Is Brazilian Rosewood worth it?

JoseJose Minneapolis New DuPont MD 50
in FAQ Posts: 49

Ok, I would like to know if Brazilian rosewood or Rio Rosewood is really worth it, I found an Olivier Marin Guitar in a guitar shop in Spain with Rio Rosewood but there isn’t no paper work to prove the wood was bought before 1992, the guitar was made in 1999, Mr. Marin says he bought the wood before prohibition, should I go thru the trouble of trying to import? Which I don’t even know if it possible or should I just buy me a new one from the same luthier?



  • TwangTwang New
    Posts: 407

    You might want to question how much better the guitar would sound with Brazilian rosewood. Gypsy guitars are traditionally built with laminated back and sides. So I would argue the impact on the sound would be less than on an all solid instrument. But I don't know that for sure. So it might be an idea to check if Marin's are built with solid or laminate woods. Some do, some don't and some do both. If you want the wood cos it looks pretty than that's another thing.

    Brazilian Rosewood is an amazing tonewood. It usually smells amazing and often looks amazing. It cracks really really easily. Owners of Brazilian rosewood guitars know this but don't really care cos this usually has no bearing on the sound. If the Marin is laminated then you don't really need to worry about this.

    Is it worth it? You can read pages and pages online about this. Even on this forum. There are many variables that make a great guitar, not just the back and sides. There are many great tone woods out there that could be as good or better than Brazilian rosewood and all of these things are completely subjective anyway. I have owned dozens of guitars over the years including two handmade Brazilian guitars and the one thing I have learned is to judge each guitar on it's own merits. Regardless of who made it, what it's made of, how old it is, how much it costs etc. Guitars don't play by the rules.

  • ChristopheCaringtonChristopheCarington San Francisco, CA USANew Dupont MD50, Stringphonic Favino, Altamira Chorus
    Posts: 186

    Is it worth it - I think you need to ask yourself how much you care how pretty the back and sides are.

    I've played 4 gypsy guitars with Brazilian rosewood sides and back (all laminates of course, so the wood is only a thin veneer on top of other wood). The guitars themselves sounded great, but I believe it's more an aspect of more craftsmanship and materials going into the more deluxe product - not "it sounds better because braz rosewood."

    Additionally, for Sel-Macs, if it's Brazilian rosewood veneer - I do feel it has an impact, but it's much more varied. I tried 3 identical Stringphonic Favinos, one with well-aged Brazilian rosewood, one with Brazilian rosewood, one ziricote (similiar look to Brazilian rosewood). The Brazilian rosewood that was less aged sounded much closer to the ziricote than the well-aged one. For me, this just reinforces that aging a quality piece of wood (regardless of the type) will result in desirable sonic qualities.

    If you're willing to buy sight unseen, then your question becomes "do I care how pretty the sides and back are?" I know I care, because having a good looking guitar makes me want to pick it up and play more often. I'm just personally not willing to buy without playing first (unless we're talking <$1,000, or electric guitars).

  • cbwimcbwim ✭✭✭
    Posts: 190


    Brazilian Rosewood used to be the primary Wood du jour for guitars and there was a certain degree of orthodoxy that developed from this, that it was the Only wood and the Best wood. That is just a belief system and it does not bear out on analysis when comparing guitars using it versus guitars with other rosewoods, maples, etc. The qualities of the guitar depend upon how it is made, how it is set up and in this type of instrument, the quality of the top especially.

    A tree species becoming the go to Wood du jour usually results first in its commercial demise, followed by extinction in some cases. This is true with Brazilian Rosewood. Cocus Wood from the West Indies used to be the WDJ for woodwinds until they harvested every suitably sized tree and it went commercially extinct. That was in the teens and now the sticks remaining are big enough to harvest - but will soon run out again. Unfortunately, fewer new sticks are popping up to replace it and Brya ebenus is headed for Extinction. Locally the really huge Big Leaf Maples have been disappearing - well being cut down and just the bottom 6' disappearing. Local Meth users chop these down, send them in container loads to China, and fuel their drug habit. The tree fortunately grows like a weed - I have at least a dozen of these growing on my property - but unfortunately this practice robs the local lutherie community of an easily obtainable and indigenous resource. Also, locals make Maple Syrup with these though one has to boil down twice or 3X as much of the sap to get tthe same amount of syrup as their Eastern cousins. This winter I hope to make a year;'s supply of Grade C or D. The darker the grade the stronger the flavor and I like to end just before carmelization begins.

