Wood Database

I have been collecting wood for over 50 years, which is why Luthiers Supplies is a kind of (untidy) museum of wood, most useful, but some just collected out of interest. The woods listed are the regular repertoire of what is needed, so it’s always worth asking for unusual things. Some come and go, and some like Tasmanian timbers have just arrived!

We often photograph what is unique or difficult to describe, also bear in mind that we convert much of our stock here, so offer a custom cutting, planing and sanding service.

The timber descriptions which follow are based on my experience. Consequently there is much more to be discovered by further reading.

Please do bear in mind that timber has a surprising/annoying facility for not conforming to descriptions or expectations.

Timbers like Mahogany and Indian Rosewood are sufficiently valuable, and endangered, to have been replanted, sometimes outside their original range. There are big differences between the old growth timber, usually both denser and deeper in colour, and faster grown plantation timber.

In some cases two samples or pictures, are necessary. Timber that shows strong medullary ray figure e.g – London Plane looks very different when tangentially sawn or flat sawn, drab and almost featureless, but when radically ‘quarter sawn’ (known as ‘lacewood’) it can look spectacular.

A Database of our stocked woods


Name: Alder
Origin: Great Britain & USA (‘Red Alder’)
Colour: Pale Orangey Brown
Latin Name: Alnus Glutinosa
Weight: Light, 30-35lbs cu ft

Works beautifully, in between the numerous knots, close grain, fine for painting or clear finishes. One of the first choices for solid guitars, thanks to Leo Fender.


Name: Ash
Origin: Great Britain & Northern USA
Colour: White sap wood & olive brown heart wood
Latin Name: Fraxinus Excelsior
Weight: Medium/Heavy, 40lbs cu ft

Ash is ring porous, which translates as open grain. Looks good stained, but not for painting. Tough, elastic, very strong, therefore harder to cut and plane than Alder. Good for solid bodies if you can deal with the weight.

Ash (Swamp Ash)

Name: Swamp Ash
Origin: Southern USA
Colour: White sap wood & olive brown heart wood
Latin Name: Fraxinus Americana
Weight: Light, 26 - 35lbs cu ft

Similar to ‘Excelsior’ but not as tough, therefore easier to saw and plane. Both Ash species have been used by Fender but Swamp Ash is the clear favourite for weight. Now in great demand and in short supply! Interesting that both Swamp Ash & Alder like to grow with their roots in water.


Name: Beech
Origin: Europe & USA
Colour: Pale buff/brown
Latin Name: Fagus Sylvatica
Weight: Medium

Very dense for its weight but works well. For musical instruments it should be from very straight, quarter sawn stock. Used for wrest planks (hold pins well), cheaper necks, work benches, jigs etc.


Name: Blackwood
Origin: Tansania
Colour: Purple black
Latin Name: Dalbergia Melanoxylon
Weight: Very dense, heavy & expensive

Very hard to work, but polishes beautifully. Used for back & sides, but hard to find suitable widths, also used for fingerboards, bagpipes and oboes.

Blackwood (Tazmanian)

Name: Blackwood
Origin: Tazmania
Colour: Variations of orange and blacker brown, similar to Koa
Latin Name: Dalbergia Melanoxylon
Weight: Very dense, heavy & expensive

Best worked carefully with hard tools or sanded. Makes good back & sides and drop tops.


Name: Bocote
Origin: Central America
Colour: Greenish brown with darker lines, can look good if some sapwood (cream) is included
Latin Name: Corida
Weight: Heavy

Feels oily and is a substitute for Rosewood. Good for back & sides, drop tops and fingerboards.

Bog Oak

Name: Bog Oak
Origin: Fenland, East Anglia
Colour: Blacks & browns
Latin Name: Quercus
Weight: Heavy

Very difficult to harvest and dry, but good material works well. If you want old, 5,000 years should do it! Good for backs & sides, fingerboards and bridges.


Name: Box
Origin: Great Britain
Colour: Yellow
Latin Name: Boxus Sempervirens
Weight: Heavy

The hardest, heaviest home grown wood. Shrubby tree yielding small dimensions. Hard to work, but with a wonderful dense smooth surface. Very tough so good for tool handles, tuning pegs. For bigger dimensions, use tropical lemon wood or Degame, which also cut & plane easily.


Name: Cedar (Western Red)
Origin: NW America
Colour: Pale buff to mid brown, to chocolate brown
Latin Name: Thuja Plicata
Weight: Light

A very efficient transmitter of vibration. The trees are often very tall, straight and split well, to produce long grain timber at its best. Very strong and stiff for such a low density timber. The disadvantage is the softness, beware of dents and scratches. Second only to Spruce as guitar tops, also naturally rot proof. In outdoor use, good for cladding and roof ‘shingles’ (sawn) or ‘shakes’ (split).