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Chakte Viga

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.

Common Uses:
fine furniture, furniture, inlay, turnings
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Common Uses
chakte-viga
Longhi

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.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, decking, flooring, furniture
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Common Uses
longhi
Birch - Yellow

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.)

Common Uses:
boxmaking, cabinetry, crafting, flooring, furniture
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Common Uses
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Maple - Spalted

Spalted Maple doesn’t denote a species, but can be any member of the Acer genus that has black lines and/or streaks in the lumber caused by slight decay and a fungus in the wood.  With a bit of luck the prettier pieces can present with beautiful random streaks and lines.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, carving, flooring, furniture, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
maple-spalted
Rosewood - Amazon

Amazon Rosewood has been considered a good substitute for Brazilian Rosewood though its beautiful appearance and desirability as a tonewood should allow it to stand out in its own right. Color tends to a darker reddish brown than its counterpart. Though slightly lower on the Janka scale, Amazon Rosewood is significantly heavier than Brazilian Rosewood. Its density contributes to challenging workability, while the oil content makes for difficult gluing. The effort is rewarded by its fine lustrous polish and superior tonal qualities.

Common Uses:
furniture, inlay, lutherie, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
rosewood-amazon
Morado

Morado is known by many names.  Pau Ferro, Bolivian Rosewood and Morado are the most common.  The wood earned its “… Rosewood” nicknames (by which it is commonly known) because its colors and density are similar.  It has a medium brown base typically augmented by black streaks or grain lines, and sometimes even purple, tan and golden secondary hues, and sometimes a purplish tint, overall. Although it can have varying grains, straight-grained pieces are generally very easy to work, and the wood turns smoothly and finishes well. It is considered quite durable, although it can be subject to insect attack.

Morado is a popular Brazilian Rosewood substitute and is thought to be about as similar in properties to rosewood as any non-Dalbergia-genus species possibly could be. Its grains are tighter than a typical rosewood specimen, and it is thought to have a more distinctly percussive tap-tone than that of Brazilian. Its tonal response is said to have tight lows, present mids and a clear, singing high end response.

Despite the comparisons, it should be noted that the (much more prevalent) Machaerium-genus species of Pau Ferro has less density, hardness and weight than an average rosewood.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, flooring, furniture, lutherie, musical Instruments, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
morado
Walnut - American Figured

Black Walnut with a stunning figure across the grain.

Black Walnut has long been considered one of the US’s most durable hardwoods, and one of its most popular. Prized for its typically deep chocolate color (often highlighted by red or purple streaks and/or tint), straight grains (though sometimes irregular), fine texture and warm luster, the wood has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio and is considered to have solid dimensional stability after drying. Its cooperative grain structure and moderate density give Black Walnut excellent working properties, which have made it coveted by fine furniture craftsmen for centuries.

While there remains a robust domestic supply, the demand for this wood also remains constant. It is considered a premium domestic hardwood.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, furniture, gun stocks, interior panelling, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
walnut-american-figured
Ebony - Brown

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.

Common Uses:
carving, furniture, inlay, turnings
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Common Uses
ebony-brown
Pine - Heart

Heart Pine is typically reclaimed old growth pine. It is reclaimed and as a result can come with cracks, nail/screw holes. That being said though, the beautiful coloring and tighter, old growth rings sing tradition, beauty and class.

Common Uses:
flooring, furniture
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Common Uses
pine-heart
Sipo

Sipo Mahogany (commonly referred to as either just “Sipo” or “Utile”) is an African wood that is considered to be the closest, aesthetically, to Genuine Mahogany (although not a true “Swietenia”). It’s interlocked grains are akin to other African woods and generally produce a characteristic contrasting light-dark / two-toned sort of appearance, when quartersawn — which can be visually stunning in the case of more chatoyant boards. The fact that the wood is considerably easier to work, with less tearout, than African Mahogany and possesses a hardness that places Sipo between it (African Mahogany) and Genuine Mahogany has seen it transcend from relative obscurity to become a quite popular and highly regarded “mahogany substitute” wood, presently.

