Ash – Swamp
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.
Not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Why We Love This Wood
Many electric guitar players and builders, alike, swear by this wood -- known for its crisp highs, tight lows and scooped mid content. Like all other Ash species, the higher up the tree you go, the denser the wood gets. Thus, the most desired part of the Swamp Ash trees are from its midsection down to its trunk. The popularity of Swamp Ash continues to grow, as electric guitar builders, worldwide, keep the wood under steady demand, thus making Swamp Ash easily the most expensive of all varieties of the Fraxinus genus.
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Spalted Tamarind comes from South East Asia. The decay/spalting gives the wood awesome spiderweb type patterns that add character and excitement to its appearance. The spalting is most prevalent in the sapwood which is prone to attack from bugs and fungus which cause it.
It is moderately difficult to work, but turns and finishes well. Sometimes the rot is more endemic than is obvious from looking at the surface of the lumber result in some wastage (lost pieces).
Take care to use good dust collection and a dust mask, as the fungal spores add more to the air than dust alone.
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This vibrant Central America 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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Longhi is an African wood with similar working properties to its more well-known cousin, Anegre. Its color varies from a greyish-white to beige to pinkish-brown color, which slightly darkens with age and UV-ray exposure. Its generally light appearance makes sapwood difficult to distinguish. Its grains are typical straight (though occasionally interlocked) and its texture ranges between fine and medium-fine. It can sometimes possess mottled or subtle tiger-striped figuring.
The wood must be carefully dried, as it is susceptible to fungus. It is considered to be moderately durable, and moderately stable. Longhi has a solid strength-to-weight ratio, which makes it a popular choice for flooring and decking.
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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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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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