Tag Archives: Brazilian Rosewood



So lately this has been quite a discussed subject. Are Gibson not doing well? A lot of people seem to be talking about certain financial difficulties on Gibson’s end. Is this the case? Today we´re having a look at the situation and some key aspects that may have something to do with it.

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Grinning Elk interview with Ray Mauldin from Grinning Elk

Hi Ray, thank you for taking your time to speak to us. Could you please tell as a little bit about Grinning Elk? Where are you located?
Lee and I have been attending shows together since 2000. At the time, I owned an electronics repair service and was well- established here in my hometown. Lee walked into my office one day and as we were talking, I asked him, “What exactly do you do, Man”? He answered, “I buy and sell vintage guitars”. Well, I had always been a gear junkie, having played in various bands around Atlanta for years and I thought that his answer sounded very intriguing, so I asked if I could go to a show with him sometimes. He said, “Sure” so in October 2000, we drove out to the Arlington, Texas show and on the way back, the idea of forming a company was born. Our office is in Douglasville, Ga., which is about 20 miles West of Atlanta.

What initially motivated you to set up a music store, and when was that?
We don’t have what is referred to as a “brick and mortar” store. We are primarily a web- based business and have an appointment only office where clients can set up a time to come and visit. Our office and company was officially opened in Sept. 2006.

In EU the current Gibson case “lacey act” has gotten a lot of attention, what is your perspective on shipping between US & EU? Have you had any problems regarding this case so far?
Not yet. In the last year, we have been asked to send only two guitars that had Brazilian Rosewood overseas. Both were vintage Martins and we decided that rather than take a chance on them being confiscated, we would sell them here in the U.S. Thankfully, our clients understood and the guitars sold easily here.

Do you play music yourself? If so, what do you play, for how long have you been doing it?
I have been playing bass since about 1987, which was right after I got out of the Army. Lee’s been playing guitar since the late 70’s, when he was in high school. I think he even won a talent show back then, so he obviously got an earlier start than I did. He’s a much more accomplished musician than I am. He’s taller too.

The Elk Nation….James Hetfield….could you tell us a bit more about that?
That was one of the best days of my life. It was a Sunday and I was lying on my couch, watching TV.  Metallica was playing Atlanta that night and was thinking I’d get tickets down at the arena right before the show started. Lee called me up and said, “Pull out those two Flying V’s and the ’65 Strat. We might be showing them to the guys in Metallica this afternoon”. I probably said something like “Yeah, sure we are” but he insisted that I get up off my comfortable couch and get ready.  So I begrudgingly did as he asked, thinking that this was a cruel joke because you just didn’t get to go meet Metallica on a Sunday afternoon, but sure as shootin’, two hours later, we were standing at the service entrance to Phillips Arena with those guitars in hand. James’ guitar tech, Zak took us into a room where we laid the guitars out and it wasn’t long before Hetfield walked in and started checking them out. He eventually bought the white ’75 Flying V. We later showed the Strat to Kirk Hammett, but he said it was too clean and “not vibey enough”. Go figure that one out!

What do you consider the biggest challenge for dealers of musical instruments today?
I think the most difficult part of our business today is completing a deal over the telephone or by email. It’s a challenge to sell a piece to someone that is halfway around the world with only a written description or with words spoken on the phone. We want to make sure that the guitar or bass being discussed is exactly what our client is looking for and will fit his or her needs. The last thing we want is to mail a guitar across the planet only to have it come back.  We try to do all of the legwork and preparation before the guitar goes out so that when it arrives at its new home, the customer opens the case and says “wow”. That’s our goal with every transaction.

How do you choose what products to carry?
That’s another challenge in itself. We are so picky when it comes to condition and originality, the pool of instruments we will consider buying is a small one. We want them all to be as close to new as possible and completely original. Every once in a while, we’ll purchase a guitar that might have broken solder joints or a replaced nut, but it’s a rare occasion. There’s even a term that’s been coined in our industry- “Elk clean”. I hear it all the time at the shows we attend and I’d like to think that it refers to best of the best.

What is the oddest guitar you’ve ever sold?
A few years ago, at the Philadelphia Guitar Show, we bought a 1986 Kramer Triax that was virtually unplayed. It was flip- flop pink and had its original flight case and all of the tags.  Very cool and very 80’s!

Do you have any personal favorite guitars in your shop? If so, why is said guitar your favorite?
My favorite guitars are usually basses, so at the moment, it’s a Rickenbacker 4003s8. It’s an 8- string bass in Desert Gold that was made as a “color of the year” piece in 2001. There can’t be more than one or two in the world. In terms of favorite guitars, we have the first Murphy- aged Les Paul ever made at Gibson and it’s one of the most authentic looking ’59 reissues we’ve ever seen. I think Lee’s got that one stashed away somewhere so I can’t get my hands on it.

Given that this is for a blog, what role has technology (the internet, your website, etc.) played in the success of your business?
Well, it has exposed us to the entire world. Anybody, anywhere with a little electricity, an internet connection or a smart phone can look at our inventory and buy from us. Think about it: prior to the establishment of the internet, most guitar dealers sold their gear from a store and if they did have any national or international exposure, it would have been through magazine advertisements. Now, you can place a banner on a forum and be seen by literally millions of visitors to that forum a year.  I once sold a 1967 Stratocaster to a gentleman in Belgium from my Blackberry, sitting in the parking lot of a local post office. You couldn’t do that ten years ago.

Is there a general trend to the people who purchase from you, in terms of how skilled or experienced they are?
The majority of our clients are professionals, serious collectors and higher- end musicians. They know their stuff when they call, they like what they see on our website so generally, the only thing left to discuss is price. The gear we have speaks for itself.

