Australian tonewoods

Blackwood for guitars

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Since moving to Australia in 2018, folk have been asking me what I think of Australian tonewoods. Well, some of them seem rather nice. Above are a few of the many sets I’ve bought  – Australian blackwood. Most of this blackwood is from Victoria. Tassie blackwood has been marketed very well, and naturally Tasmanian tonewood dealers are very quick to tell you there blackwood is the best, but I’m yet to see wood being sold from Tasmania of this quality. I’m sure it exists, but I’m yet to see it.

Blackwood really does have a similar feel to mahogany. It is the same genus as Hawaiian koa, and is very similar to it also.


Jarrah as a tonewood

Another of my Aussie tonewood favourites is jarrah. This is a wood I use in veneer form, as jarrah itself isn’t stable enough for my liking. But laminated it can be stunning and stable. This guitar back and sides were laminated with jarrah, khaya and Western red cedar, with flame maple on the inside.

Model E-SS back Jarrah sobell
flame jarrah
Model E-SS jarrah sides edited
Model E-SS jarrah

Queensland maple as a tonewood

Another wood I’m taken with is Queensland maple. Ok, THIS IS NOT MAPLE! It bears no resemblance to maple in any way shape or form so I’ve no idea why it is called “maple.” It is however a lot like a nice crisp lightweight mahogany. And as my stocks of African mahogany back and sides dwindle, I’ll be replacing them with Queensland maple. I’ve already used a set on this Session King 6 sting Model E and it’s really impressive – sonorous, stable and co-operative.

Session King Model E-SS-2
Session King Model E-SS
Session King Model E-SS-8


Queensland maple silkwood


You can see a short video of this wood HERE. 

Another variety of Queensland maple is silkwood – which has a beautiful “waterfall” figure to it. I’m building a guitar with it just now, and so far, its just like regualr Queensland maple, only more beautiful.


I’ve had some of this wood long enough for me to be happy using it. I’m not the type of maker who buys wood in to order, has it on the shelf a few weeks and uses it. That is a recipe for future problems. It is best to see how a piece of wood behaves over time. To lath it up, let it dry, to let it mature before making it into a guitar or mandolin.

So there you go – from the plain and simple to the simply spectacular, Australia has some very useable tonewoods. If  you’d like me to make you an instrument with them, I’d be more than happy to. Send me a message in the box at the foot of this page and we can take it from there.