Blackheart Sassafras. Tonewood Profile

Atherosperma Moschatum | Tonewood Profile | “Blackheart Sassafras”

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Quick Facts
Scientific name: Atherosperma moschatum
Trade names: Blackheart Sassafras
Janka: 4.7 kN approx
Uses: Back and sides veneer
RIYL: Walnut/ Maple
Bling factor: Chatayonace and curl is common
Availability: Rare
CITES status: Not listed. No restrictions
Note: (RIYL) Recommended If You Like

Kinnaird Guitar
This beautifully made guitar by Stephen Kinnaird has a set figured Blackheart Sassafras back and sides.
Check out our interview with him here.

Natural History

Blackheart Sassafras is an evergreen tree native to Australia where it attains heights of 45 meters in the cool temperate, lower altitude rainforests of Tasmania and Victoria. Trunk diameters of 1 meter have been recorded.

Physical properties

The sapwood is white with a black boundary to the chocolate brown heartwood with pastel variegations. It is in high demand for cabinets, furniture, and crafts. The bark has been made into a beverage. The Janka of Blackheart Sassafrasis 4.7kN dry.

As a tonewood…

It is used for back an sides for guitars, where it’s light weight but soft texture allows it to compare to maple or walnut. However Stephen Kinnaird says: “It isn’t super hard. It’s tap is somewhat like expensive cardboard. It reminds me of some soft maple we once used on a successful guitar. That maple proved a lot to me–that a good guitar can be built with something other than rosewood–and I believe that this Sassafras will also be nice.

Subjective tone…

I would broadly characterise the tone of Blackheart Sassafras as falling between Walnut and Maple- it has more balance than Maple but less overtones than Walnut.


Good stocks of Blackheart Sassafras are limited.

Links/ References:
Rc tonewoods:

©Terence Tan.

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