From Mahogany to Zebrawood: Understanding Exotic Guitar Wood Features

From Mahogany to Zebrawood: Understanding Exotic Guitar Wood Features

Exotic Guitar wood Features


Apple trees are hard to find in a size large enough to produce lumber because the trees are usually pruned to keep the fruit low to the ground. When an American orchard has passed maturity the trees are often bull dozed over and burned. The Europeans hate to waste anything and will take the log harvest to a local sawmill where they will be turned into a lumber that will delight users for generations.

  • Fruit tree wood with very fine texture
  • Boards normally only available short, narrow
  • Best used for smaller projects
  • Trees are slow growing and normally only cut when they’re no longer useful as a fruit tree
  • Most domestic Apple is of the European variety
  • Wood has beautiful creamy sap color with darker light brown heart color
  • Prized wood for whirlwind instruments


  • Domestic timber that has been widely used for almost all projects
  • Light colored like Maple with a coarse grain like Oak
  • Excellent wood for baseball bats


  • Usually used as a paint grade or secondary wood
  • Very common domestic timber
  • Occasionally highly figured material is found and is called “Flame Birch”
  • Tough to work, susceptible to chatter
  • Very brittle wood that tears out with dull tools


Butternut is one of North America’s most beautiful timbers. It is a golden brown member of the walnut family with a cathedral grain pattern that looks like waves breaking on a beach.   At one time it was considered “the poor man’s walnut”, butternut is now prized by many.

  • Once commonly found across the US, today it is blighting and can only be found in 10% of its former range
  • A very good carving wood because the grain can be carved from either direction
  • The color is much lighter than any other member of the walnut family

*** All walnut slabs and walnut lumber can only be sold kiln dried with the bark removed.  This applies to all members of the walnut family (Juglans) which include but are not limited to Black Walnut, Butternut, English Walnut, European Walnut, Claro Walnut and Persian Walnut


  • Domestic timber that best grows in the southern states
  • Shows reddish heart with white sap
  • The material is generally full of knots
  • As name suggests the wood has an aromatic smell, which makes it ideal for closets and blanket chests


  • Although Port Orford Cedar is not a true cedar it does possess a fantastic fragrant scent when sawn, a bit spicier but similar to the smell of Aromatic Cedar.
  • Port Orford Cedar is favored by the Japanese for its wonderful work ability.  It was and still is often used in their furniture and temples.
  • Perhaps its biggest claim to fame is its use in timber framing, held by some to be the best wood for the job.
  • Oregon Cedar is also frequently used in guitar building.  It finishes beautifully and produces a great sound.


Pennsylvania Cherry is considered to be one of the finest North American hardwoods.  Cherry wood has been traditionally used in fine furniture since the first American settlers.  The wood is prized for both beauty and work-ability.  The finished wood has a beautiful salmon pink to red color that with time only improves.

The Cherry tree is shade intolerant and is typically found on the outskirts of most forests.  Cherry tends to average 1 to 2 feet in diameter- However we have had and seen Cherry logs up to 4 feet in diameter.

It is generally affordable, beautiful and easy to work.  Cherry has a fine grain texture and the potential for beautiful figure.


American Chestnut comprised over 60% of the eastern hardwood forests when the first settlers arrived in North America.  Due to its wonderful stable disposition, chestnut was used for every utility purpose by the colonials.  At the turn of the 20th century American Chestnut came under distress from the chestnut blight and by 1920 almost all of the chestnut trees were dead.  Today the American Chestnut Society is doing wonderful work restoring the species by breeding blight resistant trees.

  • Most Chestnut lumber is reclaimed material – Cut from old timber beams.  These beams are de-nailed and resawn into boards for sale
  • This rustic look is very prized and widely used in old homes
  • Usually the more defects the better and is prized when full of worm holes
  • Has a coarse texture with a beautiful golden-brown color
  • Very stable, light weight wood


Hickory is an open grained hardwood that is often used for rustic applications.  The grain can range from a blond or cream to a lively reddish brown with streaks of purple.  Hickory trees tend to have full crowns with many twigs, as a result Hickory lumber often has defects such as ingrown bark, tight knots and bird peck.  There are several types of Hickory such as Shagbark hickory and Pecan.  The true Pecan has a tighter grain and more vivid colors.


Holly is one of the whitest of all woods.  Very popular for inlay work.  It shows very little grain.  Holly trees grow with so many branches that it is hard to get long clear cuttings.


Koa may be the most spectacular hardwood in the world!  I know of no other wood possessing the chatoyancy or range of colors of Koa.   The spirit of the volcano lives in this tree and radiates from the lumber.  The problem with Koa is that it only grows on one set of islands in the world, only well on one island and only at its best at higher elevations.  The wild cattle and pigs on the Big Island of Hawaii find immature Koa bark to be a delicacy and can strip an acre of these shoots in one night.  This keeps this once plentiful species from regenerating.  Very little Koa remains in agriculture zones in which harvesting is permitted.  Most of the remaining Koa is in the conservation zone where harvesting is usually prohibited.  When established, Koa grows rapidly enjoying the finest climate, rainfall and soil.  Hopefully more people will protect this species from invasive mammals and allow it to flourish again.  Koa can be found on the other Hawaiian Islands but those trees tend to lack the splendor of Koa growing on the Big Island.