What advice would you give to somebody looking to purchase a guitar from you?
If you’ve never heard of us, check us out. Another important aspect of the internet is, if you consistently perform at a high level, people will say so. The various forums have become powerful mediums and people all over the world talk about their purchases, experiences, etc. If you make just one person unhappy, they will certainly say something about it somewhere. Your reputation is the most important thing your company can have. It’s everything.

Any famous last words?
Sure. It’s a Latin saying: “audentes fortuna iuvat, which means “Fortune Favors the Bold”. Or, on a lighter note, Two Elks are always better than one…

In 2010 V&R visited Arlington Guitar Show and Ray was kind enough to introduce us to some of his pieces: (The interview with Ray Mauldin starts at 1:43)

A selection of Grinning Elk pieces:
Korina Explorer R9
Gibson ES330T
Rickenbacker 660/12 Tom Petty
Gibson USA map guitar

Brazilian Rosewood by Takis Kokkalis

Hello V&R Friends,

This weeks guest blog is written by Takis Kokkalis from Greece. Takis is a good friend of V&R and apart from being a passionate guitar aficionado & collector, Takis is also a businessman in the music industry and an expert on selected tonewoods. In this great article, Takis is telling us about brazilian rosewood.
Please enjoy the reading – All the best, Nicolai & V&R Team.

For over 200 years the Brazilian rosewood has been regarded as one of the most desirable woods for stringed instruments, due to its sound quality and appearance. Its great tap tone, sustain, unique grain pattern ( figure ) and color makes it a ‘must’ or even a ‘dream’ for every guitarist. It always has been the first choice for the top of the line guitars. However, this wood is very rare and very expensive, not only because of the increased demand, but also for the following reasons.

a) This particular tree grows naturally at a slow rate and is not planted in various plantations around the world, as it happens with most of the other rosewood types.
b) According to the Convention on International Trade In Endangered Species (CITES) restrictions, this wood cannot be harvested after March 1992. Only the wood that has been cut before that date can be sold and used. Hence, old Brazilian rosewood tends to be almost unavailable at any price. Please, find below all the relevant information about the Brazilian Rosewood.

This is the wood that has been harvested from trees which are at least 70 years old and over. Only these trees, being mature, have the desirable density for the sound, give the required size, possess the best colors and the fantastic grain pattern. (which make this wood unique among all the other rosewoods).

It is a fact that old instruments or instruments made by old wood sound better. They have the so called ‘old – warm tone’. Technically, due to a certain oxidation during the seasoning period, the damping factor is lowered which means they have better response, mainly in the low frequencies (more volume and articulation). Also, the wood is very stable in terms of deformation. The size remains unaltered and it suffers less from weather or climate changes. Therefore, the old cut Brazilian rosewood is extremely stable with excellent response in the low frequencies.

The woods with the lowest value of the damping factor, are the most sonorous, which means they have the biggest sustain. The Brazilian rosewood has very low damping factor, consequently ‘tons of sustain’. Its sound is rich, more pronounced than other rosewoods (more attack) and being old cut, very articulate and warm.

Its color ranges from very deep reddish brown to violet and sometimes orange with ebony colored streaking. There are many species, different in color and in figure, others with dark shaded parts or with even light brown (beige) parts. The figure may be very wild, exotic, consisting of dark and light parts with color variations or may be more regular consisting of fine dark lines close together with reddish intervals. However, Brazilian rosewood as it ages it tends to become darker. The dark parts will become almost black. The reddish brown will become deep purple or burgundy red and in general every color is going to look darker, thus giving a superb look to this wood. The darkening process might take at least one to two decades and it is going to be more obvious at the unfinished parts like the fingerboards or the inside of an acoustic guitar.

As far as the sound is concerned all types sound the same, with two exceptions : a) Of the Grassland type, which is ideal for small auditoriums and recording studios, due to its warmer sound characteristics. b) Of the Piaui type, which is ideal for big auditoriums due to the big projection sound that it produces. Additionally, certain species may be categorized somewhere between the different types.
1) CLEAR ROSEWOOD Very obvious grain pattern with more intense color variations i.e. reddish brown to light brown and sometimes orange. In this case the tree grows on a wet region (acid soils).
2) DARK ROSEWOOD Very dark with not so apparent figure, certain parts might look like ebony and certain others have a very deep purple or very dark orange color. This type is rare and much more expensive. In this case the tree growed on a deserted region ( alkaline soils).
3) IMPERIAL ROSEWOOD The ‘crème de la crème’ of the Brazilian rosewoods. Very rare and extremely expensive. It consists of many black lines closed together and the space between ranges from deep red to orange. The Dark and the Imperial types are used for fingerboards. The Clear, the Dark and the type between the Clear and the Dark is used for necks. Finally, according to availability, all types can be used for backs & sides of an acoustic guitar However, there is also a more precise classification which depends on the location that the tree grows and it is described below:

1) Imperial ( Most Expensive) – Dark brown to violet bases with fine black lines. (Forest growth). 2) Colonial ( Most common type ) – Dark brown to black with diffuse design. (Forest growth). 3) Piaui ( Extremely rare ) – Dense wood, brown to violet – brown with darker stripe-design . Ideal for big auditoriums that a big projected sound is required. (Desert growth). 4) Grassland ( Rare ) – Slightly softer wood, looking similar to the Colonial type with somewhat clearer basis. (Grassland growth) GRADES ARE CLASSIFIED AS : A, AA, AAA, MG ( Master Grade ) The price varies according to the type of wood , the quality and the quantity. The cut ( quarter sawn or flat sawn…etc ) is also associated with the quality and the grade.