Aesthetically, the wood is similar, also, to its African first cousin, Sapele (with both being species of the Entandrophragma genus) — although Sipo is more pourous, and has richer color.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carving, furniture, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
sipo
Sneezewood

Ptaeroxylon Obliquum, from which Sneezewood is derived, is a deciduous evergreen tree or shrub. The lumber it yields has a heartwood which is generally comprised of light to medium golden brown hues (although the brownish hues can sometimes be dark, toward the tree’s center). Grains are generally either straight or wavy, although they can be interlocked. The wood is quite dense, which makes it somewhat difficult to work, but renders excellent dimensional stability when dried.

It turns and finishes well, although gluing can be problematic, due to the natural oil content of the wood.

Common Uses:
carving, construction, furniture, specialty items, turnings, utility lumber
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Common Uses
sneezewood
Sycamore - French

Like all other members of the true maple genus (Acer), European Sycamore is a hardwood whose sapwood is greatly preferred and sought after, versus its heartwood. It sap can vary from an almost pure white to a light cream color with tinting ranging from a golden yellow to a muted red; heartwood is generally medium to dark reddish-brown colored. Grains are generally straight, but can be wavy. Combined with its fine texture, it is easy to work (although, like all maples, it can burn easily) — turning, gluing and finishing well, with a good natural luster. Not unlike its Acer-genus counterparts, pieces can sometimes be dramatically figured.

Boards are typical found quartersawn, as European Sycamore is the lumber renowned for its preferential, and historical, use as a body wood for stringed orchestral instruments (violins, violas, etc.), possessing superb resonance qualities and full-spectrum frequency response at a very moderate weight.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, flooring, furniture, joinery, millwork, musical Instruments, specialty items, turnings, utility lumber, veneer
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Common Uses
sycamore-french
Tamboti

Tamboti is a beautiful African hardwood which is derived from the Spirostachys Africana tree — a medium-sized, semi-deciduous to deciduous, fruit producing tree. The heartwood is brown to dark brown, with darker markings and streaks, clearly demarcated from the whitish to pale yellow sapwood. Its grains are usually straight to slightly wavy, with a fine, even texture. The wood has a beautiful banded figure and a satin-like lustre, with an oily surface. Known for its durability, dimensional stability and exceptional rot and insect resistance, Tamboti is a hard, heavy wood — and one which remains in steady demand throughout regions of its natural range, despite its somewhat challenging working properties.

Between the tree’s natural oils and latex production, resawing the wood tends to gum up saw blades. Difficulties aside, the wood turns and finishes well, and its density and pleasant aesthetics make it popular with wood carvers, as well.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carving, construction, flooring, furniture, specialty items, turnings
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Common Uses
tamboti
Teak - Burmese

Genuine Teak is one of the world’s most well-known and coveted woods. Its heartwood is light-medium to medium brown, with a tint that can range from muted gold to a pale red. (Its color darkens as it ages.) Sapwood colors are a pale white, off-white or a pale yellowish brown. But it is the wood’s great toughness, rot resistance and durability — versus some rather bland aesthetics — which make it so popular.

Its grains are typically straight (although sometimes wavy, or even interlocked) with a high natual oil content. This generally makes for favorable working characteristics, although the wood does possess a high silica content.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, carving, construction, flooring, furniture, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
teak-burmese
Walnut - African

African Walnut is derived from the Lovoa Trichilioides tree — a monoecious, evergreen that is indigenous to Central and Southern Africa’s tropical regions. Its heartwood color can vary anywhere from a golden brown to a reddish brown, often with darker streaks and/or portions. Over time, its color will darken to deeper brown tones. The sapwood is narrow, grey to beige in color, and clearly demarcated from the heartwood. Despite it not being a true walnut (of the Juglans genus), it shares many of the basic characteristics.

