For guitar players, builders, and manufacturers, there was a significant shift that took place in January of 2017.
The Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) held a conference from September 24 – October 4 this year in Johannesburg, South Africa where it was decided that all species of rosewood under the genus Dalbergia and three bubinga species (Guibourtia demeusei, Guibourtia pellegriniana, and Guibourtia tessmannii) will be protected under CITES Appendix II. This was done to protect the deforestation of certain species.
What does this mean?
It means that in order to ship guitars and guitar parts across international borders for commercial purposes, the instrument either:
1- Cannot contain rosewood, or
2- Must have documentation that certifies the wood was harvested prior to January 2, 2017. This documentation is issued by the US Forest Service, and can be somewhat difficult and time consuming to acquire.
Note, this regulation does not apply to personal instruments that you are shipping or traveling with. It only applies to commercial use (buying or selling instruments).
Isn’t this a pretty big deal?
Yes. Rosewood has long been among the most popular choice for fretboards on electric guitars, and for the body of many high-end acoustic guitars. Large manufacturers such as Gibson, Martin, and Taylor guitars are all actively seeking clarification on what appears to have been sweeping regulation.
What is Engineered Rosewood?
Guitar kits on The Fret Wire now sell fretboards with engineered rosewood fretboards. Engineered rosewood is a composite of organic material that has been engineered to have the look, feel and characteristics of natural rosewood. It is workable with traditional tools, and accepts the same oils and other treatment materials that rosewood does. In our testing we found it to perform very well, in addition to being slightly more durable that natural rosewood.
Do I have any other options?
We are currently looking at sourcing other species of wood for those that want a natural dark wood fretboard. Certain species of Ebony may be an option, but will increase the cost by $30-50 per kit. As the industry settles on other alternatives we will be watching closely and follow suit.