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Native to West Africa, Afrormosia is a handsome, rot and bug resistant, extremely durable wood has been used as a substitute for Teak (Tectona grandis), thus earning its nickname, “African Teak”. While having a similar look, it also has working and mechanical properties that mimic Teak, whilst having none of its oiliness. (Afrormosia has a well-established track record for holding up in the most extreme conditions, proving the comparisons well justified.) Its heartwood color can be a muted tan, muted gold or any of a series of light- to medium-colored browns (from very muted to slightly, in hue), highlight by darker stripes, of varying degrees and coloration, which can run the length of its typically straight or wavy (though sometimes interlocked). Despite its similar “fuzzy” appearance (to that of Teak), it is fine grained, presenting a superb natural luster when sanded. Over time, the wood will darken, rendering an appearance often more like that of Black Walnut than of Teak. Despite being considerably harder than Teak, Afrormosia is generally very workable, offering crisp joints and it turns, glues and finishes very well.
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Considered to be the most abundant hardwood in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, Red Alder has long been used in the region for furniture and cabinetry production — as well as being a popular choice for electric guitar bodies dating back to when the instrument first went into mass production, in the 1950’s. Ranging in color from a light tan to reddish brown, Alder has a soft, lightweight stature — which makes the wood very easy to work, and it finishes and glues well.
Red Alder is usually sold in two different grades: knotty, and clear. Clear grades are most desired by cabinet and furniture crafters. Many such tradesmen compare the wood’s cooperative disposition to that of Black Cherry.
Although technically a hardwood, care must be taken with Alder until finished as its surface can be rather soft (thus, denting easily). The wood is decidedly non-durable, so confining its use to indoor applications and treating the wood with some type of hardening finish (such as lacquer) is recommended.
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Andiroba is used as both a Mahogany substitute and a general utility carpentry wood throughout its indigenous regions that are scattered across Central & South America. It is widely used for furniture and flooring in it’s native geographical areas. Andiroba is generally easy to work, and the species turns, glues and finishes well. This pale reddish-brown colored lumber is a durable wood — similar to Honduran Mahogany, in that regard. Aesthetically, its typically more on the bland side (compared to a Mahogany), although more desirable examples of the species can be quite highly-figured.
Grains are typically straight, although they can be wavy or interlocked, and the wood is fine textured and has a good natural luster.
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Indigenous to the tropical regions of East Africa and West Africa, as far south as Angola.¬† Anegre has been used primarily as an interior wood; it is decidedly non-durable, and thus not recommended for outdoor applications. The wood’s aesthetics can vary greatly, as Anegre is comprised of three separate species within the Pouteria genus. Its colors can range from pale yellowish to orangish-brown wood, to a pale pinkish-brown, sometimes with additional highlight coloration. Anegre typically darkens to a golden-to reddish brown over time, with repeated UV ray exposure. The heartwood and sapwood of Anegre are usually not distinguishable from each other.
Anegre has a medium texture with closed pores similar to Maple.¬† The species is easy to work with both hand and power tools.
Examples can be quite beautiful — and sometimes stunning, with curly and mottled figuring being not uncommon. Its hues tend to be generally pastel in nature, so it makes a very complimentary, aesthetically unimposing wood for a variety of interior applications. Grains are typically straight but can occasionally be interlocked. Its texture is medium and it has a nice natural luster.
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Along with Hickory and Oak, Ash is one of the most commonly used utility woods in the US and is native to Eastern and¬† Central North America. It’s toughness and excellent shock resistance, makes it a popular choice for tool handles, baseball bats, furniture and flooring Grains are typically straight, and its coarse texture has drawn comparisons to that of Oak. Combined with its modest price, White Ash’s easy working properties, generally light overall color and good gluing and finishing characteristics make it a popular wood for a variety of practical and utility applications.
Swamp Ash draws its name not from a particular Fraxinus-genus species, per se, but is a reference to any species of Ash (Fraxinus) whose roots system lies submerged, or partially submerged, in water. It is the softest of all ashes, which makes it the most desirable for electric guitar builders; lightweight and resonant, yet still stable enough for instrument building. Swamp Ash is shock resistant, very easily workable by hand or machine, responds well to steam bending and is easy to sand, glue and stain.
