Substitutes for rosewoods

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
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Steve Toscano
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Re: Substitutes for rosewoods

Post by Steve Toscano » Thu Sep 28, 2017 10:45 am

For fretboards and bridges a local Australian timber - Queensland Walnut is a great substitute.
For back and sides can't go past Tasmanian Blackwood

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James Lister
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Re: Substitutes for rosewoods

Post by James Lister » Thu Sep 28, 2017 10:56 am

Paul Micheletti wrote:
Wed Sep 27, 2017 5:39 pm
Hi James, I picked up a couple of Rocklite fingerboard blanks from the LMI booth at GAL this year. It has a nice ringtone and a good wood feel. But would it be possible to sell a classical guitar with a wood composite fingerboard? I have doubts of my salesmanship to cross that hurdle if it becomes a sticking point. The sad part is that Rocklite is even MORE expensive that Ebony. I do hope the price drops as it gains popularity.
So far I have only sold one, but I don't think it is a major problem. My approach so far has been to let a customer play a guitar without telling them that the fingerboard is not ebony. I haven't yet had any player identify the alternative fingerboard material, so they don't seem worried about it when you tell them. Of course there will always be some that will insist on ebony, but then they are also likely to insist on rosewood back and sides.

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

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James Lister
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Re: Substitutes for rosewoods

Post by James Lister » Thu Sep 28, 2017 11:03 am

mqbernardo wrote:
Wed Sep 27, 2017 11:05 pm
James Lister wrote:
Wed Sep 27, 2017 3:59 pm
I used walnut for bridges on my first non-tropical guitars, but they were a bit too light, and although there was no obvious loss of sustain, I was concerned enough to look for alternatives. I now use either laburnum, which has a similar density to Indian rosewood
what about laburnum for the fingerboard? i have a few blanks i intend to use. i realise its not a big tree so probably not a reliable source of fretboard material but its darker than most european woods and seems to be hard enough. do you notice any adverse effects when you work it?
I know a few makers (and students) that have used laburnum for fingerboards, and I'm sure it's fine, but as you say, it's difficult to get large boards, and customers are a bit wary of it (just because it isn't black I think), and I haven't seen much with really straight grain over the size of a fingerboard, so it's more difficult to plane perfectly flat.

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

Alan Carruth
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Re: Substitutes for rosewoods

Post by Alan Carruth » Thu Sep 28, 2017 5:30 pm

iim7V7IM7:
All of those are tropical woods, and there are dozens of tropical woods that would make good fingerboards, it seems. As lux wrote:
"Almost any of the likely tropical substitutes for rosewoods will provide at most another decade or so of supply before they, too, become overharvested and restricted. " I'd like to get off the treadmill.

I have used black dyed Persimmon for fingerboards with good results so far. The supplier who has been developing the process has run into some problems with penetration, but the bigger issue in his mind seems to be that they end up costing about the same as Indian ebony. I'd as soon pay for a 'local' wood but at the moment he's not making them. I believe the process is based on the old ferric acetate and tannin recipe that has worked for luthiers for centuries.

When I can't get black dyed wood I surface stain with a tea made from black walnut hulls. The 'juglone' dyestuff is present throughout the tree, but particularly abundant in the corky hull around the actual shell of the nut. A wood such as maple can be dyed to a very convincing walnut color with a few applications of a strong infusion. The problem is that it doesn't penetrate to any depth, and wears off after a time. Still, it helps to disguise dirt on the fingerboard. I've used it a lot on persimmon, and a few times on American hornbeam, where it brings out the naturally wild interlocked grain pattern of the wood. I got a lot of compliments on the dyed hornbeam bridge of the classical guitar I made for the 'Cherry Seven' project at the Montreal Festival a few years ago.

RedCliff
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Re: Substitutes for rosewoods

Post by RedCliff » Thu Sep 28, 2017 9:06 pm

I suspect the probable likely answer to the question about fret boards and bridges is that at some point in the not too distant future the best materials for fret boards and bridges will not be made of wood at all, but some form of resin/carbon/phenolic type substance. Isn't Smallman using something like that already?

