Quality African Timbers - Prosono International

Back and Sides for acoustic guitars
Acoustic Woods For The Luthiers, Those Making Concert And Studio Guitars

As craftsmen you know guitar making as an art, rather than a science!

Famous luthiers, like Antonio Torres, Rosé Ramirez, Kevin Aram, Jeffrey Elliott and Gregg Smallman, to name a few of them, have consistently demonstrated skills and creative imagination in achieving instruments of musical perfection and aesthetic.

Our contribution is to select exotic woods that offer the best acoustic and aesthetic.

Following those innovators, Jeffrey Elliott of Oregon, Jeff and Michael Dunn, luthiers of International renown, more recently our client Marc Maingard, of Cape Town and also Allied Lutherie, the well-known American wholesaler, have recognised African Blackwood as the “nec plus ultra” for the making of classical and steel stringed guitars.

(A classical guitar and its constituent back and side.  An expert testing a newly built guitar)


Comparative tests have demonstrated that the most truthful and powerful acoustic guitars are achieved from those with the back and sides of:

DALBERGIA   MELANOXYLON / AFRICAN BLACKWOOD

This tonewood offers essential features to luthiers, aiming at building outstanding concert and studio guitars:

  1. Tap tone, comparable to the very best Brazilian rosewood,
  2. A very hard, structurally consistent wood of highest stability that works well under chisel and scrapper, bends well and won’t crack. Structurally very sound guitars even milled down to 2.4 mm for the back and 2.0 mm for the sides.
  3. Fine and closed grain, not requiring any filling prior to applying lacquer or shellac.
  4. Smart aesthetic, the predominant black colour of which makes inlays possible. Does age well and won’t lose colour.

 

CHARACTERISTICS OF CLASSICAL GUITARS AND STEEL STRINGED GUITARS WITH BACK AND SIDES OF AFRICAN BLACKWOOD

The extraordinary density of that timber (1.35 kilos/dm3), allows making guitar bodies of great acoustic, structurally sound for years.

An experienced guitar player will easily notice such performances, as soon as the guitar structure is completed, even before it is lacked.

Musicians will appreciate the performances of such a guitar with back and sides of African Blackwood, a Master grade top, crafted by an expert artisan, who spent hundreds of hours to complete his work, namely:

  1. Excellent notes finger picking
  2. Excellent clarity between notes
  3. Nice balance of trebles, midst and bass
  4. Excellent drive and reflective power.

The natural air-drying of backs and sides, at an altitude of 1600 meters, where our saw-mill is located, does make our sets compare favourably with any older timber stored in relatively humid environment.

exotic woods, tonewoods

(Sets in drying)

 

WHAT IS PRECIOUS IS RARE

African Blackwood is found exclusively in Eastern and Southern Africa. Logs of a sufficient diameter currently come from Mozambique and sometimes from Tanzania.

Only three per cent of the logs we process, as being more than 300 years old and at least 500 mm in diameter, are suitable for planking slabs of at least 210 mm in width (for backs) and 800 mm in length (for sides), the heart of the logs being unfortunately, mostly rotten, full of sand and often crowed with regrowth.

Even careful and continuous checking won’t prevent hidden faults to show up, unfortunately when processing is nearly over. It often happens that parts nearing completion must be discarded, because of fully hidden rot. The achieved yield from backs and sides of guitar can be estimated at about 0.02 per cent of the processed volume of timber.

(Exceptional logs of 700mm in diameter. Logs of such a size are rare, the fact that the logs are full without any internal hole makes them extremely rare!)
(Internal rot, one of those defects, that often appears only late in production)

 

WOODWORKING

It is only when the cutting of large enough logs, on the horizontal band saw has started, that the expert eye and the tape measure can determine whether the slabs will satisfy the quality and size required for backs and sides. In the few cases that the criteria is met, the slabs are initially rested, then straighten up on one side on a planer, then cut in thin panels on a vertical band saw. Finally an extra long band sander will provide the smooth finish.

 

(Slabs of dalbergia melanoxylon being cut, Rectifying slabs with planer, First grade slabs, Slicing of slabs on vertical band saw, Polishing with band sander, Strapping of sets prior to seasoning)

 

AESTHETIC

Natural aging gives a dark chestnut colour to the wood. Grain of each guitar is unique. Back and sides are matching. For finishing, blond shellac is applied in multiple layers with a rubber of cotton or alternatively acetone base lacquer (nitrocellulose) is sprayed on, for giving a glossy finish, revealing grain and colour.

