World Class "Special" Wood Choices

The woods on these pages represent years of collecting, matching, babying, caring, curing and loving. We are all very well aware that many of the woods we prize are in short supply, and thankfully are beginning to be protected. Please read   |  My Green Statement  |  to learn more about our concern for the hardwood forests and the regulations that protect them.

NOTE: The pictures shown below and in the gallery pages are amateur photos of my own stock and the pieces are unsanded.

Best Guitar Woods
Amazon Rosewood

Amazon Rosewood -- Dalbergia spruceana -- is a tremendous tonewood. Amazon has smoothness, richness, and deep sustaining resonance with just the right amount of reverb, but not too much, plus all the overtones of the top reflected back out of the guitar.

Amazon rosewood is going to have to take the place of traditional favorites that have been under too much ecological pressure. Fortunately for us, the properties are much the same, and Amazon rosewood compares favorably, sometimes identically, to Brazlian rosewood.

Best Guitar Woods
African Blackwood

African Blackwood -- Dalbergia melanoxylon -- a heavy, rich, black bundle of tone. African blackwood not only compares well to Brazlian rosewood, it bests it in some ways. It's very heavy, and mass usually favors sustain if there isn't any internal damping to muck it up. Bingo. It has all the "chocolatey" richness. It has the clarity, sustain, orchestral weightiness, sweetness, and reverberating overtones. All of that and it has a stealth beauty to it. It's blacker than black, but in the right light you will be treated to faceted grains and variations of black, brown, purple, and red.

Best Guitar Woods

Cocobolo -- Dalbergia retusa -- is a very heavy rosewood, which lends a gorgeous alto richness to the voice of my guitars. I have been told my results are different from other builders, and that's okay with me. What I experience from it is a warm, lush bass with great sustain, and a rich alto presence with a slight edge to the sweetness of the trebles which allows for effective counterpoint and the feeling of endless sustain. Hint: I let it be heavy and do not thin it just because I could.

Cocobolo is listed on my standard choices page as well, but it is included here because there are many variations in appearance, and some are just special. I have had trouble with allergic reaction to cocobolo, as many builders have, but I seem to have gotten it under control. Care in working with it adds to work time, so I may have to move all cocobolo back to the options page one day, but for now it's fine.

Cocobolo is one of the most gorgeous woods in the world, and the sets that I offer as a standard feature are very limited in supply. You will find their exact match on the special woods page. As one of the vulnerable woods in need of protection, I do not believe I will be able to find replacements that are as fine as what I now own. These pieces are among the most attractive straight-grained pieces you will find anywhere.

Best Guitar Woods
Madagascar Rosewood

Madagascar Rosewood -- Dalbergia baronii -- is an amazing rosewood that is compared head to head with Brazilian rosewood. The appearance is stunning the tone is perfect. Unfortunately it has been exploited until the massive island of Madagascar bleeds into the sea. If there was ever a country in need of ecological protection it would be Madagascar. Guitar makers didn't know about the corruption and poaching and bad forest practices. Now we do. We can't put the wood back, so I intend to make the best guitars I possibly can with the few sets I own so that these materials will live well into the next century. With proper protections the forests can begin to recover.

Best Guitar Woods
Cambodian Rosewood

Cambodian Rosewood -- Dalbergia bariensis -- is a dense, smooth rosewood that has all the qualities we want in a rosewood. If you listen with your ears and not your eyes, it is an excellent substitue for Brazilian rosewood. The sets that I have exhibit straight grain with a lovely consistent color that will turn from a pinkish color to a very warm and lush brown a few months after finish is applied. If you ignore the color, these look the most like the grain of the coveted pre-war guitars as anything has.

Best Guitar Woods

Koa -- Acacia koa -- is an extraordinarily beautiful wood. It is all sweetness with a bass somewhere between the mahogany thump and the sustain of rosewood. Koa varies a lot in hardness and weight, so the tone varies based on how hard and reflective the back is. Helpful hint: The Plain Jane sets often have the best tone.

Best Guitar Woods
Vanuatu Blackwood

Vanuatu Blackwood - Acacia heterophylla - Gorgeous wood. I don't know about all Vanuatu blackwood, but the sets I have are a clear, honey golden with deep flame. These are acacia, so they will be a lot like koa in tone. What I have is very hard and dense, and perfeclty clear in color and figure.

Best Guitar Woods
Ebony Woods

Malaysian Blackwood -- Diospyros ebonasea -- is an ebony wood with gorgeous spiderweb features and beautiful blacks, greens, browns and reddish tans. It's dry and clean like maple with a long bass sustain. A very pretty and well-balanced sound.

Macassar ebony - Diospyros celebica- Pictured on the left, is the best known ebony for guitar backs and sides. Not as heavy as the black ebonies used in other parts of the guitar, it has a nice response to fingerstyle or flatpicking. Ebony guitars seem to have a lot of bass power and just the right amount of sustain.

Black/White Ebony - Diospyros embryopteris - Follow the link to my black-and-white ebony
harp guitar for an idea of what this wood looks like.