Monkeypod. Tonewood Profile

Samanea saman | Tonewood Profile | “Monkeypod”


Tonewoods Database
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Quick Facts
Scientific name: Samanea saman/ Albizia saman/ Pithcellobium saman
Trade names
: Monkeypod, Saman, Rain tree.
Janka: 850 approx
Uses: Back and sides, veneer
RIYL: Mahogany
Bling factor: Curly grain
Availability: Fair
CITES status: Not listed. No restrictions
Note: (RIYL) Recommended If You Like

Natural History

Monkeypod is a native to South America where it ranges from Mexico south to Brazil where it can attain heights of 30 metres. It has been widely introduced to Southeast Asia and the Pacific Island where it is sometimes considered an invasive species. Monkeypod has several scientific names used to describe the same species: Samanea saman/ Albizia saman/Pithecellobium saman

Monkeypod is a wide-canopied tree with crown diameters reaching 40 metres which endears it to city planners looking for shade trees. It gets the name Rain Tree from the folding of the leaves fold in rainy weather and in the evening. Monkeypod is often used for crafts and furniture in it’s native range.

 

Physical properties

Appearance: The heartwood of Monkeypod varies from golden to dark brown with dark streaks occasionally found. The sapwood is yellow-white and distinct from heartwood. Wild grain patterns and curl can be found in some logs. Wood vessel can contain shiny deposits. The heartwood has a naturally high lustre.

Working: The grain is straight, wavy or interlocked with a medium to fine texture and open pores. It has a natural luster but can shrink and warp when drying. Although eye irritation can occur with sawdust, Monkeypod tends not to have a specific smell. It is easy to plane, saw and glue.

Values: The Janka of Monkeypod is approximately 850 and a specific gravity of 0.5.

Durability: Monkeypod is reported to be resistant to termite attack and to wear. Drying should be done careful as it can warp and check.

 

As a tonewood.

It is used for tops, backs and sides for guitars, where it compares favourably to the mahogany.

Lone Wolf guitars says: “similar to Black Walnut in figure and character.”

Guy D’haenens says: “a woody, pulsing tone without losing the clear high frequencies.”.

 

Subjective tone…

I would broadly characterise the tone of Monkeypod as falling between Mahogany and Walnut- it has more clarity than Walnut but provides more fundamental than Mahogany.

 

Availability

Good stocks of Monkeypod are fair.

 

 

Links/ References:
Lone Wolf Guitars
Guy D’haenans

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Shedua. Tonewood Profile

Guibourtia ehie | Tonewood Profile | “Shedua”


Tonewoods Database

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Quick Facts
Scientific name: Guibourtia ehie
Trade names
: Shedua, Ovangkol, Amazique.
Janka: 710 approx
Uses: Back and sides, veneer
RIYL: Rosewoods
Bling factor: Variagation and curl
Availability: Rare
CITES status: Not listed. No restrictions
Note: (RIYL) Recommended If You Like

Natural History

Shedua is an evergeen tree native to tropical west Africa (Cameroon, Gabon) where it attains heights of up 30-45 meters. The trunk attains diameters of 90cm and has straight boles despite  heavy buttressed at the root. It is often found in small groups in closed rain forests. It is traditionally exploited for it’s gum which is also known as copal.


McNally Auditorium
(click for fullsize)
Cedar/ Shedua
Read more about Ciaran here.

Physical properties

General: Shedua is a durable wood which is resistent to insect attack.

Appearance: The timber varies from yellow-brown to chocolate-brown with dark striping with a white-yellow sapwood. It is can display variegated grain and curl but is known to stain if it contacts iron in moist conditions.

Working: Shedua is a fine textured wood with an interlocked grain and can take an excellent polish.

Values: The janka of Shedua is around 710 and it has a specific gravity of 0.85


As a tonewood…

It is used for back an sides for guitars, in particular by several higher-end factories like Lowden and Taylor where it has found favour for it’s affordability and tonal envelope which is said to lie between Koa and Rosewood. Ciaran McNally is a big fan saying:

The grain is interlocked, at least on this bees wing set, which makes it difficult to bend. It is also prone to tearing. But pleasant enough in the shop as it hasn’t got a particularly overpowering smell. No issues in jointing. I was also surprised at how quickly the grain the filled during the lacquer process. In fact it filled quicker than the rosewood bindings on the guitar

The guitar is very punchy, plenty of bass. Has unusually good definition in DADGAD.” Read more about Ciaran here


Subjective tone…

I would broadly characterise the tone of Sheuda as falling between Koa and Walnut- it has more clarity than Walnut but provides more fundamental than Koa.


