Is this the end of Rosewood?

Date Posted:10 November 2017 

You may have heard that Fender is in the process of making some major changes to the way they craft guitars and basses. And that it’s looking like the end for the classic rosewood fingerboard.

What does this mean for the future of Fender and our guitars and basses? Mike Born, Fender Director of Wood Technology explains that Fender will be switching to a new type of hardwood, Pau Ferro.

“We were already usuing Pau Ferro in some models right now, so we could successfully switch to Pau Ferro. By January, we made the decision to jump on Pau Ferro and start getting it into our process.”

But what is Pau Ferro and why the change?

Pau Ferro is South American hardwood Fender will be using in place of rosewood for their new guitars and basses’ fingerboards. Pau Ferro is a wood of many names and is sometimes called Morado, and because the wood is so similar in appearance and texture to Rosewood it is also commonly called Bolivian Rosewood or Santos Rosewood.

It contains the same sensitizing compounds found in rosewoods and is about as close to true rosewood as wood can get.  It’s incredibly durable and has a fine, even texture, and a naturally high luster making in an ideal wood for musical instruments.

The reason Fender is making this swap is all to do with environmental conservation. The Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) has recently put new laws into effect that severely limit the amount of rosewood that can be traded internationally. This organization are responsible for ensuring that the international trade of wildlife doesn’t threaten the health of any species of ecosystems. And Fender is onboard.

When the new law passed that any shipment of an instrument or instruments for commercial purposes with any amount of Rosewood required special certificates and permits, Fender decided it was time to make some changes of their own.

Senior Vice President of Fender Products Justin Norvell assured Fender customers, “[Pau Ferro] has actually been used as a well-known alternative for rosewood for a long time and it’s often available in wider widths, so we used it on a lot of our five string basses in the 90s. It’s a wood we’re familiar with.”

Both Born and Norvell stated that their first and foremost focus was on guaranteeing the best possible sounds and feels for their instruments. “We know it’s got a good tone to it. And it’s got a nice, dark colour,” Born commented.

This aligns with Fender’s history of being the industry standard in basses and guitars, producing some of the most exceptional instruments of our age.

As stated by Norvell, some of Fender’s instruments are already using Pau Ferro. The most noteworthy ones include the Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Stratocaster and the Jaco Pastorious Jazz Bass.

In the future, we’ve been informed that guitars and basses in the Standard Series, the Deluxe Series and the Classic Series (along with other instruments made in Mexico) will be sporting Pau Ferro soon.

It’s easy to see that Fender is a brand committed to ensuring they are complying with all CITES regulations as well as delivering the best quality products to their customers. So even though it looks like this is the end of rosewood, here at Kosmic, we’re looking forward to seeing the changes Fender is putting into place.

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