African Walnut’s grains are typically straight or slightly interlocked — yielding good working properties — with a fine to medium, consistent texture and a fine natural luster. Finding figured pieces is not uncommon. It turns, glues and finishes well. The wood is considered moderately durable.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carving, flooring, furniture, gun stocks, joinery, paneling, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
walnut-african
Walnut - American

Black Walnut has long been considered one of the US’s most durable hardwoods, and one of its most popular. Prized for its typically deep chocolate color (often highlighted by red or purple streaks and/or tint), straight grains (though sometimes irregular), fine texture and warm luster, the wood has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio and is considered to have solid dimensional stability after drying. Its cooperative grain structure and moderate density give Black Walnut excellent working properties, which have made it coveted by fine furniture craftsmen for centuries.

While there remains a robust domestic supply, the demand for this wood also remains constant. It is considered a premium domestic hardwood.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, furniture, gun stocks, interior panelling, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
walnut-american
Wenge

Wenge is unique among the world’s exotic woods. This tough tropical wood’s distinctive deep chocolate color — which can sometimes augmented by muted gold, orange, red or even burgundy tint — is actually known as “Wenge” in the color spectrum nomenclature of various parts of the world (with paint manufacturers, etc.). Its grains are generally straight (though sometimes wavy or irregular) and are accenuated by overlapping black lines which typically decorate the board’s surface.

While being considered a strong, durable wood, Wenge’s course, rugged texture makes it very splintery — making some craftsmen hesitant to use it. It can be difficult to work, although is glues well and is considered a very dimensionally stable species.

Common Uses:
bows, cabinetry, flooring, furniture, handles, paneling, specialty items, veneer, walking sticks
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Common Uses
wenge
Yellowheart

Yellowheart is a neo-satine wood whose color can range from pale yellow to bright yellow to varying shades of gold. Sapwood is lighter and pale, but not always easily discerned from pale-colored heartwood. Its grains are typically straight, but can also by wavy and/or interlocked. Its typically fine (sometimes medium or in between), consistent texture takes on a luxurious look, revealing a deep natural luster, when sanded.

As far as working characteristics are concerned, Yellowheart is generally very cooperative for a fairly dense and durable wood. (Although sharp blades may be necessary with some interlocked-grain boards.) It glues and finishes very well. The wood holds its color well: slowly darkening, to a degree, as it ages, often giving it an even more striking appearance.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carving, flooring, furniture, handles, inlay, musical Instruments, trim, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
yellowheart
Ziricote

Ziricote is one of the most popular, visually striking exotic woods in the world. Renowned for its “landscape” or “spiderweb” grain patterns, its colors range from medium to dark shades of brown (occasionally with either a green or purplish tint), and are accentuated by intermingled bands of unpredictable, irregular black growth rings. Sapwood is easily distinguishable by its dull off-white to pale yellow hue.

Although it is a fairly dense wood, its typical straight (though sometimes slightly interlocked) grains and fine to medium-fine texture give it cooperative working properties, as it cuts, turns, glues and finishes smoothly.

Ziricote is a close relative (and neighbor) of Bocote, with both being Central American woods of the Cordia genus. Its radical, often-dramatic grain patterns have given the wood somewhat of an ‘elite’ status among international exotic woods enthusiasts.¬† While it has never been an inexpensive wood, recent revelations of epidemic poaching across Mexico have resulted in a greatly reduced supply and sharp price increases on wholesale and retails levels.

Unless action is taken to stem the tide (of poaching), Ziricote and other Central American woods could very well be the subject of actions from CITES in the very near future.  Interestingly, the bark of the Cordia dodecandra tree and the wood have medicinal properties: the tea which is derived from their infusion is used in traditional medicine in Mexico, to treat coughs, diarrhea and dysentery.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, flooring, furniture, gun stocks, joinery, lutherie, musical Instruments, specialty items, trim, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
ziricote
Shedua

A cousin of the more popular and well-known African tonewood, Bubinga, Ovangkol/Shedua is a softer wood (of similar weight and density) with handsome, yet greatly varying aesthetics. Its heartwood color can range anywhere from a light to medium yellow, to a light orange- or reddish-brown, usually highlighted by darker brown or black striping. Its unmistakable sapwood is pale yellow in color.

