Ormsby Guitars Tonewood

TONEWOODS

How Different Tonewoods Shape Your Sound

THE SOUND OF TONEWOODS

We all know an electric guitar's tone comes from various areas: the timbers used, construction method, quality of construction, hardware, pickups and amplifier. We can swap out pickups, we can change an amplifier, or we can even add effects into the mix, but we can't change the tonewoods. Once a guitar is built, so it is very important to get this right in the first place. Let us be honest here - the average person couldn't care less which tonewoods are being used when you're blasting out a solo at the local bar. But you do. Or at least you should do. 

Whilst the amplifier and pickups take the majority of the tonal load, it is important to remember they only amplify the basis of the guitar being the construction and timbers used. We firmly believe all good guitars start with a well selected set of tonewoods, and then ADD pickups to suit the chosen timbers.

Below are a selection of woods that are popular for guitar building; whilst we stock many of these please contact us prior to ensure availability and if it will be a suitable wood for the guitar you have in mind!

Ormsby Guitars Tonewoods Alder
ALDER

WEST COAST USA

TONE

A well balanced and regularly used tonewood. Mids are pronounced but it still has a nice rounded bottom and and bright top end.

APPEARANCE

Pale whitish yellow natural wood similar to ash.

WEIGHT 28 LBS/FT3 (450 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 590 LBF (2,620 N)

RECOMMENDED FORBODIES

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood afzelia
AFZELIA 

CAMBODIA AND LAOS

TONE

The tonality of Afzelia Xylay is characterized as an even tone with rich basses, clear mid-tones and crisp trebles.

APPEARANCE

Orange and red hued, stunning natural figuring. Yellowish contrast where sapwood meets heartwood.

WEIGHT 51 LBS/FT3 (825 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 1,980 LBF (8.820 N)

RECOMMENDED FORTOPS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood olive ash
OLIVE ASH

UNITED STATES

TONE
Similar to Ash and Olive, great high end but slightly more well-rounded.
APPEARANCE
Light beiege and cream colours with light brown swirls. Also found straight grained, but the burl is the most stunning.

WEIGHT 62 LBS/FT3 (990 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 1,320 LBF (5,900 N)

RECOMMENDED FORTOPS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewoods Swamp Ash
SWAMP ASH

SOUTHERN NORTH AMERICA

TONE
Mids are pronounced, similar to Alder, with a slightly rounder bottom end. Think of the old guitars built by Leo, and you'll be familiar with Swamp Ash.
APPEARANCE
Light yellow to white in colour, similar to the colour of maple.

WEIGHT 30-33.6 LBS/FT3 (481-538 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 590 LBF (2,620 N)

RECOMMENDED FORBODIES

Ormsby Guitars Tonewoods Northern Ash
NORTHERN ASH

NORTH AMERICA

TONE
Bottom end attack and stronger mid range than Swamp Ash.
APPEARANCE
Light yellow to white in colour, similar to the colour of maple.

WEIGHT 42 LBS/FT3 (675 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 1,320 LBF (5,870 N)

RECOMMENDED FORBODIES

Ormsby Guitars Tonewoods Tasmanian Blackwood
TASMANIAN BLACKWOOD

SOUTH EAST OF AUSTRALIA

TONE
It features a nice tight bottom end, with a small mid range hump, and a bright top end.
APPEARANCE
Ranges from light brown to medium brown, can sometimes have slight patterns.

WEIGHT 40 LBS/FT3 (640 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 1,160 LBF (5,180 N)

RECOMMENDED FORBODIES AND NECKS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewoods bois de rose
BOIS DE ROSE

MADAGASCAR

TONE

Very similar in sound to Cocobolo, nice mid range and well rounded.

APPEARANCE

Dark purple to bright red, with linear tight grain lines, may turn brown over time.

WEIGHT 58 LBS/FT3 (930 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 2,600 LBF (11,570 N)

RECOMMENDED FORFRETBOARDS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewoods bocote
BOCOTE

MEXICO

TONE
Its on the warmer side of the scale tonally, but it does have a nice attack and sustain.
APPEARANCE
Grain of striking yellow and brown lines and swirls.

WEIGHT 53 LBS/FT3 (855 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 2,010 LBF (8,950 N)

RECOMMENDED FORTOPS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewoods Carbon Fibre
CARBON FIBRE

NASA

TONE
Extremely stiff and light weight, it has a well defined note separation and glassy tone.
APPEARANCE
Blackish Gunmetal Grey with carbon fibre crosshatch pattern.