Availability

Good stocks of Shedua are limited.



Links/ References:
Bourgeois Guitars http://www.pantheonguitars.com/
LMI http://lmii.com

©Terence Tan.

Pictures copyright individual holders.

Any infringement of copyright is entirely unintentional. Any copyright issues should be address to: writers@guitarbench.com. We will attempt to resolve these issues quickly.

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European Pearwood. Tonewood Database

Pyrus communis| Tonewood Profile | ”Pearwood”

 

Tonewoods Database

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European and Pacific Yew are very similar species, in terms of physical properties.

Quick Facts
Scientific name: Pyrus Communis
Trade names: Pearwood
Janka: approx 1,000 lbs-force
Uses: Back & sides, drop tops, veneer
RIYL: Maple, Walnut
Bling factor: Flamed figure available
Availability: Limited
CITES status: Not listed. No restrictions

 

Natural History

Pearwood is a cultivated species native to temperate Europe. It attains heights of 17m. It is highly prized for food but has been used for furniture and woodwind instruments.

Lowden 30th Anniversary
(click for fullsize)

Number 2 of 30
Read more about this guitar here.

Status

This species is cultivated as an ornamental but also for it’s fruit. Usually only old trees are harvested for timber hence the relative scarcity.

Physical properties

Pearwood is usually steamed as part of the drying process to bring out a red-pink hue, prevent twisting and also kill large wood borers which are common to this species. It takes an excellent finish and stain and plans and works easily.

It has a Janka rating of approximately 1,000 lbs-force and a specific gravity of 0.7. It can be stable and durable once steamed.

As a tonewood…

As a tonewood, Pearwood has been only infrequently used and predominantly by the European luthiers. In my experience it is easy to work with, although care needs to be taken when bending the sides especially in figured examples.

UK based luthier Adrian Lucas says “I have built a couple of guitars with pear wood. Like all fruitwoods it is tight grained and therefore works very evenly and doesn’t require pore filling. In Europe it is often sold as steamed pear. I think the steaming process is done to stabilise it but it has the side effect of turning it from a straw colour to a beautiful apricot colour. It bends easily.” (read more about Adrian Lucas here)

Subjective tone…

I have found it to have a tone between maple and mahogany with sweet overtones. Adrian Lucas finds it “gives a breezy open sound to a guitar and I found it particularly successful on a baritone where the bass was not overloaded.

Availability

limited. Most stocks come from Germany and Switzerland.

Tonewoods Database

References:
Wikipedia
Adrian Lucas www.lucasguitars.co.uk

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Wenge. Tonewood Profile.

Wenge | Tonewood Profile | “Millettia laurentii”


Tonewoods Database

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Quick Facts
Scientific name: Millettia laurentii

Trade names: Wenge, Awong, Congolese Rosewood
Janka: 1600 approx
Uses: Back and sides, veneer
RIYL: Rosewood
Bling factor: Straight Homogenous grain when quartersawn
Availability: Fair
CITES status: listed in Category EN A1cd in IUCN red list indicating endangered due to habitat destruction and over-exploitation.
Note: (RIYL) Recommended If You Like

Wenge set
(click for fullsize)
From RC tonewoods.
See more here

Natural History

Wenge is found in swampy areas in East Africa namely Cameroon and the Congo. It reaches heights of 20 metres and a trunk diameter of 1 metre with clear boles. It has been used traditionally for ceremonial masks and statues and is often mistaken and sold interchangeably with it’s close cousin, Panga Panga- Milletteia stuhlmannii. The main difference is that Panga Panga grows in open forests in Mozambique and Tanzania where as Wenge is found more commonly in swampy land in Cameroon and Congo.


Physical properties

General: Wenge is reported to be resistant to termite attack and has variable weight and strength. It is resistance to compression along the grain.

Appearance: The heartwood of Wenge is a dark chocolate brown with even black veins.

Working: The grain is straight and tight but coarse and with large pores. It has a blunting effect on tools and requires filler before finishing.

Values: The Janka of Wenge is approximate 1600 and the specific gravity is 0.7.

Wenge back and sides by Lewis Santer

As a tonewood…

It is used for back and sides for guitars, where it compares favourably to the true rosewoods.

