Tonewood- Description and Characteristics

An electric guitar's tone comes from various areas: the timbers used, quality of construction, construction method, hardware, pickups and amplifier. We change pickups, we can change an amplifier, or we can even add effects into the mix. But we can't change the tonewoods, once a guitar is built, so it is very important to get this right, first.

The amplifier and pickups take the majority of the tonal load, it is important to know they only amplify the basis of the guitar... the timbers and construction. Every good Luthier know all good guitars start with a well selected set of tonewoods, and then ADD pickups to suit the chosen timbers.

Maple

Maple - (acer pseudoplatanus)

The industry standard for guitar necks. Stable under string tension, with a nice bright round tone. Can be oiled if you prefer to feel the grain, although most necks are lacquered.


Region: North East of North America
Janka/Hardness: 1,450 lbf (6,450 N)
Weight: 44 lbs/ft3 (705 kg/m3)

Alder

Alder - (alnus)

Light weight with a tight grain structure with no real noticable grain lines, Alder is perfect for bodies. Mids are pronounced but it still has a nice rounded bottom and and bright top end.


Region: West Coast USA
Janka/Hardness: 590 lbf (2,620 N)
Weight: 28 lbs/ft3 (450 kg/m3)

Pale Moon Ebony

Pale Moon Ebony - (diospyros malabarica)

Great focused tonal spectrum with nice tight lows, and clear highs. No two pieces are the same in appearance, and you'll find yourself staring at it for hours. Perfect for fretboards, but can be quite difficult to find in pieces large enough for a body top. It's expensive, but the looks more than make up for that.

Region: South East Asia
Janka/Hardness: 1,780 lbf (7,920 N)
Weight: 51 lbs/ft3 (825 kg/m3)

Burl Walnut

Burl Walnut - (disambiguation)

Nice well rounded earthy tone similar to Indian Rosewood, with often beautiful brown swirling grain.



Region: California
Janka/Hardness: 1,130 lbf (5,030 N)
Weight: 40 lbs/ft3 (640 kg/m3)

Flame Maple

Flame Maple - (acer pseudoplatanus)

Stable and strong, Maple has a brightness to the top end and tends to tighten the bottom end when combined with warmer timbers. Very popular for fretboards, necks, and tops. The figuring comes from the wood fibres compressing on themselves due to the shear weight of the old growth Maple trees.

Region: North East of North America
Janka/Hardness: 1,450 lbf (6,450 N)
Weight: 44 lbs/ft3 (705 kg/m3)

African Mahogany

African Mahogany - (khaya ivorensis)

Similar in tone to Brazilian Mahogany, with a slightly brighter vibe. A little heavier than Brazilian Mahogany, but often features a slight swirl to the grain which can make it interesting to look at.


Region: Western Africa
Janka/Hardness: 1,070 lbf (4,760 N)
Weight: 40 lbs/ft3 (640 kg/m3)

Quilted Maple

Quilted Maple - (acer pseudoplatanus)

Maple has a brightness to the top end (but ever so slightly less than Flame Maple) and tends to tighten the bottom end when combined with warmer timbers. Very popular for tops, but unfortunately not suitable for necks.


Region: Pacific North America
Janka/Hardness: 850 lbf (3,780 N)
Weight: 34lbs/ft3 (545 kg/m3)

White Ash

White Ash - (fraxinus americana)

Being heavier than Swamp Ash makes it less desirable, but the improved bottom end attack and stronger mid range give it the edge for heavier music styles.



Region: North America
Janka/Hardness: 1,320 lbf (5,870 N)
Weight: 42 lbs/ft3 (675 kg/m3)

Sapele

Sapele - (entandrophragma cylindricum)

The industry standard for guitar necks. Stable under string tension, with a nice bright round tone. Can be oiled if you prefer to feel the grain, although most necks are lacquered.


Region: Africa
Janka/Hardness: 1,410 lbf (6,280 N)
Weight: 42 lbs/ft3 (670 kg/m3)

Ebony

Ebony - (diospyros ebenum)

We source Ebony from Africa for fretboard and tops, and occassionally full necks. An Ebony fretboard feels silky smooth due to it's tight grain structure and lack of pores. Tonally it is the brightest of timbers, and adds a nice snappy tone especially to the initial attack of each note plucked.

Region: Africa
Janka/Hardness: 3,080 lbf (13,700 N)
Weight: 60 lbs/ft3 (955 kg/m3)

Hard Maple

Hard Maple - (disambiguation)

The industry standard for guitar necks. Stable under string tension, with a nice bright round tone. Can be oiled if you prefer to feel the grain, although most necks are lacquered.