  • Can be highly figured
  • Wide range of colors
  • Superior tonewood
  • Highest levels of chatoyancy
  • Species under distress by ranches
  • One of the finest and most expensive hardwood lumbers


Big Leaf Maple grows in the Pacific Northwest.  In this region it is fairly common, but figure mutations of curl, burl and quilt are quite rare.  Only one tree out of hundreds will be figured, but the figure is often exceptional.  My favorite is the quilt, then the burl.  Big Leaf Maple with curl is beautiful but not better than Tiger Soft Maple or Curly Hard Maple.  Quilted Maple is a world class figured hardwood with big bubbles of compression leaving one to wonder how figure such as this can come out of one tree.  It is treasured by musical instrument makers especially for solid body electric guitars and acoustic six strings.  The logs often have only small sections of figure and it takes an experienced sawyer to cut the log to reveal the figure.  This is referred to as “chasing the figure”.

  • Prized for fine veneers
  • Used for musical instruments
  • Can be quilted, burled and curly
  • Trees can grow quite large


There are many variations of Hard Maple including: plain, curly & birdseye.

  • Also known as “Sugar Maple”
  • Celebrated for producing maple syrup & beautiful fall foliage
  • Dense / fine textured wood

Birdseye Maple is Sugar Maple with a unique figure pattern giving it the appearance of eyes.  A board must be flat sawn to show this figure.  Veneers are rotary sliced.  Birdseye Maple is a very rare mutation of a common hardwood tree.  The top figure usually comes from the northern most range of the species.  Old sawyers tell me they find these trees on the north side of dense woodlots, areas that get very little sunlight.  If the woodlot is thinned the birdseye development diminishes.  This is one of the most exotic North American species.

  • Birdseye Maple is found on the dash boards of some of the world’s finest cars
  • Excellent for fine furniture
  • Often used for cue sticks
  • Makes a beautiful floor


Soft Maple is mainly used as a good secondary lumber, but it is starting to come into its own for fine furniture and architectural millwork.  It takes a stain well and can be finished to look a lot like Cherry.  Soft Maple can produce a strong tiger figure pattern.


Myrtle is a treasure from the coastal forests of the American Northwest.  It has a cream colored sapwood transitioning into heartwood that can range from tan to olive to gold, often with black streaks following the grain.  The most desired pieces can be covered with fiddleback and/or burl figure.  Also known as Oregon Myrtle, California Bay Laurel, and Pepperwood, it will freshen up your shop with its spicy aroma.


  • Industry standard for a utility hardwood wood floor
  • Used for informal furniture, entertainment centers, stair treads
  • One of the most common hardwoods in North America
  • The signature hardwood of the American suburban development


North American White Oak is one of the finest North American hardwood lumbers and also one of the most spectacular trees.  This is the tree that is the symbol for the State of Maryland and the lumber used for the hull of “Old Ironsides”, the frigate Constitution.  White Oak lumber is used for the finest whisky barrels.  There have been many styles of fine furniture based on White Oak wood including Craftsman style and Stickley.

  • Fine textured lumber
  • Beautiful quartersawn flake
  • Straw color


When the early colonists settled North America they were greeted by magnificent old growth Eastern White Pine. They put this peaceful fine textured soft wood with a pumpkin colored heart to use building fine furniture, flooring and architectural paneling. Today these works are treasured by antique collectors and homeowners. Although the new growth White Pine does not have the same fine texture and color, it is still a good soft wood and is used for unpainted furniture, flooring, paneling, and moldings.

  • Tight grained soft wood
  • Good for carving
  • Tight red knots
  • Good paint grade lumber


Heart Pine is the old growth Yellow Pine once common in the American South and Atlantic Coast regions.  These trees were very dense and high in resign content.  As a result, Heart Pine is very durable.  It is not uncommon to find boards with 15+ growth rings to the inch.  Many old factory buildings were built using Heart Pine because the trees grew quite large, were very straight and had long trunks.

  • Salvaged material
  • Beautiful patina
  • Gold to orange in color


  • One of the most used secondary woods for paint grade lumber, drawer sides and furniture backs
  • Fast growing hardwood
  • Trees often grow quite large
  • Quiet grain, easy to work


“Antique” siding collected from old barns & structures.  Material is typically Heart Pine however it can also be White OakAmerican Chestnut or even Hemlock.  Boards usually run about an inch thick with 10 to 12 foot lengths, and can include knots, checking, cracks, bug holes, nail holes and more.


