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Ask Michael: Wood Purchasing

Posted by cfmartinguitar

Michael Dickinson will address where Martin Guitar purchases its wood from in the first edition of Ask Michael. Do you have questions you'd like Michael to answer? Comment on this blog post for the chance to have your question answered.


Martin Guitar purchases its wood from all over the world. It is my job as the Exotic, Alternative, and Sustainable Wood Sourcing Specialist to travel in the deepest, darkest jungles of the world to make sure we get the wood we need to build guitars. The most important aspect of this is making sure the wood was harvested legally.

As far as Martin guitars are concerned, the four main species we use are: Sitka Spruce, Mahogany, Rosewood, and Ebony. Sitka Spruce comes from the northwestern parts of the USA and Canada. Check out this picture of me in Oregon standing next to a 350 year old tree.


For reference, I am 6'6".

We also use Adirondack spruce that comes from the east coast of the USA and Canada.

Our Mahogany comes from an FSC certified forest in Guatemala that surrounds the Mayan ruins. In making this biosphere a working forest we are adding value to the forest, keeping illegal loggers at bay, helping local villages, and protecting the magnificent ancient Mayan ruins.


They knew I was coming, so they built me a throne.

Check out some of the pictures I took from my wood purchasing adventures.


Here are logs I picked to be cut into lumber.

The lumber pictured above will be turned into guitar parts in Nazareth, PA. Mahogany and cedar are used for necks, backs, sides, kerfing, tops, and the occasional brace. While East Indian Rosewood is cut into backs, sides, fingerboards, and bridge blanks in India.


The logs are lined up and the sawmill owners bid against each other. The logs are sold at government auctions. Nothing is cut and everything is lightening damaged, windblown, or naturally fallen.


We check the color of the wood by hitting it with a hatchet. The particular log above was a deep, dark purple. I think it would be perfect for a D-45.


Ebony comes from the congo basin area of Africa. They are huge, HUGE trees! The one pictured above is at least 200 feet tall.


Ebony is an odd tree. When the wood is young it is white. But as the tree ages, the wood turns black. Most trees do not change color so drastically. Ebony is used for fingerboards, bridges, head plates, and end pins.

We do use woods from other parts of the world, including several species from the USA. If you have any more questions let me know. Or if you have any wood you would like to see on a guitar, let me know-my bags are always packed and I'm always willing to travel!


Michael Dickinson is a 24-year veteran of Martin Guitar. Michael has worked in numerous departments , such as the Sawmill and Customer Service, and is the current buyer of exotic, alternative, and sustainable woods. Ask Michael is a bi-monthly column that will appear on the Martin Guitar blog. Please note, Michael will not be responding to every comment left on the blog.

Topics: Ask Michael

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