WEIGHT N/A

JANKA HARDNESS N/A

RECOMMENDED FORBODIES AND NECKS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewoods Buckeye Burl
BUCKEYE BURL

EAST COAST OF NORTH AMERICA

TONE
It has no significant tonal qualities because its so porus and soft.
APPEARANCE
High contrast and randomised figuring of beige, blue, grey, green and near black.

WEIGHT 25 LBS/FT3 (400 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 350 LBF (1,560 N)

RECOMMENDED FORTOPS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood olive burl
OLIVE BURL

EUROPE AND SOUTHWEST ASIA

TONE
Between Mahogany and Walnut in tone. Crisp, clear, and snappy high end.
APPEARANCE
Light yellowish brown or cream, with medium orangey brown burls and stunning contrasting figuring.

WEIGHT 62 LBS/FT3 (990 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 2,700 LBF (12,010 N)

RECOMMENDED FORTOPS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewoods bubinga
BUBINGA

CENTRAL AFRICA

TONE
Fantastic sustain and bright tone, fat bottom end and perfect for bass or baritone guitars.
APPEARANCE
Often has a combination of yellow heartwood showing against random patterns of deep orange quilt, flame and darker contrasting swirls.

WEIGHT 56 LBS/FT3 (890 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 2,410 LBF (10,720 N)

RECOMMENDED FORCHAMBERED BODIES

Ormsby Guitars Tonewoods cocobolo
COCOBOLO

CENTRAL AMERICA

TONE
Expect a nice mid range without it being too warm, or bright tonally.
APPEARANCE
Wild oranges, browns, even yellow and black are featured in the magnificent grain of Cocobolo but will darken over time.

WEIGHT 69 LBS/FT3 (1,095 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 2,960 LBF (14,140 N)

RECOMMENDED FORFRETBOARDS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewoods douglas fir
DOUGLAS FIR

NORTH AMERICA

TONE

Clear and bright in tone with a nice bottom end.

APPEARANCE

Similar to pine, pale yellow with light growth bands.

WEIGHT 32 LBS/FT3 (510 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 620 LBF (2,760 N)

RECOMMENDED FORTOPS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewoods Asian Ebony
ASIAN EBONY

SOUTH EAST ASIA

TONE
Similar in tone to Macassar Ebony, which is bright.
APPEARANCE
Nice dark pinkish brown grain with wide black streaks.

WEIGHT N/A

JANKA HARDNESS N/A

RECOMMENDED FORNECKS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewoods ebony
EBONY

AFRICA

TONE
Tonally it is the brightest of timbers, and adds a nice snappy tone especially to the initial attack of each note plucked.
APPEARANCE
Black to deep brown, tight pored and can be almost plastic-like in appearance when highly polished.

WEIGHT 60 LBS/FT3 (955 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 3,080 LBF (13,700 N)

RECOMMENDED FORFRETBOARDS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewoods palemoon ebony
PALE MOON EBONY

SOUTH EAST ASIA

TONE
Great focused tonal spectrum with nice tight lows, and clear highs, not unlike black ebony.
APPEARANCE
Each peice is a unique swirl of light yellowish white, light brown and contrasting black patterns.

WEIGHT 51 LBS/FT3 (825 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 1,780 LBF (7,920 N)

RECOMMENDED FORFRETBOARDS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood macassar ebony
MACASSAR EBONY

SOUTH EAST ASIA

TONE
Similar to African Ebony in tone, although not quite as bright.
APPEARANCE
Reddish, chocolate brown and black ebony with swirls and grain in darker blacks and browns.

WEIGHT 72 LBS/FT3 (1,150 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 3,220 LBF (14,140 N)

RECOMMENDED FORFRETBOARDS AND TOPS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood goncalo alves
GONCALO ALVES

BRAZIL

TONE
Clear crisp bottom end with a nice midrange.
APPEARANCE
Orange and Yellow with strong reddish hues and sublime dark brown tiger stripes.

WEIGHT 57 LBS/FT3 (905 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 2,170 LBF (9,640 N)

RECOMMENDED FORTOPS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewoods black limba
BLACK LIMBA

AFRICA

TONE
Similar in tone to Brazilian Mahogany, with slightly more mids.
APPEARANCE
Sapwood is light yellowish white to light brown, black Limba is more ashy brown to pale grey tone with a black washed appearance.