Everyone should stand in an old growth Redwood forest at least once in his or her lifetime.  The sheer splendor will take your breath away and the surrounding air smells so organic that you can smell the life teaming in it.   Figured Redwood lumber can also take your breath away, especially Lace Burl, perfectly suited for fine furniture projects and musical instruments.  Plain Redwood is a good utility lumber for outdoor and construction projects.

  • Figured Redwood is used for fine veneers and lumber
  • Durable outdoors
  • Species threatened by over harvesting


Sassafras is a fragrant North American hardwood.  With open grain, soft texture and light brown color, it is sometimes used as a Chestnut substitute.

  • Excellent bending properties
  • Chestnut substitute


Sitka Spruce is the musical instrument industry’s standard for stringed instrument tops.


This is one of our locally grown North American species. In order to be stable the wood must be quartersawn.  Sycamore trees can grow to be one of the biggest domestic timbers in North America and are often left to grow to full maturity because the wood is very difficult to split for firewood and most sawmills don’t quarter saw.  Sycamore produces beautiful quartersawn lumber in a color range from light tan to an orange brown.

  • Beautiful underappreciated domestic timber
  • Good for high-end furniture and cabinetry
  • Has become more appreciated as a tonewood
  • Displays a lace pattern on the quarter


Black Walnut, also known as Walnut or American Walnut, is one of the finest North American lumber species.  Along with Mahogany and Cherry, Walnut set the standard for early American furniture.  The Walnut tree is hearty, shade tolerant, and can grow to be quite large both in width and in height.  Because it is one of the last trees to leaf and one of the first to drop its leaves, Black Walnuts are not great lawn trees.  They also give off an acidic residue that kills surrounding acid sensitive plants.  But as a lumber producer, Walnuts are superior to many other species.  The trunks grow straight and clear and yield a high percentage of FAS lumber.  The texture of Walnut lumber is peaceful, the grain can usually be worked from either direction, and it takes a rich finish.  Due to over harvesting the availability of high quality Walnut has diminished and the grading standards are more relaxed for this species.  A FAS board only has to be about 67% clear of defects while most species need to be 84% usable.
Most Walnut lumber is steamed right after it is sawn.  This darkens the sapwood by pulling the browns from the heartwood, basically homogenizing the color of the board.  We do not steam our Black Walnut, leaving all of the beautiful browns, golds and purples to tell their stories.

  • Treasured for both veneer and lumber
  • Hearty species
  • Oxidizes to a lighter color
  • Peaceful grain

*** All walnut slabs and walnut lumber can only be sold kiln dried with the bark removed.  This applies to all members of the walnut family (Juglans) which include but are not limited to Black Walnut, Butternut, English Walnut, European Walnut, Claro Walnut and Persian Walnut


Claro Walnut from the American Northwest can have some of the most spectacular figure of any member of the walnut family.  The trees grow rapidly in this favorable climate and it is not unusual to find a four foot diameter tree that is not even a hundred years old.  Claro Walnut is difficult to dry due to its water pockets but this doesn’t usually affect slab top tables.  With its tendency for rapid growth, Claro Walnut can have growth rings in excess of an inch.

*** All walnut slabs and walnut lumber can only be sold kiln dried with the bark removed.  This applies to all members of the walnut family (Juglans) which include but are not limited to Black Walnut, Butternut, English Walnut, European Walnut, Claro Walnut and Persian Walnut.


English Walnut is Juglans regia that grows wild in England and is cultivated in North America.  It is treasured for both veneers and lumber with some of the finest furniture of all time being constructed from this species.  English Walnut is often a little lighter in color than its European counterparts.

  • Gunstocks
  • Fine veneers and lumber

*** All walnut slabs and walnut lumber can only be sold kiln dried with the bark removed. This applies to all members of the walnut family (Juglans) which include but are not limited to Black Walnut, Butternut, English Walnut, European Walnut, Claro Walnut and Persian Walnut


Pacific Yew, Taxus brevifolia, is very similar in color to its relative English Yew, Taxus baccata.  The sapwood is a cream color while the heartwood is a combination of amber, purple, tan and gold.  It is used in cabinet making when an “elegant rustic look” is desired – elegant because of the way the colors radiate after finishing, rustic due to knots and bark pockets.  As one of the hardest softwoods, it is a prime wood for canoe paddles and archery supplies.  Be careful not to use it around food in that it can be quite toxic.


One of the most exotic burls of the world, used mostly for high-end veneers. This is the burl found on the dashboard of the Mercedes Mai Bock.   The color is usually somewhere in the reddish brown range but can swing into gold.  Amboyna burls are found on Narra and Paduak trees in South East Asia.  This treasure was once horded by Chinese Emperors and never permitted for commoners.

