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    Engelmann Spruce is typically a high-altitude mountain evergreen tree, indigenous to the mountainous regions of western North America, with scattered, isolated distribution in surrounding lower-level areas. The wood is prized among many acoustic guitar luthiers, for its superior resonance and tonal response qualities when used as a soundboard (acoustic guitar top). Its color can range from a light off-white to cream.

    It is straight grained and has a fine, consistent texture, which makes it generally easy to work — although common-grade pieces may contain numerous small knots, and the wood can be difficult to stain. Its excellent stiffness-to-weight ratio has made it historically useful in a variety of construction and utility applications, benefited, also, by a virtually limitless domestic supply.

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    Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is reported by the IUCN as being “a species of least concern.”

    Common Uses: Acoustic guitar soundboards, harps, violins and pianos, construction lumber, sheathing, railroad ties, wood pulp / papermaking and also used in the Western US as Christmas trees.

    Comments: Although Engelmann Spruce is a fairly cheap, easily accessible lumber, clear instrument-grade, quartersawn billets can be very pricey — as small knots are quite common in the species, and such coveted clear pieces typically are derived from undisturbed specimens grown at higher altitudes.

    While Sitka Spruce remains a more heavily utilized wood for such acoustic guitar soundboard applications (being slightly stronger and heavier than Engelmann), there are a number of discriminating guitar builders who covet Engelmann. (By comparison, Sitka Spruce trees are far more massive in stature.) Due to this unique demand, premium-grade billets can command prices comparable with any of the most expensive domestic wood species.

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    The Yellow Poplar (Liriodendron Tulipifera) tree is the tallest of all Eastern US hardwoods; the wood it yields is some of the least dense. Yellow Poplar is characterized by a light muted cream color, often with mineral-stained streaks typically of gray and/or green. (Sapwood is ivory- to white-colored, easily distinguished from the heartwood.) Although, traditionally, Poplar has been long considered a “utility” type of lumber, the wood’s straight, uniform grains and medium texture affords it very cooperative working properties, and it glues and finishes well when finely sanded.

    Yellow Poplar is moderately durable, in spite of its inherent light weight and low density, which has seen it commonly used for crates and pallets throughout the US.

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    Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: Veneer, paneling, musical instruments (specifically, electric guitar bodies), plywood, pulp (for paper production), crates, pallets, and other utility applications.

    Comments: The aesthetically desirable of Yellow Poplar boards is often referred to as “Rainbow Poplar;” so named for its muted mineral-stained color streaks, which truly span the rainbow. (… with red, orange, yellow, green, indigo, purple and black hues all possibly present and not uncommon.)

    It is interesting to note that the tree is not actually a true Poplar (of the Populus genus), is a member of the Liriodendron genus. Liriodendron is Latin for ?lily tree.? After the tree buds, its flowers have a simlar hourglass shape to that of tulips — earning it the other common name by which its known of “Tulip Poplar.”

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    This is an oak hardwood species not often seen or found in great abundance outside of Western & Southwestern Europe. It is perhaps best noted for its use in the manufacture of wine barrels; the wood is said to have a mellowing effect on the taste and texture of wines which are aged in the barrels. (It is an historical favorite among Italian wine producers.) Its heartwood is a light to medium brown, sometimes with a greenish hue. Its grains are generally straight (although sometimes interlocked or irregular), but its texture is coarse and uneven.

    Like many other oaks, quartersawn pieces will typically display fleck ray patterns. Although not as dense as White Oak, it is also very responsive to steam bending, and is a tough durable wood. It, too, is easy to work, and glues, stains and finishes well.

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    Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: Wine barrels, cabinetry, furniture, interior trim, flooring, boatbuilding, and veneer.

    Comments: Hardly ever seen here, this is an oak that remains in short supply in the US. It is a tough, versatile wood, and its renown in the wine industry dates back many centuries. Quartersawn pieces, again, provide maximum stability for this species, and their fleck figuring can be quite dramatic.