WEIGHT 35 LBS/FT3 (555 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 670 LBF (2,990 N)

RECOMMENDED FORBODIES

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood koa
KOA

HAWAII

TONE
Very similar to both Brazilian Mahogany and Tasmanian Blackwood, although with more top end presence.
APPEARANCE
Beautiful gold and brown stripes, and can sometimes be found with flame patterns.

WEIGHT 38 LBS/FT3 (610 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 1,170 LBF (5,180 N)

RECOMMENDED FORNECKS AND BODIES

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood katalox
KATALOX

CENTRAL AMERICA

TONE
Dense and bright tonally, similar to Ebony, good mid-range attack.
APPEARANCE
Deep reddish browns, to almost purple black in appearance, with visible pores and colour shifts.

WEIGHT 72 LBS/FT3 (1,150 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 3,660 LBF (16,260 N)

RECOMMENDED FORFRETBOARDS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood brazillian mahogany
BRAZILIAN MAHOGANY

SOUTH AMERICA

TONE
Well rounded in tone with a warm feel. Pairing with a brighter wood adds a little bit of snap for rock and metal.
APPEARANCE
Reddish brown which darkens with age. Displays some Chatoyancy, which gives the colour and luster a natural shift as the light hits it.

WEIGHT 41 LBS/FT3 (655 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 900 LBF (4,000 N)

RECOMMENDED FORFRETBOARDS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewoods african mahogany
AFRICAN MAHOGANY

WESTERN AFRICA

TONE
Similar in tone to Brazilian Mahogany, with a slightly brighter vibe.
APPEARANCE
More light pinkish red than dark brown, but often features a slight swirl to the grain which can make it interesting to look at.

WEIGHT 40 LBS/FT3 (640 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 1,070 LBF (4,760 N)

RECOMMENDED FORFRETBOARDS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood Pacific Mahogany
PACIFIC MAHOGANY

FIJI

TONE

Warm tone overall with a creamy top end.

APPEARANCE

Light brown in colour with a slight pale reddish hue, tight grained and satin finish when sanded.

WEIGHT 28 LBS/FT3 (450 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 590 LBF (2,620 N)

RECOMMENDED FORBODIES

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood mango
MANGO

HAWAII

TONE
Slightly brighter top end compared to Koa.
APPEARANCE
Arrays of colours from yellow, pink, ash, orange, brown black and sometimes figured and flamed.

WEIGHT 42 LBS/FT3 (675 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 1,070 LBF (4,780 N)

RECOMMENDED FORBODIES

Ormsby Guitars Tonewoods Burl Maple
BURL MAPLE

NORTH AMERICA

TONE
A little warmer than the rest of the Maple examples.
APPEARANCE
Lots of swirls, dark rounded voids, bark inclusions and general "what the hell is THAT?!?!" make this an interesting timber.

WEIGHT 44 LBS/FT3 (705 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 1,450 LBF (6,450 N)

RECOMMENDED FORTOPS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood birdseye maple
BIRDSEYE MAPLE

NORTH EAST OF NORTH AMERICA

TONE
Stable and strong, Maple has a brightness to the top end and tends to tighten the bottom end when combined with warmer timbers.
APPEARANCE
Yellowish white with medium brown and brown-black burl-like spots, which get closer together and deeper in colour when heavily figured.

WEIGHT 44 LBS/FT3 (705 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 1,450 LBF (6,450 N)

RECOMMENDED FORFRETBOARDS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood rock maple
ROCK MAPLE

NORTH EAST OF NORTH AMERICA

TONE
Stable and strong, Maple has a brightness to the top end and tends to tighten the bottom end when combined with warmer timbers.
APPEARANCE
Yellowish white with minimal figuring, though may appear similar to swamp ash due to grain and growth lines.

WEIGHT 44 LBS/FT3 (705 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 1,450 LBF (6,450 N)

RECOMMENDED FORNECKS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood flame maple
FLAME MAPLE

NORTH EAST OF NORTH AMERICA

TONE
Stable and strong, Maple has a brightness to the top end and tends to tighten the bottom end when combined with warmer timbers.
APPEARANCE
The figuring comes from the wood fibres compressing on themselves due to the shear weight of the old growth Maple trees. Approximately 1/50 trees have some flame figuring, although less than 1/1000 have the figuring and depth we look for.