African Blackwood back of guitar African Blackwood quitar back

(African Blackwood back of guitar by Marc Maingard, the South African Luthier at the horn of Africa, www.guitarsafrica.co.za

 

SETS OF FOUR, FIVE AND SIX ACOUSTIC BLANKS

For concert and studio guitar bodies of the highest standard:

Species:

Dalbergia melanoxylon (from Mozambique) / African Blackwood (UK - USA) / Grenadillholz (D) / Pau Preto (P) / Granadilla, Grenadillo negro (E) / Mpingo (Swahili)

Models Backs Minimum dimensions
in mm

Sides
Minimum dimensions
in mm

Jumbo (two-pieces back): 2 x 580x210x4 2 x 830x130x4
Jumbo (three-pieces back): 2 X 580x150x4 +
1 X 5800x115x4
2 X 830x130x4
Classic (two-piece back): 2 x 550x190x4 2 x 780x110x4
Classic (three-pieces back): 2 X 550x140x4 +
1 X 550x100x4
2 X 780x110x4
Modern: 4 x 550x95x4 2 x 780x110x4 

 

African Blackwood

(Range of Models: Jumbo, Classic, Modern)

Quality criteria:
We distinguish between three grades, namely:

Master Grade: straight grain or mostly straight grain for the back and the sides. The dominant colour is black. There is no visible defect. This grade is preferred by those looking for quarter cut timber. The sound quality is rated outstanding.
AAA Grade:visible figure and matching grain, making the set absolutely unique and recognisable among thousands. There is no visible defect. The sound quality is rated excellent. The informed Luthier understood that with a density 1.35 kg/ dm3 or 82 lb/ft3 whether you have quarter or flat sawn woods makes little if any difference in the stability and sound quality of the wood! Indeed the density is paramount! This grade represents 60% of our production.
AA Grade: This grade offers excellent opportunities. It might have bird eye knots and/or small discoloration. If they are real defect, then outside the area to be used for making the instrument! The sound quality is also excellent.

We don’t offer lower grade sets indeed such parts are reprocessed in smaller parts for lutes among others.

African Blackwood African Blackwood AAA African Blackwood AA

(African Blackwood Maestro Grade, AAA & AA Grades)

 

OTHER SPECIE OF INTERNATIONAL STANDARD

The growing demand from our regular customers has motivated us to evaluate and carry out the production of sets in Red ivory, Mopane and Palissandre, three wood species, well suited to the making of acoustic guitars of the highest standard:

Red ivory (Berchimia zeyheri): The wood is dark rosé close to the heart to lighter pink on the outside under the sapwood. The wood is extremely dense, comparable with the African Blackwood and the mopane. As much from the aesthetic and density, this specie is rated outstanding. The major limitation is the difficulty of finding large enough logs for the making of two piece backs.Curly sets unfortunately quite rare, add to the great beauty of this wood.

Mopane colophospermum, commonly named mopane, is found in Eastern Africa. This timber first characteristic is its very high density, coming to 96% of the one of dalbergia melanoxylon. In addition to its clarity of sound, slightly higher pitched than the one of African Blackwood, its natural wood colour and grain are liked by guitar builders.

Palissandre of Madagascar, dalbergia graveana. This is a rare wood, of limited availability. As a dalbergia, it has the acoustic qualities of the family, upon which has been elaborated previously. The particularity of this sub-specie is its aesthetic indeed each and every set is unique, due to the diversity and richness of its colours (purple, yellow, red, brown and black) and its fine grain.

Pink ivory, Mopane and palissandre are characterised by a very fine and closed grain (also typical of dalbergia melanoxylon) that does not require any filling before applying the lacquer or shellac.

Guitar with a mopane back and sides.
African Blackwood and Mopane
Palissandre of Madagascar
Pink ivory
Pink ivory wood

(Guitar with a mopane back and sides. Two lutes with back of African Blackwood and Mopane, by the Swiss Luthier, Philippe Mottet. One set of Palissandre of Madagascar. One Jumbo figured set of Pink ivory, one Jumbo curly set of Pink ivory)

 

DISPATCH

For retail orders worldwide: we have had only positive experience with insured parcels sent by air, through the International Postal Service, which delivers the parcels to our customers nearest post-offices. This applies to orders of five sets maximum. Larger orders are sent by air freight which is cheaper, though our customer have to or let collect their parcel at the nearest International airport.

The UPS courier service is used for countries where the insured parcel service is not available.

(Parcel for retail orders)

 

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