     

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    Silky Oak is not a true Quercus-genus species, although it can exhibit a similar appearance; it is renowned for its dense “rays” and sometime flecked figuring. (Quartersawn pieces can be very dramatic.) It has a light to medium reddish-brown hue, with contrasting rays that are slightly darker can range anywhere from a muted brown to gray color. Despite being more durable than any American oak species, its draw is its aesthetic qualities. Because of its course texture — with quartersawn surfaces being littered with Lacewood-like flecks — Silky Oak can prove to difficult to plane. Once you’re passed that, it is generally easy to work, and glues and finishes well.

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    Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: Veneer, cabinetry, fine furniture, musical instruments, turned objects, and other small specialty items.

    Comments: This wood is easily misidentified as “Lacewood;” their aesthetics and densities are generally quite similar. The wood is not particularly well known in the US, as exports have been sporadic and, thus, supplies are quite limited.

    Being of the Grevillea genus, the wood is not actually related to any true Oak (genus: Quercus) species; it is actually a fast-growing evergreen tree.

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    Indigenous to the southern region of Africa, the Mopane tree is known for its butterfly-shaped leaves — leaves which are initially a bright green color, later transforming into a cache of reds, oranges, and yellows, in the autumn season. The heartwood it produces is medium to darker brown in color, with a golden to reddish tint, often decorated with black streaks. It is very dense and extremely durable. It is also very resistance to infestation, which has seen it used for centuries in its native region in a variety of outdoor uses.

    The wood is considered very difficult to work, as — in addition to its great density — its grain patterns are usually interlocked. It turns smoothly and (as would be expected) holds details very well, making it popular with turners and carvers who know of it.

    We stock roots, but the details we provide are for the timber.

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    Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: Flooring, furniture, musical instruments, turned objects, carvings, fuelwood/charcoal, fencing, exterior construction and other outdoor utility applications.

    Comments: Despite being one of the most dense, stable and durable woods on the planet, Mopane remains one of Africa’s best-kept secrets. It has been used for centuries there for carved woodwind instruments, and is considered to have excellent tonal properties, similar to African Blackwood.
    Large boards are rare and difficult to obtain; trees tend to branch out to great widths, yielding irregular-shaped, trunks, and at full maturity

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    The term “Soft Maple” is not a reference to any particular maples species, per se, but a segment of the Acer genus known for its lighter weight and density (as well as its propensity for displaying the classic maple “curl” figure). Of these lighter maples, Red Maple has the most weight and density, and is also the most prevalent — growing in areas scattered all over the Eastern US and up into (Eastern) Canada. As is the paradoxical case with all maples, its beautiful pale white / pale yellow / pale golden sapwood are more coveted than its darker heartwood.

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    Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: Veneer, paper, boxes, utility wood, musical instruments, turned objects, and other small specialty wood items.

    Comments: Its more heavy, dense nature lends Red Maple to a greater variety of utility applications, versus its less substantial Soft Maple cousins. Its figuring can be quite dramatic; tiger-striped, veined, fiddleback and sometimes even quilt figuring are sometimes present.

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    Ambrosia Maple is a general term attached to a variety of Acer (true maple) species whose boards included colorful bug “trails” — caused by a fungus carried by the Ambrosia Beetle which penetrates the tree sap as the beetle eats into the tree, and it spreads both through the worm hole and up and down in the tree (carried along by the sap) and causes discoloring of the wood in streaks. The two primary species which draw the beetle’s attention are Acer Rubrum (Red Maple) and Acer Saccharum (Sugar Maple), although — with there reputedly being more than sixty different Acer species indigienous to North America — this unusual phenomenon is certainly not confined to just the two. Weight and density can vary greatly — depending upon the actual species — the typical varieties of maple figuring can also be present, often creating some very unique, visually spectacular specimens.

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    Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: Veneer, furniture, crafts, guitar tops and bodies, turned objects, and other small specialty wood items.

    Comments: Like any other maple, it is easily worked; generally cooperative through all phases. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine — since bugs have, quite obviously, already penetrated the wood’s surface — that the wood is decidedly non-durable, although it is generally stable enough for use in furniture and guitars. It’s surface is typically darker than most sap maple (often featuring secondary / additional discolorations and other long streaks), although it retains the same high degree of natural luster.