Region: North East of North America
Janka/Hardness: 1,450 lbf (6,450 N)
Weight: 44 lbs/ft3 (705 kg/m3)

Pau Ferro

Pau Ferro - (caesalpinia ferrea)

Not quite in the realm of Ebony for brightness (but still brighter than Maple), Pau Ferro makes a wonderful fretboard material; it polishes well to a smooth finish, and withstands wear and tear better than most.


Region: South America
Janka/Hardness: 1,960 lbf (8,710 N)
Weight: 54 lbs/ft3 (865 kg/m3)

Macassar Ebony

Macassar Ebony - (diospyros ebenum)

Similar to African Ebony in tone, although not quite as bright. Very close pore structure leaves a nice smooth feel for fretboards. But, it's the grain that makes this one interesting; the brown and black stripes look wonderful.


Region: South East Asia
Janka/Hardness: 3,220 lbf (14,140 N)
Weight: 72 lbs/ft3 (1,150 kg/m3)

Spalted Maple

Spalted Maple - (acer macrophyllum-pacific maple)

The product of a decaying tree, Spalted Maple is very difficult to work with, and can often cause health issues. The black lines are actually bacteria, that have been feeding on the resins within the tree. Every piece is totally unique, so no two are alike. Suitable only for body tops.

Region: North America
Janka/Hardness: varies depending on state of decay
Weight: varies depending on state of decay

Purpleheart

Purpleheart - (disambiguation)

A wonderful tonewood that some claim to be in the realm of Brazilian Rosewood. It has a wonderful sustain, and a more impressive look. The colour changes from a bright purple to a dark purple/brown colour as it oxidises. You'll need to be fast with the lacquering to capture the brighter colours and "lock them in".

Region: Central America
Janka/Hardness: 2,520 lbf (11,190 N)
Weight: 56 lbs/ft3 (905 kg/m3)

Buckeye Burl

Buckeye Burl - (aesculus californica)

From intense swirls and wild grain, to colours ranging from beige, through grey/blues, to near black, it is one of the most interesting timbers to look at. Tonally very even, light weight, and only suitable for tops due to it's soft structure.


Region: East Coast of North America
Janka/Hardness: 350 lbf (1,560 N)
Weight: 25 lbs/ft3 (400 kg/m3)

Maple

Poplar Burl - (populus tremula)

It's considered to be closer to Alder in tone, but the grain is a light grey or even green colour and is mostly unattractive. However, burled examples feature beautiful figuring, swirls, darker pockets, and a maze of interlocking lines and grain.


Region: USA (east coast)
Janka/Hardness: 540 lbf (2,400 N)
Weight: 29 lbs/ft3 (455 kg/m3)

White Limba

White Limba - ( terminalia superba)

Limba, is available in either black, or white, this example being black. Similar in tone to Brazilian Mahogany, with slightly more mids. Very popular, although supply is sporadic. White Limba also goes by the name Korina. Certainly one of the favourites for bodies and necks here at Royal Craf Guitars.

Region: Africa
Janka/Hardness: 670 lbf (2,990 N)
Weight: 35 lbs/ft3 (555 kg/m3)

Black Walnut

Black Walnut - (juglans nigra)

Walnut combines the properties of Maple, Mahogany and Rosewood into one beautiful and easy to work with set of wood. Walnut is excellent sounding and visually striking walnut guitars. The tone is bright with warm overtones and a fuller bottom end, like a rosewood.

Region: USA
Janka/Hardness: 1,130 lbf (5,030 N)
Weight: Density 550 – 660 Kg/m3

Ziricote

Ziricote - (cordia dodecandra)

A rich, deep bass with sparkling highs are what you'll hear, but it's the magnificent grain patterns of black lines and brown swirls you'll fall in love with. Most commonly used for fretboards with it's silky smooth finish, but we love to use Ziricote as tops, and even necks too... but they tend to be pricey.

Region: Central America
Janka/Hardness: 1,970 lbf (8,780 N)
Weight: 50 lbs/ft3 (805 kg/m3)

Bubinga

Bubinga - (guibourtia spp)

Fantastic sustain and bright tone with a nice fat bottom end, which is perfect for bass necks. It is heavy, so chambering is recommended for bodies.



Region: Central Africa
Janka/Hardness: 2,410 lbf (10,720 N)
Weight: 56 lbs/ft3 (890 kg/m3)

Swamp Ash

Swamp Ash - (fraxinus pennsylvanica)

Light weight with an open pore structure, with a beautiful flowing grain which can be grain filled in a contrasting colour for special effects. Mids are pronounced but it still has a nice rounded bottom and and bright top end. Very similar to Alder, with a slightly nicer bottom end.

