We’re starting to hear more and more about Sapele in the musical instrument industry. We know that usual species and sources around the world are shrinking, and the smart and forward thinking guitar companies are starting to introduce new options. Why?
Years ago Taylor Guitars famously created a guitar from a wooden pallet (the kind you find in a warehouse) just to show there was nothing particularly special about the woods used in a guitar. Sure, it sounded like crap, and I’m sure it’s imploded by this point. But the message was important: The woods we treat as sacrosanct aren’t necessarily so.
With dwindling supplies and the ability to make guitars from nearly anything we might be able to save certain species from extinction and begin getting used to guitars made from woods that weren’t used 100 years ago. Think Brazilian rosewood, Indian rosewood, Ebony, Hawaiian Koa, and others. We’ve used these for nearly 200 years. And it’s been slowly pounded into our heads that these woods equal a guitar, and guitars need these woods.
So innovative makers have experimented, found some equal alternatives, and begun introducing them in their lines. We going to be forced to make a change at some point and we might as well begin using good alternatives before that point. These new species need to slip into our subconscious thinking as acceptable for guitars.
Mahagany? Sapele, Cherry, Sycamore, Walnut, Imbuya
Ebony? Black limba, Micarta
Spruce? White Pine
Give It A Try
I own a 100% Mahogany guitar. And I own a 100% Sapele guitar. The grain looks the same, it stains the same, the weight feels the same, and I would not hesitate a second if I found my next potential guitar contained appropriately used Sapele.
We’re moving into a new world; partly due to international treaties, and partly due to folks trying to do the right thing. I believe we should begin shopping with open minds. Continue to listen for good sound, but listen with your ears and disregard the specifications on the tag.