LMI Help Center

NECK WOOD ALTERNATIVES – APRIL 2014

When Honduran Mahogany was categorized under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) Appendix II a few years ago, a clear signal was sent about the future of neck woods. The CITES designation didn’t eliminate the flow of this staple tonewood (whose remarkable stability has made it a great choice for necks) but it made it no longer feasible for us to ship overseas, it made it more expensive and it foreshadowed what we are experiencing now, which is tremendous difficulty getting large, quartersawn stock. It’s not a situation that is going to improve, so we’ve taken a number of steps to make sure there are good options available for our customers.

New woods. Honduran Mahogany is great, but with high prices and dwindling quality, the time has never been better to look at the alternatives, and there are some great ones! We’ve seen a wide variety of Khaya come through our doors over the years and frankly, some of it is rather poor. But now we have our sources specially select stock which has a color, weight, and porosity that is similar to Honduran Mahogany. The two kinds of wood are nearly identical! Sapele is harder and heavier than Khaya, but it has a warmer color and cool ribbon figure. Peruvian Walnut offers dark brown color and good workability and we often offer Rosewood necks (Indian Rosewood harvested in Indonesia) for exotic projects. We continue to offer Maple (European, Bigleaf, and Rock) in a variety of sizes. Finally, I urge everyone to read about Achihua on our site – a wood with remarkable strength and low weight. Once considered a first string replacement for Honduran Mahogany, Spanish Cedar is now in short supply, but we will carry it when the good stuff is available.
Tempered Woods. Tempering (also called torrefaction, roasting or cooking) timber is a process that exposes wood to high temperatures in an oxygen-free environment (so the wood does not scorch). The result is that the woods are more stable, more resonant and take on an attractive deep amber color. So, it’s a perfect choice for Maple, which acoustic and Gibson-style electric builders have avoided in part because of the color. A number of high-end builders have embraced tempered woods. We are starting with Maple (figured and plane) and will expand from there, with an eye out for woods that could benefit from the darkening the tempering imparts.
New cuts and laminations. The benefits of laminated necks have long been well-known. More time is needed to make the neck, but greater strength and stability are the result. In addition, the necks look great (whether you add in decorative strips to the lamination or not). Now that the supply of good 3 x 4 inch Maple and Mahogany neck blanks are becoming more and more impossible to get, we are embracing laminated necks as the “new normal”. On our website, you can now find flatsawn blanks, (made from wood which far exceeds the figure and quality we’ve been seeing in the large blanks) dimensioned specifically for making laminated necks. Note also that we have a wide selection of exotic, colored wood strips for adding to your neck laminations, all pre-cut and planed to a variety of useful sizes.