    Lets save Brazilian Rosewood for itself and for future generations. I am cutting down on Blackwood for my flutes myself and replacing it with Urethane Acetate resin. I am actually boosting my output by surrounding myself with Robotic Machines of Loving Grace better known as SLA 3D printers. They use this stuff for the fillings in your teeth. Its the same density as Brazilian Rosewood and makes for great guitar picks. Send me sketches of your "dream poick" design and I can make these. You can find me by looking for Irish Flute Casey Burns.

    Stay Safe and Wear yuour Mask!


  • TwangTwang New
    edited September 2020 Posts: 407

    I think of myself as a conservationist but surely there is no harm in using up the pre CITES wood. I'd rather see this on the back and sides of a guitar than burned or made into a pallet. However, If you were to persuade me that even buying and owning preCITES wood is indirectly encouraging an illegal black market of new wood then I wouldn't go near it again.

  • TwangTwang New
    edited September 2020 Posts: 407

  • Posts: 20

    It's tricky. I inherited a stack of Rio rosewood from an uncle who bought it in the mid 1970's. Unsurprisingly this didn't come to me with the original purchase invoice (the only document accepted by DEFRA as proof of date of purchase) and so I can't do anything commercial with it at all. I have used it for bridges and fingerboards on my guitars although my wife is now becoming wise to this as a ruse to make them unsellable! I also have another buddy in the furniture making business who has bundles and bundles of Rio veneer and I hope to make a couple of laminated Maccaferri copies using some of this one day. Whilst it is a shame to see this material as being regarded as worthless I guess it is a similar argument to banning all trade ivory, even antique, as the continuing demand undoubtably means that there is commercial gain to be made by passing off new rosewood/ivory as old. Unless you ban everything you will always get the criminal element trying to squeeze material onto the market.

  • TwangTwang New
    Posts: 407

    After reading your post I googled one of the "save the rhino" charities where they chop off the horns of live rhinos to stop them being poached. You would think that this would be the answer but they still have problems protecting them. It seems the more black and white you make it though , the easier it is to protect the species.

    I used to drool over guitars with figured woods but as I get older I'm finding them a bit bling. They look a bit ostentatious and seem to say "look at me, I'm rich". A bit like buying a sports car in a really bright colour. I drool over banged up, plainer, old guitars these days, that say "I'm such a great player, I don't care what it looks like, only what it sounds like. You can tell how much playing I do by the beat up condition of my guitar".😁

  • pdgpdg ✭✭
    Posts: 449

    There's a banjo brand called "Louzee" -- supposed to be pronounced "lousy." One model, the "Golden Roll," has a headstock inlay in the design of a roll of toilet paper. Mike Longworth, the creator, believed that the quality of the instrument was what counted, not its looks.

  • bbwood_98bbwood_98 Brooklyn, NyProdigy Vladimir music! Les Effes. . Its the best!
    Posts: 663

    OH . . .super thread.

    So (luthiers please, please jump in any time!) for me, I much prefer alternative woods to Brazilian rosewood of which there are lots. I like older guitars made from this, but find that laminate guitars end up sounding good/bad based on the amount and density of the laminates rather then the specific woods . . . @ChristopheCarington curious if the ziricote had more weight to it. . . . It has a much higher weight to stability ratio.

    Solid wood guitars I think people can find other things (koa - can be found figured and sustainable, as can american myrtle, along with honduras mohagany, Rosewoods from a few countries, and so many others) in a similar vein finding large spruces/cedars for tops can be crazy as well . . .

    So - My main guitar has a walnut back and sides and spruce top. All solid. made in 2012, but looks super ancient (thanks to technquies from Vladimir Muzic.

    Thoughts from others?

  • ChristopheCaringtonChristopheCarington San Francisco, CA USANew Dupont MD50, Stringphonic Favino, Altamira Chorus
    Posts: 186

    @bbwood_98 The ziricote was laminate, and wasn't meaningfully heavier than the rosewood - especially since I played sitting down.

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