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Avodire is native to West Africa and is sometimes utilized as a Mahogany substitute (which is appropriate, since both are in the Meliaceae family), with similar aesthetics and cooperative working properties. Typical colors range from a pale yellow to cream, and a variety of figured grain patterns are commonly found including wavy, mottled and ripple, typically accompanied by dramatic levels of chatoyance – which makes it very popular with veneer manufacturers. It’s sapwood can be difficult to differentiate from the heartwood. While its grain patterns can be straight, wavy, irregular or interlocked, its texture is fine and it has an impressive natural luster which has led to it being called African Satinwood.
Basswood’s color ranges from a pale off-white to pale yellow, to a very light muted brown. The species is known for its excellent strength-to-weight ratio, although its lack of density can make it susceptible to damage if placed under excessive weight. While species from the Tilia genus are referred to as either “Lime” or “Linden” in Europe, in North America it is commonly called “Basswood.”
Straight grains and fine texture combined with its soft character — make Basswood exceptionally easy to work. It glues and finishes well, but does not bend well. Its consistency, light color, light density and hardness (bordering on that of a softwood) has made it a popular fine carving wood for centuries.
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Both American Beech and its European counterpart are known for their pale cream coloration, which is often augmented by a pink or light- to medium-colored muted reddish-brown hue. Its medium texture and typically straight grains and sometimes wavy, give it excellent working properties. American Beech cuts, turns, glues and finishes very well and has a moderate natural luster.
Flat-sawn pieces usually have very plain-looking aesthetics; the bulk of which is used for utility purposes. Conversely, quartersawn pieces typically exhibit a silvery fleck pattern — which lends the wood well to furniture and musical instrument applications, with more exquisite examples often finding their way to veneer mills.
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Like American Beech, this wood features pale cream coloration, also often augmented by a pink or muted light reddish-brown hue. It’s large supply across the continent and typically modest price range makes it one of the most popular and commercially important hardwoods in Europe. Its straight grains and medium texture give comparable working and steam-bending properties to its American first cousin and it machines, turns, glues and finishes with ease.
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Known in the US, primarily as either “Ebiara” or, its nickname, “Red Zebrawood,” Berlinia’s heartwood can range anywhere from a pale yellow to a (more typical) muted reddish-brown. Darker colored stripes in patterns (which can be symmetrical or irregular) are how the comparisons to Zebrano are drawn, although they are related: each of their respective genera are part of the Detarieae tribe, in the subfamily, Caesalpinioideae.
Grains are general straight or interlocked. Although its texture is medium to coarse, it has a high degree of natural luster and can display figure and chatoyance. It works well — cutting, turning, gluing and finishing smoothly — although tear-out with interlocked grains is not uncommon.
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Flame Birch is not a species in and of itself, but rather the name given to Yellow Birch with a beautiful flamed figure across the grain. Yellow Birch heart wood can vary from pale yellow to a light, muted reddish brown; sapwood is grayish-white. There are many species of Birch worldwide, it is one of the most popular woods, ironically, for both veneer and utility applications. Figured pieces are the more desirable for veneer, with wide, dramatic curly figuring (similar to Cherry) decorating the surface.
American Birch works easily and it turns, glues and finishes well, although most boards have very little natural luster. It’s a versatile wood that can be used for a number of different applications, but it needs to be protected, as the wood will decay when exposed to the elements.
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“Roasting” Flame Birch involves gradually heating the wood up to temperatures of greater than 160 degrees celcius in special heat chambers made of stainless steel under anoxic conditions. The heat removes organic compounds from the wood cells, changing both the physical and chemical make-up of the wood. The process is natural and chemical free. It darkens the wood to a beautiful rich chocolatey brown color whilst still showing the gorgeous grain and figure of the underlying wood.
The thermally modified wood is more dimensionally stable, but the process does reduce bending strength and make the wood a little more brittle. This makes it chip a little easier than the un-modified lumber. The brittleness makes it less suitable for intricate cabinetry, but it is still an excellent choice for less intricate items such as floors, tops, panels, cladding etc.
Extra care needs to be taken when finishing thermally modified wood, as the “bone dry” wood has a tendency to “suck in” much of what is given to it. Our in-house woodworking specialist has had excellent results with Osmo PolyX. He suggests a thicker finish will work better.
