Sunday, February 27, 2011

Post #60, and the Mystery Tree

Apr. 7, 2009

Current mood:excited

So here it is, Adrian blog post #60.  Actually, it isn't.  Some of my posts were doubled up, and I had to erase the doubles.  Myspace still counts the ones that I erased, so that would make this post number 60.... even if it isn't.

It's also kind of neat, in that, I have been on myspace for just over one year.  I wanted to keep up with my blog by posting at least once a week.  So I'm glad that I have 60 posts in one year.  That's pretty darn close to one post per week. 

But onto a great story.  My Dad is a mailman so he sees a lot of interesting things while out delievering mail.  Since we are both woodworkers he keeps an eye out for trees that have been cut down.  Tonight he came home with some really nice, really heavy wood.  I looked at it, and didn't have a clue as to what it was.

The problem with trying to identify trees in Florida is that, we can have a lot of trees growing here that are not native.  This was definately not native.  None of my regional tree ID books could help me on this.  I looked at my Encyclopedia of Wood, and I got a few ideas, but nothing that matched up.  Dad seemed to think it was East Indian or Brazilian Rosewood.  However, it was way too heavy to be any kind of Rosewood.  Dad also brought home some of the leaves off the tree.  So I went to the internet a-look'in.  Again, nothing matched up on the leaves, but I only had a sample of young leaves.  I didn't have any older, mature leaves. 
The other thing that was strange was the bark.  It had little nubs that looked like spots.  This was good in that, it's a very distinguishing characteristic.  With spots and a smooth bark, it's a great clue to identify a tree.  So Dad gets a piece, and puts it on the bandsaw.  This way, I can get to see a piece of the wood sawn out.  I also can see the heartwood, and the outerwood.  What made this wood so odd is that, it was very dark and red.  Not too woods I've run across have been this red.  Another odd thing about this wood, was the smell.  One of the best ways I can identify a wood is by the smell.  (Note: I know this sounds odd, but it's true.  Woods have very different smells.  And the smells can be more consistent than their appearance.)

So I'm having trouble getting a good ID guide for South American woods to come up on the internet.  And the only good ones I end up getting are in Spanish or Poutuguese.  I figure this wood has to be some sort of South or Central American exotic wood, and dang if it doesn't look like Brazilian Rosewood.  The only thing is it's much heavier, the leaves don't match, and the bark is different. 

I then happen to come across a New Zealand website that has an entry on the Australian's Pau Ferro tree.  I look at it, and wonder, "how close is this in relation to the South American Pau Ferro tree?"  The color matches, the leaves sort of match, the wood grain matches, and the best part..... the Australians call this tree the "Leopard Tree" due to it's unique spots.


This is a South American Pau Ferro tree.  Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it.
Pao ferro or pau ferro (Caesalpinia echinata or Machaerium scleroxylum Tul.) is an exotic tree found in Brazil and Bolivia. Its wood is often used for making fingerboards for basses and electric guitars. It has a similar feel and similar tonal attributes to rosewood, but has a slightly lighter colour. The wood may also be used for flooring, fancy furniture, and handgun grips. It is also known by the names morado, palo santos, caviuna, Brazilian ironwood, and Bolivian rosewood, though it is not actually rosewood.
In guitar making, pao ferro is not only used for fingerboards but also can be used for the back and sides of the guitar. Brazilian guitar maker, Giannini, uses the wood in many of its classical guitars.[1] Although similar in many ways to rosewood, pao ferro does have slightly different tonal qualities.
For example Stevie Ray Vaughan's Signature Fender Stratocaster comes with a Pao Ferro fingerboard.

Dad thought that he had seen it sold under the name Bolivian Rosewood.  To be honest, it does look a lot like rosewood, but is much heavier.  Pau Ferro is used on a lot of higher end guitars do to it's very expensive costs.  I looked on the web, and right now it's running at $25 a board foot.  If you are running a production line of guitars, that would add up to an enormous cost.  That's why it's only used on high end guitars, and sometimes only the fretboards.
So right now there's a good amount of Pau Ferro drying in the back yard.  A lot more will be coming home soon.  This is of course after Dad gets a new chainsaw.  The old one broke.  Get this.  With the newer gasolines having alchohol in them, they run much hotter.  So it ended up locking up/ melting the chambers in the old chainsaw's engine.  So a new Echo chainsaw is going to be purchased.  The good news is that, Dad can cut up some of this Pau Ferro, sell it, and pay for the cost of the chainsaw.  How great is that?

So wouldn't it be great 8 years from now if I can use the Red Cedar piece for a guitar top, and the Pau Ferro for the back and sides?  The reason I say 8 years, is that, 8 years gives the wood plenty of time to dry and stablize.  Still, that would be one heck of a guitar.

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