Region: Southern North America
Janka/Hardness: 590 lbf (2,620 N)
Weight: 30-33.6 lbs/ft3 (481-538 kg/m3)

Zebrano

Zebrano - (microberlinia brazzavillensis)

Situated roughly in the middle of the warmth vs brightness scale, Zebrano is a good choice for tops. Its stunning black and beige grain lines are something to behold.


Region: Africa
Janka/Hardness: 1,830 lbf (8.160 N)
Weight: 50 lbs/ft3 (805 kg/m3)

Indian Rosewood

Indian Rosewood - (dalbergia latifolia)

Lusious reds, browns, and even streaks of black, this is a beautiful timber. Nice warm tones with a creamy top end. Wonderful for fretboards, necks, tops and bodies.



Region: India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia
Janka/Hardness: 2,440 lbf (10,870 N)
Weight: 52 lbs/ft3 (830 kg/m3)

Black Limba

Limba, is available in either black, or white, this example being black. Similar in tone to Brazilian Mahogany, with slightly more mids. Very popular, although supply is sporadic. Certainly one of the favourites for bodies and necks here at Royal Craf Guitars.

Region: Africa
Janka/Hardness: 670 lbf (2,990 N)
Weight: 35 lbs/ft3 (555 kg/m3)

Birdseye Maple

Birdseye Maple - (acer saccharum)

Stable and strong, Maple has a brightness to the top end and tends to tighten the bottom end when combined with warmer timbers. Very popular for necks, and tops but most commonly seen as a fretboard.


Region: North East of North America
Janka/Hardness: 1,450 lbf (6,450 N)
Weight: 44 lbs/ft3 (705 kg/m3)

Burl Maple

Burl Maple - (acer macrophyllu)

Lots of swirls, voids, bark inclusions and general make this an interesting timber. Used only for tops. A little warmer than the rest of the Maple examples.



Region: North America
Janka/Hardness: 1,450 lbf (6,450 N)
Weight: 44 lbs/ft3 (705 kg/m3)

Basswood

Basswood - (tilia americana)

This is a lighter weight wood. Basswood has a nice, growley, warm tone with good mids. A favorite tone wood for shredders in the 80s since its defined sound cuts through a mix well.


Region: North America
Janka/Hardness: 410 lbf (1,800 N)
Weight: 26 lbs/ft3 (415 kg/m3)

Wenge

Wenge - (millettia laurentii)

Chocolate brown and black streaks with amazing grain patterns. It's hard and heavy, and can tend to move around a bit in one piece necks. It does have a nice mid range. For necks, we recommend an oil finish... you'll love the feel.


Region: Africa
Janka/Hardness: 1,930 lbf (8,600 N)
Weight: 54 lbs/ft3 (870 kg/m3)

Padouk

Padouk - (pterocarpus tinctorius)

Tonality like Maple. Padouk is an interesting timber. Natural oils negate the need for a hard lacquer finish, so a spot on oil keeps this feeling nice and natural. Suitable for necks, fretboards and bodies when supply allows.


Region: Africa
Janka/Hardness: 1,970 lbf (8,760 N)
Weight: 47 lbs/ft3 (745 kg/m3)

Ovangkol

Ovangkol - (guibourtia ehie)

Ovangkol is very similar in tone to Rosewoods, with a slightly brighter top end and nice full midrange. It is part of the same family as Bubinga. A little more difficult to work with, and has a natural oil which requires no hard lacquer finish.


Region: West Africa
Janka/Hardness: 1,330 lbf (5,900 N)
Weight: 51 lbs/ft3 (825 kg/m3)

Snakewood

Snakewood - (brosimum guianense)

A true exotic wonder of nature. Exquisite 'snake scale' like pattern of browns, black and orange. Due to it's small growth, generally only available as fretboards, but he have been extremely lucky to have sourced some tops and necks in the past. Bright, and very smooth when used as a fretboard.

Region: North East area of South America
Janka/Hardness: 3,800 lbf (16,900 N)
Weight: 73 lbs/ft3 (1,170 kg/m3)

A Few Words About Us

The workshop was founded in 2015 in 55543 Bad Kreuznach Germany by:
Artur Mihalas - luthier, and Nataliia Bulat - consultant & designer.
We are focused on quality of our product & put our passion and love into our individual and exclusive projects.

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