Why Black Walnut Instead of Rosewood?
Brazilian Rosewood has seen almost an 80% decrease in population over the last 3 generations, Madagascar Rosewood is on the cusp of extinction, and there's 45% less mature, usable Indian Rosewood than there was 2 decades ago. To combat this, there have (rightfully) been restrictions put in place on these precious timbers, driving the cost of legally-sourced rosewoods up. This price increase has giving strength to illegal logging in already-vulnerable sections of rain forest, often including the use of child labour, much as it had with ebony decades before.
That's not cool with me.
Black Walnut is plentiful in South-western Ontario, fast-growing, and often used in landscaping, meaning its population is actually on the rise (along with the help of forgetful squirrels). While not as red as rosewoods, its caramel-tinged grain has all the flowing swirls and contrast that we've grown to love from rosewood, and its density is within the acceptable range for Indian Rosewood, meaning it's neither unnecessarily weighty nor too soft to serve as a viable substitute. In fact, under the fingers it feels a little like ebony, and tonally it's got the warm earthiness of rosewood with a bit of maple-like snap at the top.
Wait, Guitars Aren't Normally Vegan?
Acoustic guitars are often assembled with hide glue, which is made from the boiled sinew and skin of cattle and horses, and often finished in shellac, which is produced by the lac beetle. Twitch-branded acoustic guitars are assembled with Canada Balsam glue, a naturally-occurring plant resin, and finished with AraTAs® Vegan Varnish, a corn-derived shellac alternative.
Electric guitars are often assembled with urea-formaldehyde glues, which is derived from animal urine, and often finished with polyurethane, which is processed with beeswax. Twitch-branded electric guitars are assembled with a water-based Poly-Vinyl-Acetate adhesive, which contains no animal byproducts and releases no toxic fumes, and finished with AFM Safecoat® Acrylacq, a rock-hard, ultra-low-VOC finish. Additionally, the colour-coats are hand-rubbed acrylic inks and paints ensuring no waste and virtually zero VOC release.
Additionally, bone nuts are the industry standard: and while I do offer them as an upgrade option, my stock material is micarta, an ultra-dense suspension of linen fibres in phenolic resin.
AUtile is sometimes called "Sipo Mahogany". It's not actually in the "true mahogany" family; rather, it's a close relative of Sapele.
"True mahoganies" are native to Central and South America, and include the endangered Cuban mahogany and threatened Honduran Mahogany (as well as Mexican Mahogany, which seldom grows thick enough to be used for lumber,) whereas Utile, Sapele and Khaya are often sold under the banner of "African Mahogany". All 3 are lovely alternatives to the questionably-sustainable true mahoganies, but of those three, only Utile is commercially grown and logged under the watchful eye of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to ensure long-term sustainability and minimal environmental impact.
These "African Mahoganies" tend to be darker and denser than true mahoganies, and as a result are a little harder to work with tools, though it's nothing a well-sharpened chisel or scraper can't contend with. Of the three "African Mahoganies", Utile is the closest tonal match to Cuban Mahogany, owing to its relatively similar density and grain structure, and although its colour and grain include somewhat more variation than the real deal, it's virtually indistinguishable when stained and used in an electric guitar body, or neck , or an acoustic neck, back, and sides.
We'll never sell semi-custom guitars wholesale (they're already priced at a bare-minimum, and offering them direct from our workshop helps set us apart), but we're always happy to do a small batch (ie: 5-10) of store-exclusive guitars for independent dealers and storefronts, and we'll be delighted to offer limited runs of custom pickups and accessories at wholesale prices. Just get in touch and a member of the Twitch Guitars team will be happy to guide you along the way!
Someday, with any luck! The abundance of powertools, hand tools and that most insurance companies consider raw lumber to be a "flammable material good" means insuring the workshop to cover non-employee visitors is a lengthy, cost-prohibitive process. As business grows, we hope to offer not only a short video tour, but host client meetings in out workshop space.