  • One of the most rare and expensive burls
  • Used for knife handles and reel seats



  • African timber widely seen in veneers especially with tiger stripe pattern
  • Beautiful consistent golden color
  • Nice option for somebody seeking a light colored exotic
  • Wood is dense and can be used for almost all projects
  • Material can be found in mostly clear widths
  • Blunts tools


Apple trees are hard to find in a size large enough to produce lumber because the trees are usually pruned to keep the fruit low to the ground. When an American orchard has passed maturity the trees are often bull dozed over and burned. The Europeans hate to waste anything and will take the log harvest to a local sawmill where they will be turned into a lumber that will delight users for generations.

  • Fruit tree wood with very fine texture
  • Boards normally only available short, narrow
  • Best used for smaller projects
  • Trees are slow growing and normally only cut when they’re no longer useful as a fruit tree
  • Most domestic Apple is of the European variety
  • Wood has beautiful creamy sap color with darker light brown heart color
  • Prized wood for whirlwind instruments


Tamo Ash, Fraxinus mandshurica, is one of the world’s rarest and most beautiful figured hardwoods.  The figure is very similar to Quilted Maple, often appearing to be spheres of Ash pressed together to make a solid piece.  It is mostly found in veneers because when identified in the log veneer dealers go into bidding wars to purchase it.  Hearne Hardwoods occasionally finds small lots of solids, but they sell quickly.

  • One of the most extraordinary and rare figure patterns found in any species
  • A member of the Oleaceae family


  • Rare burls from the goldfield regions of Australia
  • Slow grown dense fiber
  • Rich in color and eye
  • Prized for knife handles


  • Brown heart
  • From Belize
  • Nervous disposition
  • Has been tried as Mahogany substitute
  • Can be found highly figured
  • Best when quartered


  • Rarely found in dimensions larger than 3 or 4 inches wide and 2 feet long
  • Member of the acacia family
  • Grows very slowly due to the dry climate in which it lives.
  • Used for fret boards on musical instruments, inlaying and knife handles


  • Member of the rosewood family
  • One of the few members of the dalbergia family to be found in Africa
  • Used for oboes and clarinets
  • Often jet black


With koa getting harder and harder to find, Australian Blackwood is becoming a warranted substitute.

  • Member of the prized acacia family
  • Grows around the world but best known to grow in Tasmania
  • Very rich color with great variation from log to log
  • Very versatile wood for projects ranging from musical instruments to fine furniture
  • It can have very good figure ranging from birdseye to fiddleback curl
  • Figure appears best on the quarter and is widely used in musical instruments


Central West African wood, bright red in color that will oxidize over time to a reddish brown unless finished with a UV inhibitor.

  • Blunting of tools
  • Fine textured wood
  • Resistant to bugs


  • A wood with many of the properties of rosewood
  • Wood is very dense and durable
  • Comes in smaller boards that can be used for many applications including musical instruments
  • Chocolate brown with streaks of gold
  • The wood dries with very little movement


Bubinga is a gorgeous African hardwood.  Due to its fine, tight grain and its reddish brown color, Bubinga is often referred to as “African Rosewood”.  The trees can grow quite large and five foot diameter logs are not uncommon (making one piece table top slabs possible).

  • Used for fine furniture and musical instruments
  • Orange brown at first, oxidizing to a beautiful reddish brown
  • Hard durable wood


Spanish Cedar is a stable durable soft textured lumber from Central and South America.  It is used for both interior and exterior applications although with its mild texture it does not withstand abuse.  Spanish Cedar is used for classical guitars and cigar humidors.

  • Cigar humidor linings
  • Siding and shutters
  • Musical instruments


  • Also known as Poisonwood because of its acidic sap – The sap leaves a burning sensation on the skin
  • Wood has very rich brown color and can be mistaken as a member of the rosewood family
  • Material can be found with heavy figure
  • Gumba Limbe is the antidote for Poisonwood and can usually be found growing nearby


  • Member of the chestnut family
  • Good substitute for American Chestnut (grain & color are very similar)
  • Tree unaffected by the chestnut blight of North America
  • Usually only available in flitch cut material


  • One of the more readily available members of the rosewood family
  • Shows very vibrant oranges and reds when first cut – With time the color oxidizes to very rich dark color
  • Cocobolo is used for a variety of purposes, from musical instruments to fine furniture
  • Very dense, specific gravity over 1


Known in the European veneer world as “Lemon Wood”, East Indian Satinwood is one of the most exquisite lumbers in the world.  It has a beautiful golden color and very tight grain.  At its best there is a crystalline texture in the grain that looks like little sparkling diamonds.

  • East Indian Satinwood is one of the rarest woods
  • Golden color and tight grain


Gabon Ebony is the benchmark for black in lumber.  It has been treasured through the ages from statues found in Egyptian tombs to the fret boards on violins.  A very dense wood with specific gravity of 1.2, it is usually only available in widths less than 6” and lengths less than 48”.

  • Extremely dense, tight grained wood
  • Used extensively in musical instrument production
  • Excellent for carving
  • One of the purest black woods
  • Very expensive


An extremely hard wood.  One of the finest hardwoods in the world.  Brown with black stripes, it can be used wherever a dark refined look is desired.  It can be found on dash boards of classic cars and in the staterooms of yachts.  Macassar Ebony is one of the favorite species of the legendary furniture maker Sam Maloof.


