Scott Wise Ukulele FAQ Page 2
Why is blackwood first choice tone wood?
Australian Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon)
Just as the original Hawaiian makers were blessed with the extraordinary tonewood Acacia Koa, in Eastern Australia there grows Acacia Melanoxylon or Australian Blackwood, also called Tasmanian Blackwood, as it grows very well in that island state. However, variants of it grow all the way up the east of Australia into the tropical areas. It is a relatively short-lived tree, a legume, which re-colonises the ground after older trees have died and prepares the soil for the dominant forest trees. It has almost identical properties to its Hawaiian cousin, Koa. I use it for almost all my ukulele bodies – top, back and sides. It is a highly regarded tonewood for guitars as it sometimes has wonderful wavy, shimmering, dimpled and otherwise spectacular grain. (Only about 1% of trees show this figure) It also imparts a bright, rich tone when used in guitar back and sides, although I don’t favour it in guitars as much as other woods. I do prefer it to mahogany though. It really comes into its own when used in ukuleles however, when carefully shaved down to the very fine thicknesses I use and braced appropriately it has just the right combination of strength and flexibility to produce the rich full bodied tone I strive for. Straight grained, quartersawn blackwood is very stiff along the grain and produces a bright sound. The curly, figured blackwood has a stonger lower midrange component and a warmer sound. It has a good surface hardness and does not require a thick finish for protection from the various strumming techniques used by players. In fact, it is fine with no finish at all if you want, just a hard wax coating to seal the wood and protect against dirt will do.
In short, it looks great, a lot like the best Hawaiian Koa, sounds great, and is a sustainably harvested timber. What more could you want?