Its grains can be straight, wavy or interlocked, with generally a medium texture and nice natural luster (due in part to a somewhat high silica content). It is a tough, durable wood, usually possessing fairly cooperative working properties — although its silica content can gum up blades and cutting tools, and there can be tearout issues with boards with interlocking grain patterns. Shedua turns, glues and finishes quite well.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, flooring, furniture, trim, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
shedua
Oak - Bog

English Oak that has been salvaged from a peat bog.

As per wood database:

“The¬†extremely low oxygen conditions of the bog protect the wood from normal decay, while the underlying peat provides acidic¬†conditions where iron salts and other minerals react with the tannins in the wood, gradually giving it a distinct¬†dark brown to almost black color.”

Common Uses:
boxmaking, furniture, knife handles
Detail
Common Uses
oak-bog
Padauk - African

African Paduak is a very strong, stable hardwood. It is known for its typically robust reddish-brown coloration (which darkens with age), although colors can range from a bright orange to a slightly muted burgundy often with highlights, grain lines and/or secondary colors ranging from brick red to a more purplish muted hue. The wood can sometimes be found figured (ribbon; striped; etc.), and it is well known for its deep chatoyance and wonderful natural luster. Grains are typically straight, though sometimes interlocked.

The wood is considered very durable and also resistant to bug / insect / termite attack, which accordingly has seen it used in outdoor applications for centuries in its native Africa. Its working and finishing characteristics are decidedly favorable.

Common Uses:
flooring, furniture, handles, specialty items, trim, turnings, utility lumber, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
padauk-african
Palmyra - Black

Not unlike its coconut-producing cousin, Red Palm, Black Palmyra (perhaps better known as “Black Palm” in the US) is unique among exotic woods in several ways. First, it’s tree is not categorized a hardwood or softwood tree, but as a flowering plant: Monocotyledon (or “Monocot”). Secondly, the tree is comprised of two entirely different layers: at its core is a soft, spongy cellulose mass; this soft core is surrounded by a protective body, comprised of dense, overlapping layers of interwoven fibrovascular strands. It is this hard, dense protective layer that is considered its wood.

While it is considered to be typically straight grained, because of its toughness the wood can be very diificult to work; splintering and tearouts are not uncommon. It is a dimensionally stable wood, but it requires sharp blades and precise-angled cuts to get acceptable results when resawing this wood.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, construction, flooring, furniture, handles, turnings, walking sticks
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Common Uses
palmyra-black
Pau Ferro

There are a few different types of wood which are known as Pau Ferro: the most common one is also known as Bolivian Rosewood, and Morado.  This one (also known as Pau Rosa), however, comes from Southern Africa.  It is hard and heavy, but can present itself with beautiful colors Рreds, oranges and yellows.

It turns and finishes well, but the grain is fairly porous.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, flooring, furniture, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
pau-ferro
Pau Marfim

Pau Marfim is a dense, fine textured, mostly straight grained hardwood which is generally a creamy white colorm but it can vary from a lemon color to a pale yellowish-brown, also. There is very little contrast between its sapwood and heartwood, although the heartwood can be decorated with darker streaks, occasionally. It is an extremely tough, durable wood, which has seen it utilized as a popular substitute for maple and birch and makes it an ideal choice for anything from flooring to tool handles.

The wood turns excellently, and it is easy to nail, crew or glue. It polishes to a smooth, fine finish, and is considered to be a very dimensionally stable wood.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, canoes, carving, flooring, furniture, handles, oars, paneling, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
pau-marfim
Pau Rosa

Pau Rosa is a very beautiful tropical wood. Depending on the specific region of the trees’ growth, colors can vary from a medium chocolate brown to an almost Padauk-like red or orange, or even a mixture of such colors which can also include yellows and purples (also like Padauk). It is a very dense wood, with grains which are typically wavy or interlocked, and moderately course. Despite its density, it is considered relatively easy to work and turns, glues and finishes well.

Drying the wood is a slow, burdenous process. Like many woods which are comparably hard, logs and boards have a tendency to crack while drying, although Pau Rosa is considered very durable and dimensionally stable, there after.