WEIGHT 44 LBS/FT3 (705 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 1,450 LBF (6,450 N)

RECOMMENDED FORFRETBOARDS AND TOPS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood quilt maple
QUILT MAPLE

PACIFIC NORTH AMERICA

TONE
Maple has a brightness to the top end (but ever so slightly less than Flame Maple) and tends to tighten the bottom end when combined with warmer timbers
APPEARANCE
The figuring comes from the wood fibres compressing on themselves due to the shear weight of the old growth Maple trees. Approximately 1/100 trees have some quilt figuring, although less than 1/1000 have the figuring and depth we look for.

WEIGHT 34LBS/FT3 (545 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 850 LBF (3,780 N)

RECOMMENDED FORTOPS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood tasmanian myrtle
TASMANIAN MYRTLE

TASMANIA

TONE
Bright and snappy with a nice balance warmth to the bottom and mids.
APPEARANCE
Often found with nice variation in the soft colours of pinks, biege, and greys.

WEIGHT 39 LBS/FT3 (625 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 1,310 LBF (5,840 N)

RECOMMENDED FORBODIES AND NECKS

QLD Maple
QUEENSLAND MAPLE

NORTHERN QUEENSLAND

TONE
Bright and snappy with a nice balance warmth to the bottom and mids.
APPEARANCE
Closer in colour to mahogany than regular maple, light brown with a slight pinkish tinge, less yellow.

WEIGHT 35 LBS/FT3 (560 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 810 LBF (3,620 N)

RECOMMENDED FORBODIES AND NECKS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood spalted maple
SPALTED MAPLE

NORTH AMERICA

TONE
Similar in tone to regular maple, a bit less resonant due to being softer.
APPEARANCE
Light whitish and yellowish brown with defined thin black inclusions. Every piece is totally unique, so no two are alike.

WEIGHT VARIES DEPENDING ON STATE OF DECAY

JANKA HARDNESS VARIES DEPENDING ON STATE OF DECAY

RECOMMENDED FORTOPS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood ovangkol
OVANGKOL

WEST AFRICA

TONE
Similar in tone to Rosewoods, with a slightly brighter top end and nice full midrange.
APPEARANCE
Yellowish brown with slight reddish or pale brown streaks, interlocking and interesting grain.

WEIGHT 51 LBS/FT3 (825 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 1,330 LBF (5,900 N)

RECOMMENDED FORNECKS

Image
OSAGE ORANGE

LOWER NORTH AMERICA

TONE
Very similar in tone to Rosewoods, with slightly reduced bass response, but a touch more clarity.
APPEARANCE
Golden or orange appearance, Osage Orange is pretty unique and shows some distinct grain.

WEIGHT 54 LBS/FT3 (855 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 2,760 LBF (12,280 N)

RECOMMENDED FORFRETBOARDS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood pau ferro
PAU FERRO

SOUTH AMERICA

TONE
Not quite in the realm of Ebony for brightness (but still brighter than Maple),
APPEARANCE
Light reddish brown and dark violetish brown heavy swirls or lines usually present.

WEIGHT 54 LBS/FT3 (865 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 1,960 LBF (8,710 N)

RECOMMENDED FORFRETBOARDS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood padouk
PADOUK

AFRICA

TONE

Bright and punchy tonally, similar to Maple and suitable for fretboards.

APPEARANCE

Bright orange and red heartwood, may look ashy light brown when dull and will brown over time due to UV exposure.

WEIGHT 47 LBS/FT3 (745 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 1,970 LBF (8,760 N)

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood pink ivory
PINK IVORY
TONE
APPEARANCE
The heartwood has a distinct brownish red to pale pink colour, sometimes almost neon pink, with fine, dense grain.

WEIGHT 65 LBS/FT3 (1,030 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 3,230 LBF

RECOMMENDED FORFRETBOARDS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood purpleheart
PURPLEHEART

CENTRAL AMERICA

TONE
Wonderful sustain ideal for fretboards, and similar tone to Rosewood.
APPEARANCE
The colour changes from a bright purple to a dark purple/brown colour as it oxidises, and it is very rare to find figured peices.

WEIGHT 56 LBS/FT3 (905 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 2,520 LBF (11,190 N)

RECOMMENDED FORNECKS AND FRETBOARDS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood poplar burl
POPLAR BURL

USA (EAST COAST)

TONE
It's considered to be close to Alder in tone.
APPEARANCE
The grain is a light grey or even green colour and is mostly unattractive. However, burled examples feature beautiful figuring, swirls, darker pockets, and a maze of interlocking lines and grain.