Many English cabinetmakers consider Wych Elm to be the finest English hardwood.  Along with its mixtures of green, red, brown and gold, Wych Elm has a chatoyancy that is only surpassed by the finest Koa.  When Wych Elm is heavily burled few can argue its supremacy as one of the most sensational of all timbers.  These elms are under distress by the Dutch elm disease.

  • Superior hardwood lumber
  • Can be highly figured
  • Takes a mirror finish
  • Swirly / wavy grain
  • Can be difficult to dry
  • Prized veneer


Goncalo Alves is a dense, wildly colored tropical hardwood.  Also known as Tigerwood because it is commonly found with orange and black streaks.

  • Beware, some companies are marketing this product as Koa.


Granadillo is a beautiful, dense, fine textured, tropical hardwood from Central America.  The heartwood color is a dark reddish brown.  It is used for both veneers and lumber and can be figured.


  • True member of the acacia family
  • Very slow growing wood that is rarely found 8″ or wider
  • Rosewood like color
  • Similar chatoyancy properties as Koa
  • Can be found highly figured
  • Primarily used for musical instruments, knife and fishing rod handles


Iroko, also known as “African Teak”, is a dense African timber with the properties of genuine Teak.  It is lighter in color than Teak and finishes to a golden brown.  The tree can grow quite large, I have seen logs forty feet long and five feet in diameter.

  • Tan to golden brown
  • Very durable outdoors
  • Used in the boating industry
  • Blunts tools


Jarrah is from Australia and a member of the eucalyptus family.  It has red colored heart wood that is very dense and can be highly figured.


With heart wood color similar to black cherry, Jatoba is often marketed as “Brazilian Cherry”.  It is a very dense, oily lumber that is excellent for outdoor applications.  Finishing can be a problem- Jatoba exudes so much oil that nothing wants to stick to it!  Jatoba can also be used for interior furniture but there are other species that tool better and are easier to finish.  It does make superior flooring.


Kingwood is from Brazil and is a true rosewood.  One of the finest members of the dalbergia family, the heartwood is a mix of purple and rose with white sapwood.  Usually not found in wide or long material, it is best used for musical instruments parts, knife handles, cue sticks and inlays.

  • Dense wood, specific gravity is higher than 1.2
  • Extremely tight grain
  • Holds its color
  • Used for fine veneers


Leopardwood / Lacewood or Australian Silky Oak is actually a member of the sycamore family.  When quartered, Lacewood shows a beautiful medullary ray similar to the pattern on a Chinese rice bowl.

  • Needs to be quartered for stability and to show figure


African Mahogany is becoming more popular due to the large price increases in Genuine Mahogany.  It has a very similar color and graining, but it is not as stable.  The trees can grow to be quite large, so it is possible to find wide, long, clear boards.  From a sustainability standpoint, African Mahogany grows in rich ground that is not nearly as delicate as the Amazon basin.


By whatever name Mahogany is known by, whether it is Genuine Mahogany, Honduras Mahogany, South American Mahogany, Peruvian Mahogany, etc, this species is probably the single most respected, all time favorite, furniture wood.  Mahogany is the benchmark for stability, contains a good level of chatoyancy, has a rich consistent color, and finishes beautifully.  Unfortunately this resource is also one of the most abused.  For years, Mahogany trees have been harvested in a completely unregulated environment, under valued to the point where it was widely used as a paint grade molding instead of being saved for fine furniture and musical instruments.  With proper management this species could have been used for generations, instead of being responsible for the deforestation of the Amazon basin.

  • One of the finest hardwoods
  • Can be highly figured
  • Consistent red color
  • Benchmark for stability
  • Abused resource


We call it “Sinker Belizean Mahogany”.  The wood is Genuine Mahogany, Swietenia macrophylla, from Belize, basically the same texture and color as the sought after Honduras Mahogany, but it is unique because it has been submerged in the rivers of Belize for 75 to 150 years!

In the early colonial days as Central America was being explored and settled by the Europeans (the indigenous people would say invaded and occupied) one of the first resources to be exported was the timber. By the early 18th century the old growth forests in Europe had been cut over. Adventurous entrepreneurs saw Europe as an ideal market for the importation of the old growth hardwoods of Central America. They braved the harsh environments of jungles, snakes, crocodiles and insects to harvest the timber and export it back to Europe.

The first species to be exploited was Logwood, prized by dye makers for its’ brilliant red color. The second most highly desired species was Mahogany. There were no roads in the jungles so the rivers were the highways. Logging crews would work year round felling the trees and dragging the logs into the rivers. The water preserved the wood from the sun, air, and insects in the dry season when the rivers were too low to float the logs to the mouths of the rivers. When the rains came the logs would be lashed into large rafts, floated downriver, loaded onto ships, and delivered to the European sawmills. BUT…not all of the logs made their way to river’s end. Some of the logs got water logged and sank to the bottom of the river in the holding areas while others got tangled in the brush and roots along the riverbanks and sank. Some people estimate that 30% of the logs never completed the journey. In Belize, which was British Honduras until its’ independence, the logging companies kept copious records of the upstream harvests and the arrivals at rivers’ ends. A lot of timber disappeared.