Common Uses:
carpentry, carving, furniture, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
pau-rosa
Pear - Swiss

Historically, an important domestic hardwood throughout Europe, Swiss Pear is known for its fine, straight grains and smooth, consistent texture, as well as its pink coloration (which naturally ranges from pale to light to medium). Once cut, the wood’s hues intensify as it oxidizes. Swiss Pear is commonly steamed, to provide a more smooth, consistent pink color, and to relieve stress within the wood, so it dries flat.

Its easy, cooperative working properties combined with its consistent texture and color make it loved by craftsmen, carvers and turners, alike. It is highly regarded all over Europe, and considered by many to be the region’s finest hardwood, boasting properties similar to rosewood.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, carving, furniture, inlay, millwork, musical Instruments, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
pear-swiss
Purpleheart

While renowned for its often deep, rich purple hues, Purpleheart is actually one of the toughest woods in the world. It is considered one of the stiffest, hardest woods — boasting an impressive strength-to-weight ratio. It is also extremely water resistant, which, combined with its toughness, has seen it frequently used in outdoor decking and even as truckbed flooring. The wood is typically straight or wavy grained (though sometimes irregular). Its texture ranges from fine to medium, and it has a nice natural luster that emerges when fine sanded. The wood works and turns well, although sharp tools and blades are a necessity. It glues and finishes well, also.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carving, decking, flooring, furniture, inlay, paneling, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
purpleheart
Rosewood - African

African Rosewood is a species from the same genus as Bubinga (Guibourtia), which has led to Bubinga often mistakenly being referred to as “African Rosewood.” Though obviously not a true rosewood, it does often bear aesthetic similarities. The grain is generally straight but can be interlocked; its texture is moderately fine. The heartwood color ranges from pink to reddish-brown, with purple or red streaks / lines / highlights.

African Rosewood works well, although it can have a moderate blunting effect on tools. It glues and finishes well. It needs to be dried slowly and carefully, to prevent warping and cracking. It’s a durable wood and is considered stable, once dried.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, decking, flooring, furniture, millwork, specialty items, turnings, veneer
Detail
Common Uses
rosewood-african
Rosewood - Honduras

Denser than East Indian Rosewood, Honduran Rosewood is well known for being the preferred wood for Marimba bars, with its ringing, well-rounded tonal properties. It compares well to Brazilian Rosewood (many claim it actually superior), producing a well-balanced acoustic guitar, with great projection and strong lows and highs. (In fact, during the ’50?s and ’60?s, the great flamenco guitar crafters considered it to be the only acceptable substitute to Brazilian Rosewood.)

Honduran Rosewood’s grain lines are unusually tight and straight (though sometimes wavy or interlocked). The color ranges from a medium tan to a brownish brick red color, medium brown (sometimes with a purplish tint) or even a medium to dark burgundy, with occasional dark brown or black ink lines. Due to the wood’s density and high oil content, it can be difficult to cut, machine and glue. Its texture can range from fine to medium; (not unlike Braz Rw) it is porous, and those pores are usually medium- to large-sized. As would be expected — given its oily nature — the wood has a rich natural luster.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, furniture, harps, lutherie, musical Instruments, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
rosewood-honduras
Rosewood - East Indian

East Indian Rosewood can vary greatly in color. Although its base color is mostly always brown, the shades can range from golden brown to purplish or dark reddish brown. Secondary colors are often present. The wood’s colors will darken with continued UV exposure. East Indian Rosewood is generally less dense than most other rosewoods. Its grains are typically interlocked (although they can be irregular or straight), which can make it difficult to work. Care must be taken when finishing the wood, as it is not uncommon for the wood’s natural resins to impose if it is not first sealed. It has a medium texture.

Since the exportation ban on Brazilian Rosewood, more than twenty years ago, it has become a popular substitute with corporate guitar manufacturers (electric and acoustic, alike) — due in large part to its historically steady supply and relatively low cost (compared with other Dalbergia’s). By comparison to Brazilian Rosewood, its pores are smaller, but it is also a very durable wood that’s not overly susceptible to bug damage/infestation and it is considered stable after drying.

