, Wengé is a visually striking, waxy, splintery timber that requires considerable expertise to work. Its banded hard/soft (dark/light) and unusual thin porous structure demands very sharp and deftly wielded hand tools and cutters. Despite this a finely sanded finish can be achieved which is comfortable to the touch.

WEIGHT: Weight: 880 kg/m3

wenge

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