Masur Birch (also known as Karelian Birch) is not a species in of itself, but rather a particular grain figure that occurs in various species of European Birch. The result is a beautiful marble like figure – a mix between burl and birdseye.
The cause of this figure is uncertain. Some say that it comes from a tree’s reaction to invasion by the larvae of the Agromyzia carbonara beetle, but the general opinion seems to be that it is hereditary, classifying the name of the variant as Betula pendula var. Carelica. Regardless of the exact origin of the figure, it provides us with stunning and unique looking lumber, just begging to be showcased in some fine woodworking. It is most commonly used in accent details, turned objects, knife handles and other small specialty items.
Veneers of Masur Birch are rotary cut (like Birdseye Maple) to ensure the best figure is extracted for the veneer.
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Heartwood can vary from pale yellow to a light, muted reddish brown; sapwood is grayish-white. There are many species of Birch, worldwide; it is one of the most popular woods, ironically, for both veneer and utility applications. Figured pieces are the more desirable for veneer, with wide, dramatic curly figuring (similar to Cherry) decorating the surface.
American Birch works easily — it turns, glues and finishes well — although most boards have very little natural luster. It’s a versatile wood that can be used for a number of different applications, but it needs to be protected, as the wood will decay when exposed to the elements. (… and if left unprotected will rot.)
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A close cousin to Hawaii’s coveted Koa, Australian Blackwood is growing in popularity as it becomes more known in both guitar and furniture-building circles. Its name is misleading, as there are no black hues ever seen in its grains. Highly-figured lumber is not uncommon, nor are pieces with a shimmering chatoyance, reminiscent of Koa. Hardwood colors can range from a light golden brown to various dark shades of brown; streak and highlights of various differing colors is not uncommon. Sap colors can range from tan to a dull light gray, and is clearly demarcated. Its grains can range from straight to wavy to interlocked, and its texture is typically fine, with an impressive natural luster.
Other than the occasional tear-out, issues associated with lumber with interlocking grains, the wood is very easily worked. It turns, glues, and finishes well. Australian Blackwood also bends easily, which combined with its toughness and durability,¬† has made it an historically popular wood in Australia for boat building.
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African Blackwood is native to the seasonally dry regions of Africa, from Senegal eastwards to Eritrea and southwards to the northern parts of South Africa. Without question, the densest and most un-rosewood-like of the Dalbergia’s (for our money, at least!), African Blackwood is a consistent favorite with acoustic guitar luthiers, wood turners, carvers and fine furniture craftsmen, alike. It remains one of the world’s most coveted musical woods. African Blackwood often appears almost completely black, with its grains hardly discernible. (… thus the name. After sanding, a deep, very dark chocolate color emerges.)
Given its trees’ very small profile and the fact that they also commonly grow somewhat twisted (rather than straight up), finding long, straight boards of African Blackwood is a daunting task. It is so dark and dense, it’s almost inconceivable that it is a true Dalbergia-genus rosewood. Expect exceptional pieces to command a premium, as prices have increased, while supplies have drastically decreased over the last several years.
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Also known as “Satine,” Bloodwood is an exotic South American import that continues to grow in popularity here in the states. It’s dark, savory red tones, untypically do not fade, mute or darken much over time. It is known for its “satiny,” highly-chatoyant finish. While the heartwood typically is comprised of red hues, it is known to have variances ranging from oranges to pale yellows, interspersed. It’s impressive density makes it ideal for an electric guitar fretboard or an acoustic guitar back and sides; wood turners love it, as well, for its fabulous, unique aesthetics and very reasonable price.
The reason this wood continues to grow in popularity in the US with guitar builders, gun & knife manufacturers (handles) and wood turners, is due to the exceptional aesthetics, for which the species is known, and the very reasonable board-foot prices for which these boards generally sell. Boards of exceptional quality will command a premium, but still represent a whole lot of ‘bang for the buck’ for an imported exotic wood.