Don’t confuse this species with Sissoo (Dalbergia sissoo) which can also be referred to as¬† “Indian Rosewood” in certain locales. It is believed that Sonokeling: a true Dalbergia indigenous to Indonesia — where it is also known as “Jacaranda” is also Dalbergia latifolia, however tree farmers in Indonesia are not in agreement with this assessment. Our research into Indonesia and the cultivation of rosewood trees there revealed that back in the 1700’s, while the Indonesian islands were considered a colony of Holland, Dutch merchant colonists transplanted two major Dalbergia’s to Indonesia: Dalbergia Nigra (Brazilian Rosewood), from Brazil, and Dalbergia sissoo (Indian Rosewood), from India.¬† This could well be a botanical mystery worthy of further investigation for the detail oriented student of the Dalbergia genus.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, furniture, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
rosewood-east-indian
Rosewood - Madagascan

Madagascar Rosewood is a very popular wood with both acoustic and electric guitar luthiers (especially the former), as well as furniture craftsmen, despite being a wood that has been difficult to acquire in the US for the bulk of this new millennium. Depending on the specific species, heartwood colors can range anywhere from a pale yellowish-brown to orangish-red to deep burgundy to a chocolate brown, typically highlighted by bold black ink lines and secondary hues. Its straight grains and medium texture generally make for excellent working properties, despite its considerable hardness and density; its cuts, turns and finishes beautifully, with a nice natural luster.

The wood typically has a high natural oil content, which can make gluing challenging.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carving, flooring, furniture, inlay, specialty items, trim, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
rosewood-madagascan
Rosewood - Nicaraguan

Nicaraguan Rosewood — also known as Yucatan Rosewood, or Panama Rosewood — is the least dense, hard and heavy of all the Dalbergia species. Its heartwood can vary from a pale yellow-brown, to tan, to varying shades of brown (both light and dark); sapwood is pale yellow and clearly demarcated. Grains are generally straight, but can be wavy or interlocked; its texture ranges from fine to medium, with large, open pores. Its moderate luster is in keeping with its reputation of being aesthetically bland, although darker accents and occasional figuring are sometimes present.

Despite being significantly less stout than all of its true rosewood cousins, the wood is surprisingly durable. It is less oily, also, which adds up to some generally very cooperative working, turning, gluing and finishing properties.

Common Uses:
furniture, specialty items, turnings
Detail
Common Uses
rosewood-nicaraguan
Rosewood - Santos

There are actually two different types of wood which are known as Pau Ferro: the most common one is also known as Bolivian Rosewood, and Morado; the other one is significantly more dense (generally around 50% more), and is known also as Brazilian Ironwood and Brazilwood. The vast majority of what os made available in the US is former of the two — the less dense variety. The wood earned its “… Rosewood” nicknames (by which it is commonly known) because its colors and density are similar, which its medium brown base typically augmented by black streaks or grain lines, and sometimes even purple, tan and golden secondary hues, and sometimes a purplish tint, overall. Although it can have varying grains, straight-grained pieces are generally very easy to work, and the wood turns smoothly and finishes well. It is considered quite durable, although it can be subject to insect attack.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, flooring, furniture, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
rosewood-santos
Sassafras

The Sassafras genus is renowned for and distinguished by its aromatic properties. Its typically straight grains and coarse texture bear patterns which resemble Ash; and its generally tan to light brown coloration makes its appearance easy to mistake it as such, though sometimes tints ranging from pale orange to olive green can be present. Despite its relatively light dried weight (31 lbs/ft3 / 495 kg/m3), once dry it is considered to be dimensionally stable, with excellent durability and easy working properties.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, furniture, turnings, utility lumber
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Common Uses
sassafras
Oak - White

White Oak has long been considered one of the preeminent hardwoods of Central & Eastern America. The trees commonly live for hundreds of years, if left undisturbed. The color of the heartwood can vary from a light golden tan to a light to medium brown. The grains are straight. Quartersawn examples often display the “fleck” figuring patterns for which oaks are known. Its renowned toughness and durability has seen White Oak used in boat building for centuries, as it also responds well to steam bending. Despite its large pores and generally coarse surface, the wood works, glues and holds a stain and/or a finish very well.

