I remember well the time I was making my first guitar from scratch. It was in 1991 – I bought from my teacher a piece of rosewood for the fretboard. Even if I had zero experience at the time, the “aura” of that little slab of wood was all about warmth and smooth feel, to which I fell in love with. It’s interesting, cause that first impression defines pretty well how rosewood sounds – it does add a warm, smooth touch to the tone!
Using dark coloured hardwood species as the fretboard material for guitars has a long history. There are many good reasons why rosewood is so popular. First of all, a guitar neck needs to be rigid, so hardwood with excellent bend strength makes perfect sense. Stability is another critical feature, which narrows down the options even further. There are other important features as well, both technical (does it glue well) – and practical (how does the wood feel when sliding my fingers on it). And the dark colour is just common sense – the player has his/her fingers on the fretboard all the time, and a light coloured fretboard would wear down and appear smudgy in no time.
These days one can of course finish off a light coloured material in a durable way, but in the old times this wasn’t the case – so dark hardwood was unambigously the best way to go. Then there is the availability issue, which has become more and more difficult for various great tonewood species over the last few decades.
There are hundreds of rosewood variations in the world, and of all those different kinds, East Indian rosewood (Dalbergia Latifolia) is the most popular one used for guitar fretboards today. This is the rosewood special we use as well. Our East Indian rosewood originates from state governed forests in India, and we buy it from reliable European FSC certified suppliers. East Indian rosewood was added to CITES Appendix II, in January 2017 among hundreds of other tree species. If you live within European Union, there is no need for CITES certification when you buy a guitar from us – the paperwork of the guitar will have the legal CITES status of the guitar clarified. If you live outside European Union, we will provide the CITES certificate with your guitar. If you own a guitar (with East indian rosewood fretboard) made by us before January 2017, the guitar is treated as a pre-convention item, and no certificate is needed, unless you sell your guitar to another country, crossing customs borders. In those cases you’ll get the certificate from your own country CITES authority.
In the earlier times, Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia Nigra) used to be one of the most popular species for guitar fretboards, but it has been listed as an endangered species decades ago, and since 1991 it has been protected by CITES in its most strict category Appendix I, resulting that any trade of Brazilian rosewood cut after 1991 is illegal. We do have a limited stock of certified Pre-CITES Brazilian rosewood, so feel free to contact us if you’re interested in owning a Ruokangas guitar with this rare wood species. Notice however, that the vast majority of rosewood fretboard equipped Ruokangas guitars are made using East Indian rosewood. We have made over the years only a very small amount of guitar with Brazilian rosewood fretboards. Every Ruokangas guitar fitted with a Brazilian rosewood fretboard comes with a CITES certificate. If you own a Ruokangas guitar with Brazilian rosewood fretboard and do not have a CITES certificate, feel free to contact us. If you bought your Ruokangas guitar used, we can’t necessarily help you in case the original CITES certification has gone missing, but we’ll do our best. Before contacting us, however, please doublecheck your Ruokangas warranty card for the wood species used for fretboard. If your warranty card (older than 2012) states ‘Rosewood’ – it means always East Indian Rosewood. Newer (2012 and on) Ruokangas guitar warranty cards list the complete trade & latin names of all the wood species used in the guitar.
Check out our online Maintenance Guide for detailed instructions how to clean and maintain your Rosewood fretboard in good condition.