Wood -a living material

There are some expressions used to describe special grain alignments in wood. The grain in wood is something we often speak about in the luthier business. It can be a bit confusing, and one might think there is actually different spieces of wood. For example maple can be curly, birds-eye, quilted, spalted, flamed etc.

But it is still regular maple, depending on genetic heritage, environment, moisture, how it’s sawn and types of soil it has grown in has developed different kinds of grain. Below, the most common expressions that you will stumble on are explained.

Birds-eye

Is caused by conical indentations which extend from the surface of the bark towards the center of the tree. Once started, these fiber disturbances continue in successive growth layers for the life of the tree.

Spalted

This is produced by mold growth in live or cut wood, insect infestation, or various types of wood disease or rot. Sounds rather nasty but it is a feast for the eye!

Quilted

The quilted effect is due to a distortion of the grain pattern the lumber must be flat sawn to produce the quilted figure.

Curly / flames

Occurs when fiber cells grow in waves. It is caused by a genetic quirk which is passed on through several generations. It occurs most frequently in maple and birch, but can appear sporadically in many other woods as well.

Alder

Grown in most of Europe and Central America. Other names include verne and alnus. It´s a beautiful wood species that proves it self versatile in many applications. Alder has the look and feel of natural Cherry. It stains well almost any color but looks great without stain. It will not darken over the years as some woods tend to.

We mainly use Alder in:
Bodies

Ash

A hardwood Grown in most of Europe and Central America. Ash heartwood is a grayish-brown, sometimes with a red tinge. It is generally straight grained and coarse, but with a smooth texture.

We mainly use Ash in:
Bodies, Tops, Necks

Zebrawood

A hardwood Grown in Western Africa, mainly Cameroon and Gabon. It is also known as Zebrano, Zingana, Allene, Ele and Amouk. It´s appearance is moderately coarse texture, close defined grain. Yellow brown heartwood, light sapwood with a dark contrasting grain which gives this wood it´s Zebra-like appearance.

We mainly use Zebrawood in:
Bodies, Tops, Fretboards, Details

Purpleheart

A hardwood Grown in tropical regions of Central America and South America. It is also known as Violetwood, Amaranth, Armante or Tananeo. It´s appearance is a straight grain with a moderately coarse texture. Deep purple. Color changes to a rich brown as the wood matures.

We mainly use Purpleheart in:
Bodies, Tops, Fretboards, Details

Bubinga

A hardwood grown in Central America. Other names include african Rosewood, Essingang and Buvenga. It´s appearance includes a beautiful dense hardwood with a rose-colored background and darker purple striping. In the quarted figure, Bubinga exhibits considerable ”flame” figure and in flat sawn offers ”rosewood” graining.

We mainly use Bubinga in:
Bodies, Tops, Details, Necks

Ebony

A hardwood grown primarily in central to southern Africa. Other names include varieties from Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Kribi, Gaboon and Madagascar. It´s appearance is very fine texture with an indistinct grain and metallic luster. Uniformly black heartwood and yellowish white sapwood. Physical properties include very heavy, hard, strong. Also very stiff with hight shock and decay resistance.

We mainly use Ebony in:
Fretboards, Details

Mahogany

Honduras mahogany, True mahogany, Central American mahogany, South American mahogany and all of them are in use. The example above is a piece of Honduras. Strong, hard and stiff. Good dimensional stability, little warping, cracking or checking. The wood is very easy to work with and it also is easy to finish and takes an excellent polish.

We mainly use Mahogany in:
Bodies, Necks, Details and tone transfer

Pear

Pear (genus Pyrus) are fruit bearing trees with fine grained wood pink to yellow in tone. It is prized for woodwind instruments and its veneer is used for fine furniture. European Pear (Pyrus communils), shown in the image above, is a species of pear native to Europe and Asia.

We mainly use Pear in:
Tops, Bodies, Details

Cherry

Chery trees are found throughout North America, Europe and Asia. The wood varies from a yellowish pink when first cut to deep rich reddish brown, often getting darker and more rich as it ages.
It´s smooth texture and working properties make it a great wood to work with.

We mainly use Cherry in:
Bodies, Tops, Details

Jacaranda

A hardwood that is found throughout America, Austraila, the Caribbean and some part of Africa. It is also known as Genus. It is very hard dense and finishes extremly well.

We mainly use Jacaranda in:
Tops, Fretboards, Details

Wenge

A hardwood grown in tropical regions of Central America and South America. It is also known as Palisandre Du Congo, Dikela, Mibotu, Bokonge and Awong. This heavy, dense wood has a high bending strength and high resistance to shock loads with medium crushing strength and low stiffnes.

We mainly use Wenge in:
Bodies, Tops, Fretboards, Details, Necks

Maple

There is many types of maple. It is a very common wood in the luthier business. The wood is hard and heavy with good strength properties, in particular its high resistance to abrasion and wear. Hard maple dries slowly with hight shrinkage, susceptible to some movement in performance, can be stained to an outstanding finish and polishes well.

We mainly use Maple in:
Bodies, Tops, Necks, Fretboards