Wood Profile: Blackwood


Blackwood: African

African blackwood is denser and harder than either ebony or Brazilian rosewood. It is perhaps the ultimate wood for power, clarity, punch, and harmonic complexity.

Latin Name: dalbergia melanoxylon

Origin: Africa

Tone Profile: It has a tight, but robust sound; powerful and crisp; a dark bell-like overtone with a slow response.

Application: Musical instruments, particularly woodwind instruments, such as clarinets.

Comparison: Tonally, it is not as deep as Brazilian rosewood, and not as tight as mahogany.

Aesthetics: It has a straight grain, and very fine texture with an oily surface. Strikingly different from other rosewoods in that it is black in color, and often with sapwood showing up in the guitar pattern

Backstory: A true rosewood, African blackwood has been highly prized for many centuries; the oily, fine wood was used by the Egyptians for tomb artefacts, and the Makonde tribe of East Africa uses it to make intricate carvings, which are now an important source of tourist revenue.

Trivia / Fact: The African blackwood is the National Tree of Tanzania

Blackwood: Australian or Tasmanian

Australian and Tasmanian blackwood are acacias, and not black at all. They are closely related to koa and have many similar properties, but are denser and more powerful, with most of koa’s sweetness.

Latin Name: acacia melanoxylon

Origin: Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand

Tone Profile: Sweet trebles, a pronounced midrange and a clear and warm bass, with a punchy bottom end.

Application: Musical instruments (in particular guitars, drums, Hawaiian ukuleles, violin bows and organ pipes). Also used for furniture, tools, boats, and wooden kegs.

Comparison: Considered a viable alternative to rosewood and koa.  faster attack than rosewood, but the mid and high ends of a mahogany. Has warm woody tones similar to that of mahogany and the brightness of rosewood. Similar but superior to koa: more density and often has a better tap tone (A bit denser and often lower dampening than koa)

Aesthetics: Coloration ranges from light golden browns to deep browns, sometimes a reddish tint and occasionally showing black streaks. Can be highly figured, with a 3-D effect. It is usually straight grained but may be wavy or interlocked and quartersawn surfaces sometimes produce a nice fiddleback figure

Backstory: This fast growing perennial tree lives for 15 – 50 years, and because it propogates so succesfully, and damages pavement and underground plumbing, it is considered an invasive species. It is a declared noxious weed species in South Africa and is a pest in Portugal’s Azore Islands. It was also recently listed by the California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC) as an invasive weed.

Trivia / Fact: Its twigs and bark are used in fishing as a way to poison fish.

Blackwood Images