This would have been the end of the story if there were an endless supply of virgin timber in the world. As it happened, the majority of the easily harvested timber was rapidly exploited. What is left is a hardwood market highly regulated for sustainability. Following the lead of underwater adventurers around the world, crews started exploring and harvesting the river bottoms of Belize. At first Sinker Mahogany was used as a substitute for new Mahogany. It was soon discovered to be an exceptional tonewood. It seems that all those years “curing” at the bottom of crocodile infested rivers changes the structure of the wood to produce amazing voices in acoustic guitars. Furniture makers also prize Sinker Mahogany for the rich colors.

There is a limited supply of this resource so enjoy it while you can!

  • Amazing color
  • Develops a patina unseen in freshly cut mahogany
  • Excellent tonewood


  • Often marketed as “African Cherry” due to the similarities in color and grain to Black Cherry
  • Very dense, fine textured hardwood


  • From Scandinavia
  • Figure similar to birdseye maple
  • Can be highly spalted
  • Highly prized for veneer and wood turning


Monkey Pod is a tropical hardwood found in Central America and the Pacific regions.  As hardwoods go, it is low to medium density.  From Central America it tends to be a golden color, but from Hawaii it can have beautiful streaks of reds and browns.


English Brown Oak is actually English White Oak that has been killed by mushrooms growing on it.  The mushroom produces an acid that colors the heartwood brown but in the process breaks down the cell structure and kills the tree.  This is the color that Stickley tried to achieve by fuming American White Oak but real Brown Oak cannot be counterfeited.

  • Rich colors from milk chocolate to dark brown
  • One of the finest architectural millwork timbers
  • Often quartersawn to show off its beautiful flake
  • Surface checking is common especially in the darker colors


English Oak is a White Oak- usually Quercous robur but sometimes Quercous petraea.  The lumber has light heartwood similar to old growth American White Oak.

  • Burr Oak is English White Oak that has been “taken over” by burls (the burls give the wood a wonderful marbled appearance)
  • Prized for fine furniture and veneers
  • Most logs have extensive history and have been harvested from old estates in England or Scotland
  • See also English Brown Oak for more information


The finest “French Oak” actually comes from the Spessart forest in Germany, a forest that has been carefully managed for three hundred years and should be used as the model for worldwide sustainable hardwood management.  This is a forest in which trees will only be harvested when they are fully mature, a process for White Oak that takes two to three hundred years.  The harvesting is done very carefully to be unobtrusive to recreational users of this resource.  At the annual Spessart log auction the bidders represent the top veneer, wine barrel makers and lumber companies in Europe – they compete for this limited outstanding product.

  • The finest textured White Oak
  • Golden brown color, very close to old growth North American White Oak
  • Used for fine veneers and the best wine barrels


The tallest known flowering tree in the world, Tasmanian Oak grows in well- drained, high rainfall areas of Tasmania and Victoria, Australia.  It is an evergreen tree that grows very quickly.  Often referred to as Swamp Gum or Stringy Gum, it is a member of the eucalyptus family.

Highly regarded for its long, clear, straight sections free from knots, builders and furniture makers alike use this material for everything from paneling to steam-bending.  It is also becoming more and more popular for flooring due to its lovely golden blonde heartwood.  Gum veins are common, adding to the uniqueness of this material!


Italian Olive, also known has Mediterranean Olive, is a dense, oily, beautiful golden brown lumber with brown / black streaks running through it.  These trees are usually only harvested when they are too old to produce olives or are damaged by disease or nature.  Trees are usually pruned to keep the olives close to the ground so long lengths in olive are uncommon.  Olive can be found with tiger striping and or burl.  We have had planks three feet wide and twelve feet long from three hundred year old trees.

  • Dense oily wood, excellent for kitchen utensils
  • Usually found in short lengths
  • Used for knife handles
  • Olive can be beautifully figured
  • Difficult wood to dry due to oily characteristics and density


  • Reddish orange heartwood color
  • Oxidizes to a reddish brown color
  • Very dense


European Pear wood also known as Swiss Pear, Allisee, Ellesbeer etc. is one of the finest continental hardwoods.  The finest quality Pear veneer comes from the sorbus tree, one of the only trees to have three heart color rings.  Swiss Pear is a lumber that gets richer as it oxidizes.  It is used for flutes and has also been used by luthiers for violin construction.  The wood is usually steamed to even out the color to a uniform fawn or pink.

  • Used for fine veneers
  • Produced from the fruit pear and sorbus trees
  • Used for musical instruments
  • Fine texture


European Pine is also known as Scottish Pine, English Pine, Austrian Pine, etc. the species is Pinus sylvestris.


