Is Eucalyptus A Good Guitar Tonewood? Electric, Acoustic & Bass


Guitars are made of numerous different parts, many of which are made of wood. The choice of wood in the guitar body (the solid body and laminate in electric guitars and the sides, back and top of acoustic guitars), neck and fretboard all contribute to the overall playability, feel and, of course, tone of the instrument. Since eucalyptus is used in the construction of guitars and basses, it’s worth investigating whether it’s a good tonewood or not.

Is eucalyptus a good guitar tonewood? Of the few notable eucalyptus tonewoods, all can be considered alternatives. They tend to work and sound great as fretboards but aren’t overly impressive as bodies or necks. The attack of most eucalypti is strong and clear, though the sustain is often lacking, and the overall tone is often dull.

In this article, we’ll discuss if and how eucalyptus tonewood is used in electric, acoustic, classical and bass guitar construction with a keen focus on its tone.

Note: in my research for this article, I used Sweetwater’s extensive guitar database to find examples of guitars with eucalyptus in their construction. The links to the guitars in this article will send readers to Sweetwater’s site for more information. Sweetwater is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 10 Best Online Audio Gear/Equipment Retailers.


Table Of Contents


Characteristics Of Eucalyptus Tonewood

Eucalyptus is a genus comprised of more than seven hundred species in the myrtle family Myrtaceae. Common eucalyptus tonewoods include karri (Eucalyptus diversicolor), jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata), mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans), red river gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis).

Karri (Eucalyptus diversicolor) is endemic to the southwest of Western Australia.

Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) is also known as djarraly and Swan River mahogany (though not true mahogany from the genus Swietenia). It is also endemic to the southwest of Western Australia.

Mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans) is also referred to as swamp gum or stringy gum and is native to Tasmania and Victoria, Australia.

Red river gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) is found all across mainland Australia.

“Tasmanian oak,” which isn’t true oak (of the genus Quercus), is more of a marketing term and refers to the species of Eucalyptus regnans, obliqua or delegatensis when sourced specifically from the state of Tasmania.

Similarly, “Victorian ash,” which isn’t true ash (of the genus Fraxinus), refers to Eucalyptus regnans and Eucalyptus delegatensis specifically from the state of Victoria.

Though there are plenty of Eucalyptus species, these few are the popular options for guitar and bass tonewoods. They’re all similar in their properties and characteristics, though we’ll discuss their subtle differences in this article. More specifically, we’ll focus on karri, jarrah, mountain ash and red river gum, though other species can certainly be used as well.

Karri (Eucalyptus diversicolor): is golden to reddish-brown in colour. It has interlocked grain with a medium-to-coarse texture. It is the stiffest of the “popular” eucalyptus tonewoods. The density of karri makes it liable to blunt tools, and its interlocked grain is prone to tear-out during sanding and planing.

Karri isn’t very resonant and is relatively dead, tonally speaking. It can be loud but sharp with little sustain. It’s got lots of midrange and bass.

Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata): ranges from light red/brown to dark brick-coloured red. Its grain ranges from wavy to interlocked, having curled and fiddleback figures. Its texture is medium-to-coarse. The density of jarrah makes it liable to blunt tools, and its interlocked grain is prone to tear-out during sanding and planing.

Jarrah is pretty dead-sounding as far as tonewoods go. However, it can be very loud with notable midrange and defined bass. There’s little in regard to high-end ringing.

Mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans): is medium yellow to light brown in colour. Its grain is straight (though some pieces exhibit fiddleback figure), and its texture is medium-to-coarse. It is the lightest and softest of the “popular” eucalyptus tonewoods and is arguably the most striking, aesthetically. It is also the easiest to work.

Mountain ash is perhaps the most musical eucalyptus tonewood. It sounds warm yet clear and produces more top-end than other varieties (though the high-end is still subdued).

Red river gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis): tends to have a dark red colour, straight grain (though sometimes interlocked with fiddleback figure), and a medium texture. It is the heaviest and hardest of the “popular” eucalyptus tonewoods. Red river gum has a blunting effect on tools, and pieces with interlocked grain are prone to tear-out and splitting.

Red river gum is a relatively balanced tonewood with low ringing (fast attack) across the frequency spectrum. Its relatively subtle midrange makes it sound brighter than other eucalyptus varieties.

None of these Eucalyptus tonewoods are listed in the CITES Appendices or the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

In terms of workability, all the aforementioned eucalypti woods glue and finish well, though they’re notoriously hard on tools.

Here are a few notable specs from the four notably eucalyptus tonewoods we’ve been discussing:

  • Type: Karri
  • Hardwood/Softwood: Hardwood
  • Colour: golden to reddish-brown
  • Grain: interlocked
  • Texture: open, medium-to-coarse
  • Pores: diffuse-porous
  • Density: 885 kg/m3 / 55.25 lb/ft3
  • Janka Hardness (Typical): 9,030 N / 2,030 lbf
  • Elastic Modulus: 20.44 GPa / 2,965,000 psi
  • Tone (Warm/Bright Scale): warm
  • Price: moderate
  • Type: Jarrah
  • Hardwood/Softwood: Hardwood
  • Colour: light red/brown to dark brick-coloured red
  • Grain: wavy to interlocked
  • Texture: open, medium-to-coarse
  • Pores: diffuse-porous
  • Density: 835 kg/m3 / 52.13 lb/ft3
  • Janka Hardness (Typical): 8,270 N / 1,859 lbf
  • Elastic Modulus: 14.70 GPa / 2,132,000 psi
  • Tone (Warm/Bright Scale): warm
  • Price: moderate
  • Type: Mountain ash
  • Hardwood/Softwood: Hardwood
  • Colour: medium yellow to light brown
  • Grain: straight
  • Texture: open, medium-to-coarse
  • Pores: diffuse-porous
  • Density: 680 kg/m3 / 42.45 lb/ft3
  • Janka Hardness (Typical): 5,400 N / 1,214 lbf
  • Elastic Modulus: 14.02 GPa / 2,033,000 psi
  • Tone (Warm/Bright Scale): bright
  • Price: moderate
  • Type: Red river gum
  • Hardwood/Softwood: Hardwood
  • Colour: pale brown to pale pink
  • Grain: usually straight, sometimes fiddleback
  • Texture: open, moderately coarse
  • Pores: diffuse-porous
  • Density: 870 kg/m3 / 54.31 lb/ft3
  • Janka Hardness (Typical): 9,600 N / 2,160 lbf
  • Elastic Modulus: 11.80 GPa / 1,711,000 psi
  • Tone (Warm/Bright Scale): bright
  • Price: moderate

Sources: wikipedia.org and wood-database.com

Here are links to the official website of the IUCN and Cites:
IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)
CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)


Is Eucalyptus A Good Electric Guitar Tonewood?

Before we begin, I should mention that tonewoods don’t have nearly as much of an effect on the overall sound of an electric guitar as they do on an acoustic guitar. The guitar pickups, strings, the signal chain and the amplifier all play a huge role in the overall tone of an electric guitar. It’s not all about the wood, though it is a factor.

Eucalyptus is considered an alternative tonewood and isn’t overly popular. However, it can be used as a fretboard and/or body veneer to achieve good structural and tonal results.

Is Eucalyptus A Good Electric Guitar Body Tonewood?

Eucalyptus is a fairly experimental tonewood when it comes to guitars, and its use in electric guitar bodies is no different. Far from standard, eucalyptus woods are more commonly found as options in custom builds. They can be used with varying success as tops and laminates and in hollowbody designs. One factor worth mentioning is that they’re all relatively heavy, meaning they are often dismissed as solidbody woods for lighter, standard options.

Examples of electric guitars with eucalyptus bodies/tops:

  • Relish Mary: semi-hollowbody with eucalyptus/alder top (aluminum core body)

Is Eucalyptus A Good Electric Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Eucalyptus is never considered for guitar necks, though it could be a viable option. There are plenty of well-tested materials that will likely outperform eucalyptus in terms of durability, stability, and tone.

Is Eucalyptus A Good Electric Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

The high density and hardness of most eucalyptus tonewoods make most of them (though not all) good choices for fretboards. In general, eucalyptus has a naturally fast sound (low sustain), which enhances the clarity of each note. This is a plus in terms of fretboard woods. Additionally, eucalyptus typically feels wonderful underneath the finger.


Is Eucalyptus A Good Acoustic Guitar Tonewood?

Eucalyptus is an alternative acoustic/classical guitar tonewood as well. It’s not overly popular in commercially-available guitars, though it can be seen in some notable fretboards. Rather, it’s a decent wood to experiment with and sees most of its use in one-off builds.

Is Eucalyptus A Good Acoustic Guitar Body Back/Side Tonewood?

Eucalyptus back and sides aren’t common, though they’re certainly viable. Eucalyptus can be tricky to bend, as it likes to maintain its original shape, making it difficult to work. This effort may not be worth the trouble, as eucalyptus woods tend to have short sustain and low volume, which aren’t the ideal characteristics of a back and sides wood.

Is Eucalyptus A Good Acoustic Guitar Body Top Tonewood?

Eucalyptus isn’t very loud or capable of projecting loudly. Rather, it’s a relatively dead-sounding tonewood, making it a fairly bad acoustic/classical tope wood.

Is Eucalyptus A Good Acoustic Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Eucalyptus is never considered for acoustic guitar necks, though it could be a viable option. Though its tone is decent and the wood is relatively stable and durable, many options are likely to outperform it.

Is Eucalyptus A Good Acoustic Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Most eucalyptus tonewood varieties (except potentially mountain ash) make for superb fretboards. They’re stable, hard and durable. They feel great and look good, too.

Taylor is a notable brand that uses eucalyptus as a fretboard material in some of its acoustic guitars.

Taylor is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 13 Best Acoustic Guitar Brands In The World

Examples of acoustic guitars with eucalyptus fretboards:


Is Eucalyptus A Good Bass Guitar Tonewood?

Bass guitars aren’t built that differently, in terms of material, from their 6-string counterparts. Eucalyptus in bass guitars will most likely be in the fretboard, where it serves its purpose and a dense, durable, smooth surface for fretting.


Other Tonewoods

Of course, there are plenty of other tonewoods besides eucalyptus. Here is a list of other tonewoods with links to check out more in-depth articles on each:


This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.

Arthur

Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and author of My New Microphone. He's an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he's likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers' Movement (hikersmovement.com) or composing music for media. Check out his Pond5 and AudioJungle accounts.

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