Back to Articles

Noyce Guitars
Mount Clear
Ballarat, Victoria
Australia, 3350
+61 3 5330 2244


Blackwood

The Blackwood Tree (Acacia melanoxylon)
The Australian Blackwood tree is usually found as an understory tree in large eucalypt forests where rainfall is 750 - 1800 mm annually.

It can be a fine, erect tree 25-30 m high but is more often 16m or less with a trunk 30-100 cm in diameter. The branches begin well down the trunk, are horizontal or slightly pendulous, and culminate in a dense rounded crown, the overall effect being very handsome (*1).

The picture on the right shows me and a young Blackwood on my golf course. Blackwood is almost a twin with Hawian Koa and is rapidly gaining recognition as one of the great guitar woods of the world.

Click on the photo for a full-size view --> 


The Wood:
Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon)

Size:
A medium sized hardwood of occasional occurrence in table-land areas in South Australia and all the eastern States, but the only areas of considerable commercial yield are the wetter districts of Tasmania.

Description:
The heartwood is golden brown, often with narrow bands of darker colour indicating growth rings. Sometimes reddish streaks are also present. The sapwood is distinctly paler and up to 50mm wide. Texture is medium and even. The grain is usually straight but sometimes wavy, producing a fiddleback figure.

Green density and air dry density (at 12%):
GD about 870 kg/m3, ADD about 640 kg/m3 (40 Lb/Cub. Ft.)
Drying and shrinkage characteristics: Easy to dry with little checking and negligible collapse. Shrinkage about 1.5% radial, 4% tangential.

Workability:
Easy to work but planer angle may need reducing for figured material. Good for steam bending. Glues and nails well. It can be bleached white with ammonia and hydrogen peroxide. The sanding dust is irritant to the skin and bronchial tubes of some people. Spots of a dark exudate may appear sometimes but readily sand off and do not appear to affect finishes.

Use:
Used in furniture, decorative veneer, panelling, carving, turnery, flooring, boatbuilding, gunstocks.

Availability:
Confined to relatively small sizes. It is a species whose wider cultivation should be encouraged (*2).


Blackwood for Guitar making.
Blackwood has similar density and modulus of elasticity to Maple but is open grained with good light reflection from medullary rays (like Mahogany) and in figured pieces displays excellent colour and figure variations.

These properties make Blackwood an excellent guitar wood, combining the characteristics of the three traditional acoustic guitar woods (Mahogany, Maple and Rosewood) both in appearance and acoustic properties.

In recent years I have "evolved" into using Blackwood in solid body electrics (bolt-on and plank necks), basses, semi-acoustics and acoustics. This has involved some minor design changes in some models and has met with excellent acceptance in the Australian market, renown for its' conservatism and preference for American guitars and woods. Although extremely difficult to acquire select timber, which essentially must be sourced as it is felled and broken down and seasoned in house, the results have been well worthwhile (*3).

3 May 1996


References
*1
Holliday, I. (1989). A field guide to Australian Trees - Hamlyn
*2 Bootle, K. R. (1991). Wood in Australia - McGraw Hill
*3 Ian Noyce, Noyce Guitars, Ballarat, Australia.