There will always be wood for tops I think (although lower grade than in the past). Back and sides too if you don't mind thinks not looking like rosewood.
Giles Ratcliffe
Sheffield
England

iim7V7IM7
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Re: Substitutes for rosewoods

Post by iim7V7IM7 » Thu Sep 28, 2017 9:49 pm

Alan Carruth wrote:
Thu Sep 28, 2017 5:30 pm
iim7V7IM7:
All of those are tropical woods, and there are dozens of tropical woods that would make good fingerboards, it seems. As lux wrote:
"Almost any of the likely tropical substitutes for rosewoods will provide at most another decade or so of supply before they, too, become overharvested and restricted. " I'd like to get off the treadmill.

I have used black dyed Persimmon for fingerboards with good results so far. The supplier who has been developing the process has run into some problems with penetration, but the bigger issue in his mind seems to be that they end up costing about the same as Indian ebony. I'd as soon pay for a 'local' wood but at the moment he's not making them. I believe the process is based on the old ferric acetate and tannin recipe that has worked for luthiers for centuries.

When I can't get black dyed wood I surface stain with a tea made from black walnut hulls. The 'juglone' dyestuff is present throughout the tree, but particularly abundant in the corky hull around the actual shell of the nut. A wood such as maple can be dyed to a very convincing walnut color with a few applications of a strong infusion. The problem is that it doesn't penetrate to any depth, and wears off after a time. Still, it helps to disguise dirt on the fingerboard. I've used it a lot on persimmon, and a few times on American hornbeam, where it brings out the naturally wild interlocked grain pattern of the wood. I got a lot of compliments on the dyed hornbeam bridge of the classical guitar I made for the 'Cherry Seven' project at the Montreal Festival a few years ago.
Al, I honestly had not read the entire thread before responding. I know that they were tropical. In terms of NA domestic woods there certainly are a bunch as well partularly if you can dye or fume them.

---Name(s)---------------Density (lb ft/^3)-----Hardness (lbf)-----Stiffness (lbf/in^2)---
---Texas Ebony------------------60-----------------2,820------------2,398,000---
---Olive--------------------------62------------------2,700------------2,577,000---
---Osage Orange----------------54------------------2,620------------1,689,000---
---Persimmon-------------------52-------------------2,300------------2,010,000---
---Shagbark Hickory-------------50-------------------1,880------------2,160,000---

I will make sure to stop by and say hi at Baker's show next month (we actually have met before...:))
2015 - John Buscarino, 650 mm, Carpathian Spruce/Honduran Rosewood
2014 - Peter Oberg, 640 mm, Western Red Cedar/Black Cherry

mqbernardo
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Re: Substitutes for rosewoods

Post by mqbernardo » Thu Sep 28, 2017 10:48 pm

Alan Carruth wrote:
Thu Sep 28, 2017 5:30 pm
iim7V7IM7:
All of those are tropical woods, and there are dozens of tropical woods that would make good fingerboards, it seems. As lux wrote:
"Almost any of the likely tropical substitutes for rosewoods will provide at most another decade or so of supply before they, too, become overharvested and restricted. " I'd like to get off the treadmill.
but wouldn't´t the same happen with temperate hardwoods?

lux
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Re: Substitutes for rosewoods

Post by lux » Thu Sep 28, 2017 11:47 pm

mqbernardo wrote:
Thu Sep 28, 2017 10:48 pm
Alan Carruth wrote:
Thu Sep 28, 2017 5:30 pm
iim7V7IM7:
All of those are tropical woods, and there are dozens of tropical woods that would make good fingerboards, it seems. As lux wrote:
"Almost any of the likely tropical substitutes for rosewoods will provide at most another decade or so of supply before they, too, become overharvested and restricted. " I'd like to get off the treadmill.
but wouldn't´t the same happen with temperate hardwoods?
Perhaps, but I think that there are more protections in place, and some economic factors that inhibit overexploitation. It isn't necessarily the musical instrument industry that is threatening endangered hardwoods the most. The Chinese demand for fine furniture seems to be the primary driver of major market demand for rosewoods, ebonies and bubingas, for example. We can still get tropical hardwoods only because the original source sellers are getting pennies on the retail dollar for their wood. 90% of what we pay is shipping and distribution costs. Temperate hardwoods are going to cost a lot more just getting them through the felling and milling stage. Pretty soon, I imagine, all instrument wood will have to be FSC certified to be legally salable as a finished guitar.