Dana Bourgeois, in his excellent article, Tapping Tonewoods says: “Wenge, a dense, dark-colored African hardwood unrelated to the rosewoods, has tonal properties remarkably similar to those of Brazilian rosewood.” Reference: here

Lewis Santer is also a fan and says: “Wenge is a very evenly-spaced, tight-grained chocolate brown wood with a wonderful tap tone and very good stiffness.  It is (so far) easy to find guitar-sized pieces with ruler-straight grain.  It has a few issues for the luthier:
-It is brittle and crack prone
-It often has prominent white mineral deposits
-It is easy to give yourself a nasty splinter when handling raw pieces
-It is so porous that once plates are worked down to guitar thickness, water-thin liquids (like cyanoacrylate or water) poured on one face will exit on the other. In other words, great care has to be taken during pore filling prior to finishing.


Subjective tone…

I would broadly characterise the tone of Wenge as falling between Indian and Honduran Rosewood- it is more metallic and bell like than Indian but has better midrange than Honduran.


Availability

Stocks of Wenge are fair at present but expect shortages due to it’s IUCN listing.





Links/ References:
Protobase

Wikipedia
Dana Bourgeois
Woodworkers source

©Terence Tan.

Pictures copyright individual holders.

Any infringement of copyright is entirely unintentional. Any copyright issues should be address to: writers@guitarbench.com. We will attempt to resolve these issues quickly.

 

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Black Cherry. Tonewood Profile.

Prunnus Serotina | Tonewood Profile | “Black Cherry”


Tonewoods Database

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Please email with any corrections/ additional info
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Cherry actually can refer to several species of prunnus species with the most common in use for instruments being  Black Cheery or Prunus serotina

Quick Facts
Scientific name: Prunnus Serotina
Trade names: Cherry, Black Cherry, New England Mahogany.
Janka: 950 approx
Uses: Back and sides, veneer, necks
RIYL: Maples
Bling factor: Curl
Availability: Common
CITES status: Not listed. No restrictions
Note: (RIYL) Recommended If You Like

John Arnold Guitars
(click for fullsize)

Figured Cherry Back & Sides on a John Arnold Guitar

Natural History

Black Cherry attains heights of 30 metres and a trunk diameter of approximately 1 metre in it’s native range from Eastern North America to to Texas and central Florida.

It now considered an invasive specifies in Europe where it was widely introduced in the 20th century.

Today, it is largely used as a food tree as well as being processed into veneer and timber for the furniture trade. It is of course famous for it’s sweet fruit but also for the poisonous potential of it’s seeds. Like apricots, cyanide can be extracted from the seeds.


Physical properties

General: Black Cherry is widely considered the equal of mahogany in the USA. It is stiff ,strong and easy to work with a high natural heartwood resistance to rot.

Appearance: The heartwood varies from a red-brown to light red with flecks and gun pockets being common.It can display curly figure and is UV sensitive- changing to a reddish-brown mahogany tone. It has a rich and satin like luster.

Working: Black Cherry has a fine grain and a strong likeness to mahogany- it is sometimes referred to as New England Mahogany.

Values. The Janka of Black Cherry is approximately 950 and the specific gravity is 0.55.


As a tonewood…

It is used for back an sides for guitars, where it compares favourably to the true rosewoods.

Al Carruth is a fan and says: “I tend to think of cherry as in the ‘maple’ class of tonewoods; maybe a bit less ‘dry’ sounding. Most cherry is very close in density and hardness to soft maple, but some of it can be very hard. Often the hard stuff is what I call ‘enriched cherry’: it has buckshot in it. You don’t usually actually see the shot; that dissolves pretty rapidly in the acidity of the sap. What you do see is the tracks of the shot in the wood, and, quite often a lot of somewhat random figure.” Reference: here

Tim McKnight is also a fan and says: “Cherry has a wonderful aroma as it wafts around the shop as it is being worked. It will burn easily so you have to pay attention when thickness sanding or machining it with high speed cutting tools.

To my ear, the tone is both clean and articulate leaning toward maple with more sustain and clarity. Its not overly bright just crisp. IME it pairs well with warmer sounding soundboards like Sitka, Engelmann or Cedar. Its a highly under appreciated tone-wood for sure.



Subjective tone…

I would broadly characterise the tone of Cherry as falling between Maple and Mahogany- it has more distinct bass and more midrange than Maple but has better clarity and balance than Honduran.


Availability

Stocks of Cherry are good at the present time with good availability from sustainably managed sources.





Links/ References:
Rc tonewoods

UMGF
Wikipedia
John Arnold, Tim McKnight
Wood Workers Source

©Terence Tan.

Pictures copyright individual holders.

Any infringement of copyright is entirely unintentional. Any copyright issues should be address to: writers@guitarbench.com. We will attempt to resolve these issues quickly.

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