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With colors ranging from its typically golden brown base, to its dark brown and black striped accents, the surface of Bocote is perhaps best known for the many tiny “eyes” adorning the grain patterns of the highly-decorated, more visually stunning examples of the species. (These eyes are not to be confused with knots, as they pose no issues when machining.) The striking aesthetics that higher-grade pieces possess, make this wood coveted among furniture and cabinet craftsmen, as well as both acoustic and electric guitar luthiers.
Despite its oily nature, Bocote is surprisingly cooperative when gluing. It also turns and finishes well, although certain pieces may contain varying degrees of silica, which can dull blades when cutting. Sometimes the heartwood base can be a bright but muted orange in pieces grown south of Mexico.
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Boire is known throughout Africa to be a tough, durable wood, despite it’s Maple-like density. It is reputed to remain smooth under friction, which makes it ideally suited for its primary use in flooring. The sapwood of Boire is pale brown in color; its heartwood is typically medium brown to bronze, with dark streaks (and sometimes other hues, such as oranges and yellows, intermingled). The species has interlocked grain, and fine and uniform in texture. Other than the tear-out commonly associated with interlocking grains, the wood has good working properties.
This is not an exotic wood which has a boatload of information available with regard to it. Most all of the major US flooring websites that offer this wood share the exact same descriptions and specs, obviously copied one from another. In it, they list its Janka Hardness rating as 940 lbf. Conversely, Ken Goldstein’s 2009 “Janka Hardness Test For Hardwoods” (http://ejmas.com/tin/2009tin/tinart_goldstein_0904.html) shows Boire having measured at 1326 lbf. Perhaps its density varies greatly, as the latter figure (1326) represents more than a 40% increase over the figure commonly given by US flooring industry sources.
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While the term “boxwood” has become quite convoluted over time, this species, Buxus macowanii, is considered a close cousin to ‘the original boxwood.’ (Buxus sempervirens). It’s pale, creamy yellowish hues make it popular with wood turners and especially carvers, as Boxwood is renowned for its capacity to hold crisp, fine details and it has a smooth, very fine texture.
Trees rarely make it much passed 20 feet in height and trunk diameters max out at only 6 inches in diameter. Not surprisingly, this limits its supply to primarily small, craft-sized pieces. The very small logs (if you can even call them that) it produces are often cracked, due to its tough, dense nature. Beware of other species, similar in color and density, being sold as boxwood.
The Boxwood that we carry has been carefully air dried over many years and originates from South Africa.
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Closely related to the more well-known (in the US) Lemonwood, with both being members of the “Calycophyllum” genus, this unique South American wood is generally in short supply through US channels. Although it is not a true boxwood (of the “Buxus” genus), Castello Boxwood has a very similar pale yellow to light brown color palette and has proven popular in the domestic craft wood market, as it turns, glues and finishes well.
It has fair working properties; its grains are generally straight (although sometimes slightly interlocked). It has a fine, smooth texture, and is regarded as moderately durable.
Castello Boxwood is not an easy species to source in the US. It is slow-drying wood, and often sells in a green or partially-green state. It is a tough wood; its small, tightly-grouped pores can make boards somewhat resistant to being cut, despite its generally cooperative working characteristics. Trees do not grow to be large at all, so supplies are limited, and prices are generally reflective of this.
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As most of you already know, this is an extremely popular African import. Found across equatorial Africa, there are multiple species of the Guibourtia genus that are known as Bubinga, so colors and aesthetics can vary dramatically. A variety of different, quite stunning figures often decorate its grains (pommelle, waterfall, mottled and wildly flamed). The base color of Bubinga can range from a lighter pinkish red to light- to medium-brown. Trees can grow to towering proportions, so the larger specimens are often cut into large, live-edge slabs.
Bubinga is well known for its use as a Rosewood substitute. Ironically, the more strikingly figured examples of Bubinga with pommelle or waterfall figuring can fetch prices greatly eclipsing typical rosewood price thresholds. This wood has become hugely popular and is constantly in demand with veneer mills & furniture craftsmen who love building desks and conference tables with the often stunning, huge slabs and progressive guitar luthiers.
Its nickname, “African Rosewood,” can be very misleading, as the wood is not of the Dalbergia species, and not all wood sold as “African Rosewood” is Bubinga (or is even of the Guibourtia species).