  • Dense, tight grained, pink colored wood
  • One of the most expensive of all woods
  • Often sold by the pound or kilo


This wood is just wonderful with its wide range of color; varying from brown, to yellow, to pink, and even purple!

Often referred to as simply “Plum Wood”, this timber shares the same genus with many other fruit and nut trees.  It is more like its cousins, peach and almond, than cherry, in its growth habit, trees are often small or even “shrubby”.  Some European Plum trees bear thorns and all produce white flowers in the spring.


  • Purpleheart is aptly named for the deep purple color of its heartwood
  • Tree grows in abundance in South America
  • Very durable outdoors
  • Purple color oxidizes to brown


Redheart is a dense, fine textured hardwood from Central America with a beautiful red heartwood color.  As with many red colored woods, such as Padauk and Bloodwood, Redheart will oxidize to a brown color if not protected by a UV blocking finish.  Redheart is a difficult lumber to dry, but when cured properly, it makes beautiful furniture.


  • Fine textured hardwood from Tasmania
  • Very diverse timber that can be used for just about anything
  • Can be found highly figured or burly
  • At its best it can be a world class timber


Hybrid Rosewood from Belize.  Found during a hurricane salvage job.  Very rare!


Morado, also known as Santos Rosewood and Bolivian Rosewood, is a fine textured dark colored hardwood.  When finished it resembles East Indian Rosewood, although Morado has a greater color range.  It is very popular in both veneer and lumber, for fine furniture and architectural millwork.


Brazilian Rosewood is the most revered lumber of all time.  Due to uncontrolled harvesting, the tree is now protected by the Cites Treaty and can not be internationally traded.  The heartwood is orange brown and it holds onto its color as it oxidizes.  This is the species used on the finest Steinway pianos, Martin guitars and Bentleys prior to the Cites ban.  If you are fortunate to find some pre-ban stock you will probably be shocked by the price and underwhelmed by the available board quality, these boards would have been sorted hundreds of times over the last forty years by those wanting to make that special guitar or piece of heirloom furniture.  The quest for the Holy Grail of lumber continues…

  • Most highly prized lumber
  • Protected by the Cites III Treaty
  • Finest tonewood
  • Treasured for veneer


East Indian Rosewood is a true rosewood and on everyone’s short list of the world’s most beautiful lumbers.  Prized for both veneers and hardwoods this species is found in many Asian antiques.  It has a very fine texture and brown to purple heartwood.  As with other members of the dalbergia family, East Indian Rosewood is very dense and will yield a soft satin finish.


  • True member of the rosewood family (Dalbergia stevensonii)
  • Very dense
  • Primarily used for musical instruments including guitars and piano keys
  • One of the more widely available members of the rosewood family
  • Most boards are short and narrow


There are actually several members of the Dalbergia (rosewood) family growing in Nicaragua, each beautiful in its own way. The most prevalent is Dalbergia tucurensis. Tucurensis can vary in character from different regions, soil types, and elevations of growth. We often find it in coffee farms shading the coffee bushes. The species can come in purple, golden brown, and pinkish brown even though the trees have identical leaves and bark. We have even witnessed a split tree where one half of the crown was purple and the other half golden brown. With a specific gravity of between .8 and .9, it is similar to Brazilian Rosewood in workability producing pieces with beautiful luster. As such it can be used in high-end luthiery. The same species grows throughout Central America.


Once considered a more refined member of the mahogany family, Sapele is now being used as the industry standard for doors, windows and moldings due to the restrictions on South American Mahogany.  It has a peaceful nature and a medium texture.  It is used for both veneers and lumber and is highly prized when figured.  Sapele is now also being used as a tonewood.  The trees can grow huge, 4’ diameter logs are not uncommon.

  • Used for both veneers and lumber
  • Tonewood
  • Needs to be carefully monitored to insure it is not over harvested


Shedua has many names with the most popular being Shedua, Ovangkol, Mozambique and African Walnut.  It is a superior hardwood lumber from Central West Africa, with a lively brown heartwood color and is very dense.  The trees are not as large as other species from this region – a three foot diameter log is rare.

  • Fine veneers and lumber
  • Musical instruments
  • Fine furniture


Sheoak from Australia is one of the rarest and most spectacular woods in the world.  It has a dark red to orange-purple heartwood and can be highly figured.  Sheoak is hard to find in sizable boards so it is best suited for smaller projects.  Firelaced Sheoak looks like an explosion of splendor, with layers of figure and colors swirling, trying to escape.  This figure pattern is very rare and prized for the highest end applications.

  • Very rare and expensive
  • World class exotic


Snakewood (or Letterwood) is one of the most exotic woods in the world.   Named for the pattern found on the face of the boards, Snakewood has one of the most unique figure patterns.