Brian M
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Re: Substitutes for rosewoods

Post by Brian M » Fri Sep 29, 2017 12:00 am

Alan Carruth wrote:
Thu Sep 28, 2017 5:30 pm
I got a lot of compliments on the dyed hornbeam bridge of the classical guitar I made for the 'Cherry Seven' project at the Montreal Festival a few years ago.
Are there any photos online of that dyed hornbeam bridge? A casual walk around my local woods reveals hornbeam to be quite common, though mostly in very small sizes -- still, in five minutes of walking around I found at least two of them in more than bridge size.

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KenO
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Re: Substitutes for rosewoods

Post by KenO » Fri Sep 29, 2017 12:50 am

Hope you don't mind my posting here. I recently found ovangkol to be a great substitute for rosewood back and sides. The yellow coloring might be a turn-off for some. Pretty sure it's not listed on CITES. Made a classical bridge from Sakura and a steel string bridge from carbon fiber before...those worked pretty well. Sakura Would probably work as a fret board too, but color would definitely be an issue. Years ago, Japanese guitar makers used Japanese Birch for bridges on their cheaper instruments (they aren't considered "cheap" anymore!); however, color could be an issue here as well.
Last edited by KenO on Fri Sep 29, 2017 1:14 am, edited 3 times in total.
'06 Asturias Prelude S; '02 Yamaha CG101; '68 S. Nogami Concert Tenor; '67 Hashimoto No. 232

lux
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Re: Substitutes for rosewoods

Post by lux » Fri Sep 29, 2017 1:06 am

.

printer2
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Re: Substitutes for rosewoods

Post by printer2 » Fri Sep 29, 2017 10:28 pm

Brian M wrote:
Fri Sep 29, 2017 12:00 am
Alan Carruth wrote:
Thu Sep 28, 2017 5:30 pm
I got a lot of compliments on the dyed hornbeam bridge of the classical guitar I made for the 'Cherry Seven' project at the Montreal Festival a few years ago.
Are there any photos online of that dyed hornbeam bridge? A casual walk around my local woods reveals hornbeam to be quite common, though mostly in very small sizes -- still, in five minutes of walking around I found at least two of them in more than bridge size.
Wait for a moonless night.
Fred

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Gorn
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Re: Substitutes for rosewoods

Post by Gorn » Sat Sep 30, 2017 9:10 am

Hanika is very engaged in finding alternatives and is now presenting a "Native" model in every class of their guitars. The woods are entirely from central Europe. The most interesting thing about that is the thermomodification of wood, which was developed together with the Technical University Dresden. It is a torrefication process, which seems to keep the tonal characteristics of the dried wood and doesn't destroy the fibres like earlier processses (those were developed to change the colour, but weakened the consistence)
Hanika is momantarily able to produce not more than 4 guitars a week.
Model 50KF-N: thermomodified spruce + cherry; neck th. cherry w/ checker tree enforcement; fingerboard: th. plum
Model 56KA-N: th. spruce + "softly thermomodified" maple; neck th. cherry w/ checker tree enforcement; fingerboard: th. plum
Model 58EF-N: spruce + th. checker tree; neck th. cherry w/ checker tree enforcement; fingerboard: th. plum
Model HE Doubletop-N: th. spruce + "strongly thermomodified" maple; neck th. cherry w/ th. plum+maple enforcement; fingerboard: th. plum

More information (in German) and videos: https://www.hanika.de/de/news/newsbeitr ... andel.html

Still wondering what the bridge is made of :wink:

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Muggins Simoon
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Re: Substitutes for rosewoods

Post by Muggins Simoon » Sat Sep 30, 2017 11:17 pm

I own a classical guitar with a sitka top and koa sides and back. The koa gives the guitar a "dry" sound (analogous to a dry wine) with fewer overtones. It is a pure and beguiling sound. Visually, the koa is stunning. Overall, I would recommend koa as a potential alternative wood for back and sides based on my experience with this one guitar.
2011 Mathieu Trepanier Sitka/Koa
2000 Otto Vowinkel Concert Spruce/Brazilian
1998 Christopher Dean Spruce/Indian
1995 Richard Schneider Sequoia/Brazilian
1979 Dauphin Model 40 (Japan-signed label) Cedar/Indian

Laudiesdad69
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Re: Substitutes for rosewoods

Post by Laudiesdad69 » Sun Oct 01, 2017 4:11 am

joachim33 wrote:
Wed Sep 27, 2017 10:06 pm
Many electric guitars have "blond" finger boards. Any on got a clue what kind of wood is used for this?
Maple

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