Spruce – Englemann
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.
Not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is reported by the IUCN as being “a species of least concern.”
Why We Love This Wood
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.
Spruce – Englemann
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$36.00 – $60.00
Gorgeous colors and grain patterns have resulted in the exploitation of this beautiful species for use in production of “Hongmu” furniture. It looks similar in appearance to Kiaat/Muninga, another member of the Pterocarpus genus. We only have a few hundred BF of this endangered species left and don’t expect to get any more when it runs out.
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This South American species is closely related to the domestic Osage Orange.
The lumber it yields is typically a bit cleaner with less defects.
It is pretty hard and dense making it tough on tools, but it turns and finishes well.
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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 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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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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