WEIGHT 29 LBS/FT3 (455 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 540 LBF (2,400 N)

RECOMMENDED FORBODIES

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood redwood
REDWOOD

NORTH AMERICA

TONE
Deep, rich tone. Adding a redwood top will accentuate the warmth and is often used in basses.
APPEARANCE
Deep reddish brown hues. We source the flamed/figured variety, as shown, for it's beauty.

WEIGHT 26 LBS/FT3 (415 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 450 LBF (2,000 N)

RECOMMENDED FORTOPS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood redwood burl
REDWOOD BURL

NORTH AMERICA

TONE
Deep, rich tone. Adding a redwood top will accentuate the warmth and is often used in basses.
APPEARANCE
The burl features magnificent red and brown swirling patterns that will draw you in.

WEIGHT 26 LBS/FT3 (415 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 450 LBF (2,000 N)

RECOMMENDED FORTOPS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood honduran rosewood
HONDURAN ROSEWOOD

HONDURAS

TONE
Warmth of tone with a slightly glassy sound, and highly suitable for fretboards. Great projection and strong lows and highs
APPEARANCE
Interesting deep brownish-purple to a light-brown. Most common is a brownish-mauve color colouring and grain patterns sometimes with a spider web type figuring.

WEIGHT 64 LBS/FT3 (1,025 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 2,200 LBF (9,790 N)

RECOMMENDED FORFRETBOARDS

Image
BRAZILIAN ROSEWOOD

BRAZIL

TONE
Brazilian rosewood is often more luscious and exotic in appearance than varieties from India, Madagascar, and the Amazon region that are more commonly used today
APPEARANCE
Ranging from dark chocolate brown to a more stripy grain mingling gold, black, brown, and oxblood colorings.

WEIGHT 52 LBS/FT3 (835 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 2,790 LBF (12,410 N)

RECOMMENDED FORFRETBOARDS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood indian rosewood
INDIAN ROSEWOOD

INDIA, SRI LANKA, INDONESIA

TONE
Nice warm tones with a creamy top end, Rosewood is a classic fretboard wood.
APPEARANCE
Lusious reds, browns, and even streaks of black appear in light swirling.

WEIGHT 52 LBS/FT3 (830 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 2,440 LBF (10,870 N)

RECOMMENDED FORFRETBOARDS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood snakewood
SNAKEWOOD

NORTH EAST AREA OF SOUTH AMERICA

TONE
Bright, and very smooth when used as a fretboard.
APPEARANCE
Exquisite 'snake scale' like pattern of browns, black, yellow and orange.

WEIGHT 73 LBS/FT3 (1,170 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 3,800 LBF (16,900 N)

RECOMMENDED FORFRETBOARDS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood sapele
SAPELE

AFRICA

TONE
Mahogany like properties in both appearance and tonality. Well rounded in tone with a warm feel.
APPEARANCE
Medium Brown with some light and dark grain effects, rarely found in pommele and quilted style figuring.

WEIGHT 42 LBS/FT3 (670 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 1,410 LBF (6,280 N)

RECOMMENDED FORNECKS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood wenge
WENGE

AFRICA

TONE
Not as bright as Maple, but it does have a nice mid range.
APPEARANCE
Chocolate brown and black streaks with amazing grain patterns.

WEIGHT 54 LBS/FT3 (870 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 1,930 LBF (8,600 N)

RECOMMENDED FORFRETBOARDS AND NECKS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood claro walnut
CLARO WALNUT

CALIFORNIA

TONE
Nice well rounded earthy tone similar to Indian Rosewood.
APPEARANCE
Light to dark chocolate tones with some pores, occasionally found with figured grain patterns such as: curly, crotch, and burl.

WEIGHT 40 LBS/FT3 (640 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 1,130 LBF (5,030 N)

RECOMMENDED FORFRETBOARDS AND TOPS

Ormsby Guitars Tonewood ziricote
ZIRICOTE

CENTRAL AMERICA

TONE
A rich, deep bass with sparkling highs are what you'll hear
APPEARANCE
Magnificent grain patterns of black lines and brown swirls you'll fall in love with.

WEIGHT 50 LBS/FT3 (805 KG/M3)

JANKA HARDNESS 1,970 LBF (8,780 N)

RECOMMENDED FORFRETBOARDS AND TOPS