    The scientific explanation is that the impregnated Ambrosia Beetle burrows into the maple tree (presumably for a safe place to deposit larvae), carrying fungi on its feet into the wood — which serves as food for the insect’s offspring, when they hatch. The fungal residue left behind as it digs into the maple can cause discoloration throughout the wood, via the tree’s sap, in addition to the dramatically contrasting (mostly) blue and (sometimes) green trails which surround the small tunnels they chew. The beetles prefer wood that is not soaking wet, but that is in the beginning stages of drying. Once kiln dried, they will not reinfest.

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    Hawaiian Koa is generally medium brown to reddish brown in color, but color can vary quite a lot.? It is a very popular musical instrument wood that produces a rich, warm tone. As a result it is used a lot in guitars and ukuleles.

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    Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is reported by the IUCN as being a species of least concern

    Common Uses: Veneers, musical instruments, gun & knife handles, turned objects, and specialty items.

    Comments: Koa is considered to be one of Hawaii?s most attractive native hardwoods. It has been compared to Mahogany in appearance by some. It is quite dimensionally stable and fairly easy to work except when the pieces are highly figured or have heavily interlocked grains.

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    Iroko is a very tough, durable wood that has been traditionally used in a multitude of applications in its native Africa. Its golden to medium brown color, course texture and interlocked grains give it an appearance very similar to that of Teak; although it is significantly less dense, it has been utilized in Africa in many of the same functions / duties that Teak has in other parts of the world. Despite its toughness (and interlocked grains), it is generally not difficult to work; it glues and finishes well.

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    Sustainability: This species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, but is classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: Veneer, flooring, furniture, cabinetry, boatbuilding, construction, utility, turned items, and other small specialty wood items.

    Comments: Iroko tends to darken with age. It is resistant to both rot and insect infestation, which makes it particularly well-suited for a variety of outdoor applications. This very tough wood has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio. Although its typically interlocked grains can pose challenges, at times, when working, the wood glues and finishes well

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    Swamp Cypress is so named for its association with swamp land, with is roots often pertruding above the land or submerged into the swamp water where it grows. This light, pale yellow-brown wood is known for its durability, toughness and character. It is an important wood in its indigenous Southeast region of the US, as its versatility and workability lend it to a variety of diverse applications. It is typically straight-grained, although knots are commonly present. Other than the knots, the wood poses no difficult challenges for working, glue and finishing.

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    Sustainability: This species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is reported by the IUCN as being “a species of least concern.”

    Common Uses: Exterior construction, docks, boatbuilding, interior trim, and veneer.

    Comments: Its commonly-seen pertruding roots (humorously known as “knees”) are sometimes harvested for large carvings. A variety known as “Pecky Cypress” –which is Swamp Cypress which has been peckered on, for many years, by birds — is quite popular throughout the southerneastern coastal belt for use as a decorative interior wood. Cypress is a very tough, moderately priced utility wood.

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    Cumaru or Brazilian Teak golden brown in color.? It is extremely stiff, strong, hard and highly durable and can be an excellent substitute for Ipe for decking.? It can be difficult to work due to its density and interlocked grain.

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    Sustainability: This species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is reported by the IUCN as being “a species of least concern.”

    Common Uses: Flooring, decking, cabinetry, furniture.

    Comments: Although known as Brazilian Teak, it is not related to the wood most commonly called Teak, Tectona grandis.

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    Japanese Cedar is the national tree of Japan, where it is highly-prized for the scented, strong-but-lightweight timber it produces. It’s significance extends beyond that, as its impact on Japanese culture is reflected by the fact that it is found planted at numerous scared sites throughout the country. The wood is reddish-pink in color, straight-grained and medium textured; it glues, stains and finishes well. Its impressive strength-to-weight ratio and excellent working properties makes it ideal for all varieties of construction applications.

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    Sustainability: This species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, but is categorized as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN.

    Common Uses: Shipbuilding, commercial & residential construction, furniture, woodturning and carving. (Incense is derived from its leaves.)

    Comments: It is also important to note that this lumber is waterproof, which is why, historically, it has been utilized in Japanese boat and shipbuilding; and has been prized for centuries across its indigenous regions. Natural forests in Japan that include this species are now very rare, with the bulk of Cryptomeria timber coming from commerical tree plantations.

    As you would expect from any wood bearing the word “Cedar” in its name, knots are not uncommon with this wood; otherwise, it has very cooperative working traits.