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Known commonly by its nickname, “White Walnut” (a nickname which is well earned, as it is a member of the true walnut genus, Juglans), Butternut is considerably lighter and less dense than it’s walnut (Juglans genus) compatriots; combined with its light weight and low density and hardness, it is very easy to work. Courtesy of its fluted trunks, the lumber produced by Butternut trees can have some irregular, but visually-striking, grain patterns. Found throughout the Eastern United States, Butternut’s pleasant light tan coloration has gorgeous pastel look, and certain examples can exhibit a pink or reddish tint.
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Canarywood grows across South America from Panama to Southern Brazil. Its heartwood can range from pale yellow to pink, orange and dark reddish -brown. Some of the prettiest pieces can have all the color variations in one piece. Other pieces, more consistent in color, tend at times to resemble Cherry.
Being both durable and relatively hard, but still fairly easy to work, it gives woodworkers the opportunity to work with a hardwood species from South America that has good color variation, but is still reasonably priced.
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Alaskan Cedar has been a wood historically embroiled in controversy with botanical and wood experts, as the wood has had its genus reclassified on six different occasions over the course of the last two centuries. Despite its relatively light weight and density, it is a very durable and rather versatile species — having seen duty in numerous indoor and outdoor applications. The wood has also become a popular choice with luthiers, for acoustic guitar soundboards.
Contrary to other published data, the typical growth range for these trees in the wild is only between 40 and 80 feet tall. Undisturbed specimens have reached heights of 100 feet and some have been reputed to be as old as 3500 years! Despite its modest weight and density figures, it is an extremely tough wood and these trees hold their own through some very challenging conditions. This makes Alaskan Cedar a very versatile wood, suitable for a wide variety of different applications.
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A firm & stable hardwood, Aromatic Red Cedar is renowned for its durability, resistance to both rot and insects, and its wonderful, fresh, natural fragrance. With is bright pinkish red colors contrasting with a light, pale yellow base, the wood is rarely ever stained or painted. Another aesthetic trademark is the typical scores of knots which decorate its two-toned surface.
The wood is fine grained, although knots and silica content can complicate what is otherwise a fairly cooperative set of working properties. It glues and finishes well, although it is very common to leave this wood unfinished so not to squelch its antiseptic aroma.
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Himalayan Cedar is an important timber tree in Pakistan, Kashmir and north-western India. Its wood is noted for being strong and durable mostly utilized in construction, carpentry and furniture applications in its indigenous regions. The trees are also known for the fragrant essential oil they produce (distilled from wood chips and sawdust), which is used throughout Northeast Asia to protect livestock from mosquitos, gnats and other airborne pests and it also has anti-fungal properties. Heartwood ranges from a light tan to light brown with a reddish tint. Grains are typically straight; it is fine, even textured with a high natural luster. The wood is reputed to have excellent working properties, as well as an impressive strength-to-weight ratio.
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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 sacred 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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Not a true cedar (of the Cedra genus), Spanish Cedar is actually more closely related to true mahoganies, as all are in the Meliaceae family. Weight, Density and mechanical properties can vary, depending on climate and conditions. Most of what is made available to the US market is plantation-grown, which produces wood that is lower in density, and paler in color than that cut from trees grown in forests. Its grains are straight and its texture is fine; combined with its modest hardness and density, the wood is very easy to work, and glues and finishes well.
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Boasting rich hues — ranging from mellow ambers, to reddish cinnamons and sienna browns — Western Red Cedar is one of the most unique, beautiful softwoods in the world. Its grains are straight, and its texture is uniform and fine-grained, with a satin-like luster. It’s durability makes it ideally suited for a variety of outdoor applications. It’s easy to work, and glues and finishes well.
Despite its lightweight and modest density, the wood has tremendous dimensional stability.
This somewhat obscure, seldom-seen South American wood is typically a light to golden brown color; with large open pores, marked by prominent red vessel lines, decorating its grainy surface. It is difficult to differentiate the sapwood, as it is only slightly lighter in color and not clearly demarcated. Its pores are some of the largest of any commercial lumber in the world, with vessel diameters routinely between 300 and 500 micrometers. The dark contrast of the pores give the wood a very unique “veiny” look that is popular with some Latin American furniture craftsmen.
