Osage Orange Tonewood
Given the new restrictions recently placed on the trade of all wood in the Dalbergia genus, I think that the use of Osage Orange tonewood is long overdue. Back when I worked at Gallagher Guitar Co. I was handling set after set of Indian and Brazilian Rosewood. At that time, most of my experience with Osange Orange was in the form of firewood, but the resulting high pitch "ping" that occurred upon my dropping of a log on a concrete floor began my curiosity over its similarities to Brazilian, Cocobolo, Honduran and the other rosewoods we use for building guitars. As far back as 10 years ago I began to see myself introducing this wood into the tonewood market as a luthier and I am just now realizing that dream.
I don't think of Osage Orange as an alternative to rosewoods, but rather as their equal. Although the yellow color of the fresh cut wood will initially strike some as garish, the wood ages to a dark brownish orange and has the extremely high density and velocity of sound that we associate with the finest rosewood specimens.
So why has it failed to enter the mainstream tonewood market? Well...the only reason of which I can think is that finding trees that are large enough for guitar building is rather difficult. Farmers in my area typically treat these trees as pests and firewood rather than as the priceless resource they are. Secondly, even the trees that grow large enough in diameter to use as guitarwood are often hiding one or two hidden trunks inside what appears to be just one.
Luckily, last winter, I found an intriguing source of large trees and one year later have returned to harvest and mill out their wood for guitar sets. I was joined by Jeremy Clark, a classical guitar luthier in Montreal who traveled all the way from Canada to help with the heavy lifting and milling of this wood.
It will be a couple of years before it is dry enough to use as instrument wood, but until that time I am taking the names and emails of other luthiers that are interested in joining me in popularizing this wood that has both a rich history and tone.
Sign up at OsageOrangeWood.com