What is "The Tree" Quilted Mahogany? - Wood in Focus / by Tom Sands

I know you’ve all been asking about what exactly this ‘Tree’ is. Hopefully this will clear up a few question marks. I’m building a Model M at the moment from this extraordinary wood, so here’s some of my understanding from reading the story behind it, and working with it thus far.


What’s so special about this legendary “The Tree” so sought after by luthiers and clients?

There are estimated over 400 billion trees existing in the world. Of those, only one has ever been discovered to have the gorgeous quilted effect that you see in this photo. This makes it some of the rarest and most expensive wood in the world - not for the faint hearted. But what attracted luthiers to this particular wood? Does it sound as good as it looks? Well, I’ve never built with the tree before, and like all builds, you just don’t know what the guitar will sound like until the strings are on. That being said, this body sounds just incredible, which bodes very well. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on that when it’s ready to make some music…


We’ve established it’s beauty, so here’s a little background on it. When Robert Novak and his team dragged this tree out of the jungle in Belize (the tree was initially felled in the 60's but left on the forest floor partially in a ravine until Novak rediscovered it a decade later), he couldn’t have imagined it would earn the reputation it has today amongst woodworkers of all kinds. In fact, the boards were sold to furniture makers and by ‘82 Novak was beginning to realise that his discovery was in popular demand; but he insists now that although he saw the wood as beautiful upon seeing it for the first time, he never expected it to be worth as much as it is today.

Perhaps a part of this value is because in the 90s, ‘The Tree’ as a tonewood found a vogue. Slash had a tree guitar made, and very quickly it became even more mythologised as a wood to be had by fine instrument makers. There is, of course, a finite supply, and working with it is enormously humbling. Aside from it’s beauty, it’s got a great story behind it. That’s what I really love.


Thanks to my buddy Jay for his Tree hunting efforts and for supplying me with this incredible material.

Stay curious!