Eucalyptus regnans| Tonewood Profile | “Mountain Ash”
[Ed.- read more about this and other Australian Tonewoods in Jack Spira’s fantastic article… coming soon!]
Mountain Ash is a tall evergreen tree native to parts of eastern Victoria and Tasmania, Australia. It attains heights of 120m and a base of up to 15m. In optimal conditions such as the wet mountainous areas it usually inhabits, growth can be more than a metre per annum and live up to 400 years.
Mountain Ash grows to large sizes and there are many named trees, each famous in it’s own right. As an indication of how large they grow to, Alexander Rule describes the felling of a tree in the Derwent Valley, Tasmania in 1942 wrote in his 1967 book “Forests of Australia”:
“It is recorded that two expert axemen, working on a platform 15 feet above the ground, took two and a half days to cut a scarf 6 feet deep into the mighty butt as a preliminary to sending the giant toppling to earth. The crash of its fall resounded for miles around and even hardened bushworkers are said to have downed tools in silent homage to the fallen monarch. Its age was put at 400 years and it was calculated that when Abel Tasman discovered the island in 1642 this tree was already a noble specimen of between 150 and 200 feet in height.”
The tree “yielded 6770 cubic feet of wood which was pulped into 75 tons of newsprint.”
Mountain Ash has been heavily logged and although very old and tall trees still exist, they only do so in isolated pockets. Some remain within the National Parks but others come under the management of state forestry. However, many older trees are hollow and hence only useful as woodchip which limits commericial value.
However, it exhibits quick regrowth and commericial plantations of younger trees, with their straight, solid trunks are proving profitable.
The timber is bone white and despite a coarse texture, is easy to work. It can exhibit a fiddleback figure.
Mountain Ash has a Janka rating of 1010 and a Specific Gravity around 1.1.
As a tonewood…
It’s use has been limited to the Australian builders but it makes a very fine neck and back & sides wood.
Jack Spira says:”Ash is beautiful wood to work with. Its very stable and very strong, as well as being quite lightweight. It’s the closest Australian native I’ve found that can be used in place of Honduran mahogany. I use it for necks often and have found it very reliable. I would use it for backs and sides much more often than I do, but its colour is not popular.”
Jack Spira again: “ I love the sound of it as back and sides. Its warm and clear at the same time. Not really the same sound as mahogany, but I think anyone who likes a mahogany Martin 000, would like the sound of Mountain Ash.”
I agree with Jack’s assessment, the tone is much like mahogany with greater clarity- something like a cross between Mahogany and Maple.”
It is in high demand for architectural and cabinetry but with commercial plantations, the limited luthier supplies look to be steady.
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