Cerejira is an important wood in the dry portions of central and southern South America. It is noted for its beauty, durability, strength and stability, thus making this tough, versatile wood ideal for a wide variety of applications. Left undisturbed, trees can grow to towering dimensions — producing valuable, coveted slabs which are renowned for their incredibly detailed, almost 3D-like crotch sections.
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Cerejira is an important wood in the dry portions of central and southern South America. It is noted for its beauty, durability, strength and stability, thus making this tough, versatile wood ideal for a variety of applications. Left undisturbed, trees can grow to towering dimensions — producing valuable, coveted slabs which are renowned for their incredibly detailed, 3D-like crotch sections.
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This vibrant Central American wood can features primary colors ranging from orange to golden brown (with gold, red and sometimes even green accent coloration). It is thought to be the closest relative to Brazilwood (famous for its use in stringed-instrument bows), and Chakte Viga shares many of the same acoustic properties. Grains are straight, but sometimes interlocked — otherwise, this wood works easily, and finishes well. It has a fine texture and excellent natural luster. Sap is a pale off-white to pale yellow.
Chakte Viga is a wood that has been starting to emerge from relative obscurity over the last decade or so, being one of the lesser-known and -demanded woods from the tropical Central America region. We feel it has a huge untapped potential as a guitar tonewood, as well as in fine furniture production in the US. The wood has some very subtle aesthetics, sometimes exhibiting a 3D-like shimmering chatoyance after being finished with clear lacquer.
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Although not a true Dalbergia rosewood, this beautiful, fairly versatile wood holds many similarities. Chechen can be visually stunning — with green, red, orange and gold hues (and brown & black lines) adorning its luxurious medium-brown bases, and occasional figuring which can range from subtle to quite dramatic. The wood has become increasingly more popular with veneer manufacturers, furniture craftsmen and guitar luthiers over the course of the last two decades, as it is a very durable, easy-to-work and -finish wood that is moderately priced for an exotic import.
Chechen has endured a stigma which is actually a commonly held fallacy — one powerful enough to generate its nickname, “Black Poisonwood”, that working with this wood is dangerous. While some have claimed to have adverse reactions from working with it, those who work with it on a regular basis state that the opposite is true. The bark harvested from the trees which is poisonous to the touch (essentially, in the same way as Poison Ivy), but once the lumber has been processed, there are no harmful effects from handling the re-sawn boards. Aesthetic qualities, as well as weight and density, can vary greatly, depending on the specific environmental conditions of its growth.
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Black Cherry is an important domestic hardwood, long associated with fine furniture and a favorite of many master craftsmen. When freshly cut, the wood has a tan to light brown color with a pink or red tint. The dark reddish-brown (russet) color it exhibits after aging is often imitated through the use of stains on other woods. The sapwood is pale yellow colored. Grains can be straight or irregular; combined with its moderate density, this makes the wood easily workable. The most desired examples are of the curly-figured variety, which can be bold and quite dramatic.
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The beautifully figured version of American/Black Cherry.
Black Cherry is an important domestic hardwood, long associated with fine furniture and a favorite of many master craftsmen. When freshly cut, the wood has a tan to light brown color with a pink or red tint. The dark reddish-brown (russet) color that it exhibits after aging is often imitated through the use of stains on other woods. The sap is pale yellow colored. Grains can be straight or irregular; combined with its moderate density, this makes the wood easily workable. The most desired examples are of the curly-figured variety, which can be bold and quite dramatic.
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Cocobolo is a truly exquisite exotic wood that remains in high demand with fine furniture craftsmen and guitar luthiers, alike. It is renowned for its often amazing array of colors and for being an extremely dense, stable and durable wood (making it well suited for both major industry applications). It is a true rosewood, with a density second only to African Blackwood.
The wood has been somewhat maligned, perhaps unfairly, due to what many claim to be the toxicity of its dust (due to this, many luthiers refuse to work with it). Our experience has shown that Cocobolo produces a huge, dense volume of dust, when being sanded. We find this dust to be no more “toxic” than any other true Dalbergia rosewood, with such affects being attributable more to the sheer mass of dust created than anything unusually threatening about the dust’s chemical makeup.