The White Oak is the most durable of the oak subgroups; however, because of its high shrinkage rates, dimensional stability can be a challenge.  Although it is commonly offered in both flatsawn and quartersawn boards, most stable results are always obtained by using quartersawn stock.

Specimens have been documented to reach ages of more 450 years old; while one, still living (in Basking Ridge, NJ), estimated to be over 600 years old.

It should be noted that all Quercus-genus (true oak) hardwoods have been known to discolor when left in contact with iron.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carpentry, flooring, furniture, veneer, wine barrels
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Common Uses
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Olive - Wild

For millenniums, Olivewood has remained a wood of great cultural and religious importance and significance, especially in the Middle East. The wood can, indeed, be exquisite in appearance: with its (typically) creamy, golden brown base, and darker streaks and highlights, often augmented by spectacular figuring and/or areas of magnificent burling.

Grain patterns are usually either straight or wild, although they can sometimes be interlocked, as well. Although opinions differ, Olivewood is thought by many to be a very durable wood, although it can be susceptible to insect / bug infestation. The wood is considered to be a superb turner, and it generally works, glues and finishes well. Because the fruit of the Olive tree is olives, there is a limited supply of Olivewood that is made available to the US.

For wood craftsmen of all niches, Olivewood is highly desired for its often spectacular aesthetics; being known for its gorgeous, often-twisting grain patterns and dramatic figuring. Defects are not uncommon, and can often present some challenges when working, but hard work and perseverance can produce extraordinary results; there’s really no other wood quite like it.

Found in the Mediterranean Basin — from Portugal to the Levant, and the Arabian Peninsula — and Southern Asia, as far east as China, the Olive tree grows as a small evergreen tree or shrub. It is also known to grow in the Canary Islands, Mauritius and Reunion. The species is / has been cultivated in many places; it’s considered “naturalized” in the Mediterranean coast countries, as well as in Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Java (Indonesia), Norfolk Island, (the U.S. state) California, and Bermuda.

Its trunk is generally twisted and/or gnarled, making long, defected free boards quite rare. When found, they command a premium price.

Common Uses:
carving, furniture, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
olive-wild
Mahogany - Brazilian

Known in the US primarily as “Genuine Mahogany,” Swietenia Macrophylla, its scientific name, is what most in the exotic lumber industry consider to be the true species when referring to “Mahogany.” Historically, it has been a very economically important wood throughout the Latin America region. Its color can range from a pale pink to a light to medium reddish-brown, and it is renowned for its chatoyance. Grains vary; although generally straight, they can be interlocked, irregular or wavy, also. Its texture is fine and uniform, with a rich natural luster.

Lumber which originates from the wood’s indigenous natural regions is considered to be significantly more durable and stable than its plantation-grown counterparts.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, carving, furniture, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
mahogany-brazilian
Mahogany - Pod

Pod Mahogany is a light reddish-brown wood, indigenous to the southeastern region of Africa. (Sapwood is easily distinguishable, with its pale yellow coloration.) It is a very hard wood — considerably more dense, stable and durable than any other ‘mahogany substitute’ wood. More dense specimens have been used for a number of demanding outdoor applications in Africa, yet premium-grade pieces can hold their own, aesthetically, with the finest exotic woods in the world — often boasting a high degree of chatoyance, and a remarkably deep, 3D-like figure.

Common Uses:
construction, fencing, flooring, furniture, inlay, paneling, utility lumber
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Common Uses
mahogany-pod-chamfuta
Mahogany - Santos

Although not a true (Swietenia-genus) mahogany, Santos Mahogany exhibits a lot of the same aesthetic characteristics. The heartwood ranges from a muted yellow-orange to (more commonly) a deep red in color. Pieces which feature dramatic figuring and chatoyance, like its namesake, are not uncommon, either. Its visual similarities are where the comparisons end, as the wood is considerably heavier and generally around twice as dense and hard as a typical true mahogany species.

Its grains are typically interlocked (though sometimes straight), making it difficult to work. The wood has a high natural oil content, which can make it difficult to glue but gives it a beautiful luster and renders an excellent finish. Its texture is typically not as fine as mahogany, shading more towards the ‘medium’ portion of the scale.