  • Used for violin bows
  • Very dense
  • One of the most expensive lumbers, often sold by the pound or kilo


Alpine Red Spruce is the superior tonewood for stringed instrument tops and sound boards.  Slow grown and fine textured, this Spruce has the strongest structure of any Spruce.  These are also the characteristics of superior braces.


English Sycamore is a member of the maple family and is found throughout Europe.  This is the lumber that is used for violins, cellos, basses, and violas.  It is often quartered, a requirement for musical instruments.  English Sycamore is used extensively for architectural millwork projects calling for a very white colored lumber.  It can be highly figured with curl or what the British like to call ripple.

  • Often found with curl figure (ripple)
  • Larger logs usually quartered
  • Highly prized for veneers
  • Superior tonewood for classical instruments
  • Good substitute where thicker / wide white material is needed
  • Logs yield more sap wood


Teak is the industry standard for the marine boat building industry.  With its legendary durability and beautiful grain, teak is the lumber of choice for sail boats and yachts.  It has also been used in the automobile industry on the dash boards of classic Mercedes Benz S series cars.  Teak is still harvested in some parts of the world with the help of elephants.

  • Used for fine veneers
  • Prized for marine use
  • Durable for outdoor use
  • Blunts tools due to silicates in the fiber


  • Member of the rosewood family
  • Holds its color well
  • Fine texture
  • Pink heartwood
  • Very dense


Umthunzi wood is pinkish red, close-grained, dense but elastic.  The wood is easy to work with and finishes satiny smooth.  It can posse a fiddle pattern, which adds to its beauty when used for furniture or turning.  It is durable when exposed to water and therefore suitable for boat building, fish traps and outdoor furniture.  The wood is also used for various household utensils and ornaments.

In Africa, the bark and roots have significant medicinal value and are used to cure broken bones, treat fevers, dispel bad dreams, and to treat gall sickness in livestock.  Primarily growing on the sand, it is easily blown over, where it touches the ground it roots to form new trees…hence the name “Walking Tree”.


Circassian Walnut is Juglans regia from the old Russian Muslim Republics.  It is world renown as the bench mark for gunstocks with its beautiful colors and graining.  Circassian Walnut grows very slowly and often has more heartwood and a finer texture than other members of this species.

*** All walnut slabs and walnut lumber can only be sold kiln dried with the bark removed. This applies to all members of the walnut family (Juglans) which include but are not limited to Black Walnut, Butternut, English Walnut, European Walnut, Claro Walnut and Persian Walnut


French Walnut is the name under which most European Walnut is marketed.  Other European Walnut is sold as Italian Walnut, Persian Walnut, German Walnut etc.  The species is Juglans regia, or Royal Walnut, and is one of the most admired hardwoods of all time.  Many of the finest antiques were made from French Walnut.  The heartwood color ranges from medium brown, to tan, to orange and can contain black spider web streaks or vein noir.  French Walnut can also be highly figured and have beautiful curl and crotch figure.  Most French Walnut is steamed to match its counterpart in veneer.

  • Fine veneer
  • Gunstocks
  • Architectural millwork
  • Fine furniture

*** All walnut slabs and walnut lumber can only be sold kiln dried with the bark removed. This applies to all members of the walnut family (Juglans) which include but are not limited to Black Walnut, Butternut, English Walnut, European Walnut, Claro Walnut and Persian Walnut


Wandoo, a native species to Western Australia, is most commonly found growing in shallow valleys or on low ridges.  Sometimes referred to as “White Gum”, it is a member of the eucalyptus family.

A very dense wood, Wandoo needs to be dried carefully to avoid checking and end splits.  The heartwood color is gold to reddish brown and sap is usually minimal.  It is most commonly used for furniture and flooring.

Another fascinating characteristic of Wandoo is its “wild natural edge”- it looks as if it is from a different world.


Wenge is a very dense, medium textured, dark hardwood from Central West Africa.  It is often used a substitute for Ebony when a job is constrained by budget.


  • South American Satinwood
  • Yellow colored heartwood


English Yew Tree may be the most elegant softwood.  Displaying an array of colors from amber to pink, Yew Tree’s tones continue to develop as they age, getting richer and richer.  Yew Tree at its best, can be found with pip or eye.

  • Rustic elegance
  • Beautiful pip figure
  • Can have deep amber and/or pink heartwood
  • Traditional wood for the English long bow


Zebrawood, or Zebrano as it is known in Europe, is named after its charismatic dark and light striping.  It is at its best when quartersawn because it has a nervous disposition.


Ziricote has about the closest grain resemblance to Brazilian Rosewood of any lumber, although the color is darker and lacking the reds and oranges.  It is a superior furniture and musical instrument lumber.  With its very fine texture and high density, Ziricote will take a satin finish with just sanding.  The grain carves beautifully and is often used for sculptures.  Ziricote is very rare and expensive.

  • Superior exotic hardwood
  • Extremely fine texture
  • Used for acoustic guitars
  • Best for smaller projects because of size limitations and weight


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