Cumaru or Brazilian Teak is golden brown in color. It is extremely stiff, strong, hard and highly durable and can be an excellent substitute for Ipe for decking due to superb durability and weathering properties. It can be difficult to work due to its density and interlocked grain.
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Swamp Cypress is so named for its association with swamp land, with is roots often protruding above the land or submerged into the swamp water where it grows. This light, pale yellow-brown wood known for its durability, toughness and character is also the State Tree of Louisiana. It is an important wood in the 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.
According to the only sources we could find willing to step up to the plate on this wood, Amara Ebony and Macassar Ebony are of the exact same species (Diospyros Celebica), with the difference put forth being that Amara is exclusive to Indonesia. Amara is known for its deep chocolate browns with pink striping; the difference in its coloration and that of typical Macassar Ebony being attributed to the soil conditions in Indonesia. Its grains are more likely to be wavy or irregular than straight, with a fine texture and nice natural luster.
Our experience yields a broader perspective, as we have found the wood sometimes with greens and reds, more similar to Malaysian Blackwood, at times with darker and more muted hues¬† and devoid of any pink shades. Pieces which more resemble Macassar have also contained gold – orange hues, in addition to pinks. It’s sap content is tan in color and, despite its density, it has good working properties.
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More commonly known as “Pale Moon Ebony” to US guitar luthiers and aficionados, this Southeast Asian true Diospyros ebony is, without question, the world’s most difficult, perplexing exotic wood and at times, one of its most visually stunning. (It’s also one of its most sought-after.) The wood is known for the bold jet black ink lines which adorn its creamy, pale yellow base. Both the volume and pattern of its lines are unpredictable, varying greatly from piece to piece. Grains can be straight, wavy or irregular; its texture is fine, with a nice natural luster. Its hardness and density are quite moderate for an ebony.
After being harvested or re-sawn, the wood exhibits a strong tendency to self-destruct — often changing shape, cracking and checking — if not quickly coated in wax. Although it’s not currently viewed as endangered, the wood has always been in short supply in the US, despite an unquenchable demand from custom guitar builders and wood enthusiasts, alike. Other than the difficulties in drying, it has good working properties; it machines, turns, glues and finishes well.
Because of its noted self-destructive tendencies, the wood is coated in wax almost immediately after being harvested. Given this, what little makes it to the US market arrives with very high moisture levels, necessitating further drying. (This is where it gets tricky.) Experience has shown that the best drying results are obtained by leaving the wood coated in wax and just patiently allowing it to air dry. Any attempts to speed up this process are very risky as the wood usually winds up punishing the impatient! Even when dried very slowly, the wood can still change shape. It’s not unusual, at all, to find pieces with major surface checks and cracks that occur even while under wax. For this reason, you see significantly more craft-sized pieces than larger, resawable boards (which typically command a premium price). Recutting boards will speed up the drying process, but attentive care must be taken to prevent warpage of the cut pieces. Importation to the US has been through very limited, select channels on an irregular basis for a number of years.
This wood is most always in short supply, while the demand remains constant. Rare Woods USA is very pleased to be able to offer a limited amount of larger boards and billets of this spectacular exotic wood. Lumber orders to Southeast Asia can sometimes take 12 to 18 months or more to fill, ship and receive. With the recent banning of rosewood and ebony exportation by the Laotian government, we’re not sure how soon we’ll be able to restock (if at all). For the last several years, US importation of Black & White Ebony has been exclusively from Laos.
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Brown Ebony is not a true Ebony and it is slightly odd that this species derives its name from a genus generally known for its black coloring.¬† Like true ebonies though, Brown Ebony is very dense and hard to work.
This South American species is popular for turning, musical instruments and decorative pieces.
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With an unceasing worldwide demand, Gabon Ebony remains one of the world’s most expensive exotic woods. Trees are small and slow growing, contributing to its high price tag. Given this, finding long, undefective boards is quite rare; such pieces always command premium prices. Its signature jet black heartwood (which can sometimes contain streaks of browns, golden browns and even greys), combined with its great strength, durability and density, gives it universal appeal with instrument craftsmen.
Its dark neutral color and ability to hold detail makes it very popular with wood turners and carvers, also. The wood’s very high oil content yields a magnificent natural luster when sanded, although, as would be expected, this characteristic can pose challenges when gluing.