Common Uses:
construction, flooring, furniture, veneer
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Common Uses
mahogany-santos
Sapele

Sapele is an economically-important wood to the continent of Africa, and one that continues to grow in popularity in other industries beyond veneer mills, here in the US. It is commonly used as a substitute for Genuine Mahogany — also belonging to the Meliaceae family — and it, too, is considered moderately durable and stable. Its color can range from a light golden brown to a darker reddish- or pinkish-brown. The color will darken as the wood ages. Sapale is renowned for its sometimes quite dramatic figuring, which comes in an array of different styles: ribbon, pommele, quilted, mottled, waterfall, wavy, beeswing, tiger-striped and fiddleback. It also possesses a beautiful natural luster.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, flooring, furniture, specialty items, turnings, utility lumber, veneer
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Common Uses
sapele
Makore

Makore is a beautiful African wood which is renowned for its great strength and durability, despite being of a moderate density. Its heartwood can range from pink to a light to medium reddish-brown, with its yellow sapwood be clearly discerible, when present. Figuring is not unusual, with striped, mottled and sometimes even beeswing being found in quartersawn boards. It is typically straight-grained and easy to work, although grain patterns can occasionally be wavy or interlocked. Although it can have a dulling effect on saw blades, its high silica content contributes to its fine natural luster and poses no real issues with gluing or finishing.

Common Uses:
boatbuilding, cabinetry, flooring, furniture, specialty items, turnings, utility lumber, veneer
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Common Uses
makore
Maple - Ambrosia

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 indigenous 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.

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.  Its 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 re-infest.

Common Uses:
crafting, furniture, lutherie, specialty items, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
maple-ambrosia
Maple - Birdseye

Birdseye Maple is another title which does not, necessarily, denote a specific Acer species — although the bulk of what is sold is Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) — but rather a unique figuring that occurs in maple as a result of numerous small- to medium-sized knots accumulating in the wood. It remains one of the most coveted and sought-after of all figured maple varieties.

Although it has never been scientifically proven, the prevailing school of thought is that the figuring is reportedly caused by unfavorable growing conditions. As the tree attempts to access more sunlight, buds begin to sprout in its trunk — to try and grow more branches, to access more light — but the tree lacks the requisite nutrients to support the growth and the new shoots are aborted, resulting in “birdseyes” (small knots) embedded in the tree’s wood.

There can be very large variances in birdseye size and content. Boards with larger concentrations of birdseyes are, obviously, more sought after and thus command greater prices than more sparsely decorated pieces. When sanded and finish-sanded, boards featuring somewhat larger birdseyes can have an almost 3D look — like brown bumps, sitting up on a light golden surface.

There have been tearout issues associated with birdseyes, as sometimes these tiny knots can wind up leaving tiny voids. There are also justified concerns that the tiny voids may occur sometime after the wood has been put into service. Because of this, some electric guitar luthiers shy away from using Birdseye Maple for fretboard wood, as slotting the frets can prove adventurous (if not downright painful:-)). Others, who do use it, will apply a finish coat of some type of protective lacquer over the fretboard when completing the neck.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, furniture, lutherie, specialty items, veneer
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Common Uses
maple-birdseye
Maple - Hard

Maple is the only American wood species harvested primarily for its sapwood, rather than heartwood. Since the beginning of mass commercial production of the electric guitar, in the early 1950’s, Hard Maple has remained a pivotal lumber in the industry. It comes in a variety of figures — including Birdseye and Tiger Maple figurings — and its soft pale white to pale yellow complexion is sometimes augmented by light blue, red or pinkish tints and highlights, with a marvelous luster and often a luxurious sheen.

Its excellent strength-to-weight ratio, handsome looks, easy workability and steady supply has cemented Maple as a part of both American industry and culture. Despite its ready availability, premium-grade boards always command high prices and remain in constant demand, worldwide.

Common Uses:
cabinetry, carving, flooring, furniture, turnings, veneer
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Common Uses
maple-hard
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