Brazilian Rosewood old vs. new

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
mistermark

Brazilian Rosewood old vs. new

Post by mistermark » Mon Jun 18, 2007 3:52 pm

In the midst of many options I have to choose from for my up and coming guitar, there is an option for older and newer Brazilian Rosewood. The older rosewood costs more then twice the price of the new. I am would to know why this is the case. What are the differences in terms of sound, appearance and quality?

Reis

Post by Reis » Mon Jun 18, 2007 8:33 pm

The newest pieces of Brazilian rosewood have to been at least 15 years old, since its extraction was banned in 1992. Pigmentation varies a lot depending on where the tree grew up and the soil conditions. In Brazil there's the so called Imperial Brazilian Rosewood, which is one of the darkest varieties, slightly denser than the others, although the scientific name is the same (Dalbergia Nigra).

The older the pieces — say 50 or more years — the more likely you are to find a quartersawn set, which is extremely rare nowadays. Quarter sawn usually tends to be more resistant than flat sawn. If correctly preserved and transported (this is also very important), the older the better, since it had more time to cure.

I currently own a guitar that was built with a set of Brazilian rosewood that's over 250 years old, combined with a German spruce soundboard that is over 25 years, French-polished all over. The sound is gorgeous. I've been playing for over 6 months and could never find one single dead spot on the guitar. All notes sing, from low E to high C.

Marcus Dominelli
Luthier
Posts: 2860
Joined: Thu Mar 08, 2007 4:52 pm
Location: Victoria, B.C. Canada

Post by Marcus Dominelli » Mon Jun 18, 2007 9:10 pm

Although Brazilian was put on the C.I.T.I.E.S. treaty list of endangered species, and hence, was banned as an international item of trade, new, freshly logged Brazilian is readily available for sale.
The reason for this is that the Brazilian government has allowed the salvage of rosewood stumps to continue. There is still a lot of fine wood left in these stumps, but a lot of it is of such poor quality that many luthiers refuse to build with it.
Your concern should not be the age of the rosewood per se. Try to get straight grained, nice colour, and if possible, quarter sawn. Reis is right that the quarter sawn wood is very rare nowadays. I have some perfectly quartered 30 years old stuff. Once it's gone I'll probably not find stuff like it anymore.
But check out http://www.alliedlutherie.com . These guys have a good web-site and specialize in salvaged brazilian rosewood. Some of thier brazilian is of excellent quality.

Marcus Dominelli
Dominelli Guitars

Reis

Post by Reis » Tue Jun 19, 2007 2:22 pm

There's also old Brazilian rosewood being recovered from other sources like hardwood floors, doors, furniture, etc. As a matter of fact, those sources usually provide much better sets than the stumps.

David LaPlante
Luthier
Posts: 1372
Joined: Thu May 24, 2007 3:30 am
Location: Albany NY

Post by David LaPlante » Wed Jun 20, 2007 5:26 pm

I've sourced some excellent Brazilian rosewood recently from these folks:

http://www.colonialtonewoods.com/

They were old growth sets as opposed to stump salvage.

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