Tonewoods are used for many things in the world of guitars. Basswood is usually found in bass guitars, but is also used to make classical guitars and acoustic guitars. Alder is often found in both electric and acoustic guitar bodies due to its light weight. Just like with any other field, there are sustainable options for your eco-friendly guitar needs!
Eco-friendly wood is a term that means that all or most of the timber used in a particular product is sustainable, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO).
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How to Identify Sustainable Tonewoods?
To be considered as a sustainable wood, the wood used in a product must be sustainably harvested and contain minimum chemical pollutants. It also must be free from illegal logging and deforestation.
These woods are usually found in areas within the tropics and subtropics, where a significant amount of rain falls. This means that these woods can withstand heavy rains without deteriorating.
Sustainable Tonewoods for Eco Friendly Guitars:
Here are some of the most commonly used tonewoods for guitar bodies. This list is in order from most sustainable to least sustainable. The woods are listed by their scientific names. The scientific name of the wood is followed by its common name in parentheses.
This wood is found in temperate regions of North America, Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa. It has a light color that might have some streaks or spots of brown or yellow.
- Basswood is harvested in the wild without destroying the plantation or affecting other plant species.
- Lightweight & Easy to work with
- Low cost of production, which makes it cheap to produce guitars from this wood.
- This wood is also unaffected by extreme weather conditions. In other words, no matter how humid or dry a region is, basswood will still be unaffected. It’s also a thermally stable wood that will keep its natural color for a long time without turning into a darker or lighter color.
It’s a weak wood that has a low strength, which means it will break easily.
2. Crown Ash:
This wood is found in India, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, and Thailand. It has a light brownish color with some white streaks. This wood is used for making electric guitars and bass guitars.
- This wood is harvested from a sustainable plantation without affecting its old growth. Since it is grown in plantations, this type of lumber won’t harm the environment. This also ensures that the lumber will be accessible for a long time.
- This wood is often kiln dried before harvest to keep its color light and to prevent some chemical reactions from happening between the drying process and the tree’s natural oils.
- This wood is strong
- This wood can be pricey to produce guitars from. It can be hard to find in natural color, especially when the wood is being used for other purposes.
This wood is found in North America, Europe, and other parts of Asia. It has a light brown color with some streaks or spots of white. This wood is used for making electric guitars and bass guitars.
- This wood can sustain heavy amounts of weight, so it is often used for construction purposes. It also doesn’t break easily, so it is also an ideal wood for making guitars.
- Maple is harvested in plantations without affecting its old heights. As with the other sustainable woods on this list, harvesting maple in plantations ensures that the timber will be available for a long time to come without harming the environment.
- This wood has a lower density than many other woods, which means that it’s lightweight compared to other woods.
- Maple can be pricey to produce guitars from. It is often not available in natural color.
This wood is found in parts of Asia, Africa, and the Americas. It has a dark brown color with a few white streaks. This wood is used for making electric guitars and bass guitars.
- Ebony is harvested in plantations without affecting its old growth. This ensures that the lumber will be accessible for a long time without harming the environment. Harvesting ebony in plantations also prevents it from becoming endangered.
- Most manufacturers of guitars using this wood are conscious of how important it is to keep this wood sustainable, so they have established strong management systems to ensure that their wood will remain sustainable for a long time.
- Ebony grows slowly, which means that it will be available for a long time without damaging the environment.
- Ebony is not widely available. It’s also more expensive than most wood guitars are made of. However, this wood is stronger than some woods guitars are made of, so it’s worth the extra cost.
This wood is found in parts of Africa and North America. It has a reddish brown color with streaks of white or yellow. This wood is used for making electric guitars and bass guitars.
- This wood has a high density, which means that it’s heavier than other woods while maintaining the same weight.
- Mahogany is harvested in plantations without damaging its old growth. From a sustainability perspective, harvesting mahogany in plantations ensures that this wood will be available for a long time without harming the environment.
- Since mahogany grows slowly, it will take a very long time before it becomes endangered.
- This wood is often overharvested, which means that it won’t be available for a long time. It also takes a long time to grow to maturity, so this wood is often expensive to produce guitars from.
As you can see, there are many sustainable tonewoods for guitars. This list covers the most commonly used woods. There are other woods used to make guitars, but they are less common compared to these woods.
However, it’s important to note that even though these woods are considered sustainable by most guitar manufacturers, they’re not 100% sustainable.
Q: What is sustainable wood for guitars?
A: These sustainable woods are often planted specifically for guitar construction, or are selected from dead or dying trees. Forests are not left exploited and drained of all life! Sustainable woods are essentially farmed responsibly and are often referred to as Alternative tonewoods.
Q: What is an alternative tonewood?
A: An alternative tonewood is a wood that is not ‘usually’ used on a guitar. They are often unconventional woods that stray from the usual path of Rosewood, Maple and Mahogany. However, brands are working with wood mills and landowners to make great leaps in farming these woods responsibly too.
Q: What is sustainable tonewood?
A: The whole idea behind sustainability and sustainable tonewoods is getting the best use of, preserving and replacing a natural resource after you’ve used it. Within the music industry, and instrument manufacturing in particular, brands are relying on sustainable forests more and more.
Q: What makes eastcoast guitars so sustainable?
A: Eastcoast Guitars also use a variety of sustainable tonewoods in their guitars. The likes of the Eastcoast MKOA Koa Acoustic Guitar utilises Koa, which is an alternative wood, whilst the GS100 series guitars utilise readily available Poplar bodies and Amaranth fingerboards, which are far easier to come by and sustainable.