Did You Know? The following are a few questions and answers relative to Rosewood as it relates to Martin Guitars. Rosewood is a highly sought-after wood for guitar manufacturing, and Martin Guitars has a well-established reputation for their Rosewood legacy.
Q: I heard that all Martin guitars used to be made with Brazilian Rosewood – Is this true?
A: Yes, at one time all of Martin’s regular styles were made of Brazilian rosewood. The Style 17 was the first to use mahogany for the sides and back. This change occurred about 1909 and was documented in the catalog of that year. Style 18 followed suit in 1917 according to a dealer notice dated January 1 of that year. Brazilian rosewood continued to be used for all instruments in Style 21 and was the next style up from the 18 at that particular period of time.
Q: Why are guitars manufactured with Brazilian rosewood so sought after?
A: Mostly, because the wood is so rare and difficult to obtain. Since it is considered nearly extinct, it is extremely expensive if available at all. Martin rosewood models before mid-1969 were made with Brazilian rosewood. As a result, Martin’s long standing reputation for tone was closely connected to the historical use of this wood. Brazilian rosewood is available in very limited quantities for special limited edition orders only. Brazilian rosewood is sometimes referred to as “Jacaranda”. This species of genuine rosewood ranges in color from dark brown to violet, with spidery black streaks. The smell is like roses when freshly cut.
Q: When did East Indian Rosewood enter the picture?
A: In the 1960’s Brazil placed an embargo on Brazilian rosewood logs that Martin required. Their purpose was to attract industry to Brazil by demanding that the logs be sawn in Brazilian mills. This was unsatisfactory, and Martin changed to similar product, East Indian rosewood from India. In addition to the embargo, there was another basic problem in acquiring Brazilian rosewood. The available supply of large rosewood trees, in which the processed wood is wide enough for two-piece Dreadnought backs, was depleted. The shortage of wide pieces led to the introduction of the D-35 with a 3-piece back, in 1965. Martin ceased using Brazilian rosewood in standard production for complete sets of back and sides in 1969.