Botanical name: Buxus sempervirens, also called palmwood although it has in fact nothing to do with the actual palmtree. The wood comes from the Pyrenees, England, Turkey and Asia. The wood I use is merely from the Pyrenees. Boxwood is very tough, hard, finely grained and the colour is light yellow. Sometimes we find light grey stripes, these are minerals and have no bad influence on the quality or sound whatsoever.
Traditionally this was the wood for woodwinds, recorders of course but also transverse flutes, oboes and clarinets. Not surprisingly so, because the sound characteristics are marvellous and there is no wood like boxwood for turning work. A disadvantage of boxwood is that it tends to wharp or get oval, especially when the player travels a lot and the wood is exposed to different climates all the time. The sound can be described as round, fine and medium-loud.
Botanical name: Aceacea. Maple is a widely spread wood all over Europe, Canada and the US. Within this general name 'maple', we can distinguish different varieties: The picture shows a European figured maple also used for the back sides of string instrumets. Then there is Canadian or rock maple, a bit harder than the European version and slightly pink, birds-eye maple figured with little eye-shaped spots, and the plain European maple.
Maple was used for recorders (and flutes) very frequently in the Renaissance. The wood being easily available, well workable, with a sweet but still centered sound this is very understandable. It is less used for baroque instruments because the sound is too mellow for these types of recorders, although I find that some voice flutes - if well made - can sound very nice in maple. An advantage of maple is that the weight is very light, so very suitable for players with a hand injury.
Plumwood, cherry and pear are from the same familiy of woods: Rosacea. The appearance of plum is the most attractive: the colour within one piece can vary from deep purple to light brown, cherry is more lightbrown with stripes in darker brown. Plumwood weighs a little more than cherry, but the sound characteristics and the way they work are more or less the same.
I prefer to use cherry from Holland; my experience so far is that this cherry has the finest graines and can be polished best, which adds to the quality of the sound. Nowadays there are hardly any oldfashioned high stem fruit trees left, so an important source of these woods have sadly disappeared.
I find both cherry and plum quite suitable for any kind of recorder, both renaissance and baroque, both large and small. The sound can be considered a mixture of maple and boxwood, the weight pleasantly light appearance very attractive and if carefully seasoned, very reliable and stable. As far as pear wood is concerened: to me this is a bit of an outsider, because it looks rather dull and it's not easy to make it sound well. We can take the dull colour away by staining it dark brown, and make it sound well with a lot of knowledge and patience....
Olive wood (Olea) for me has a special place within the range of European woods. It's harder than the others (except boxwood), by far the hardest to work because of its wildness and crossed graines. This at the same time makes this wood very attractive to me, not in the least because of the beautiful sound it makes. Turning this wood gives a very nice olivy smell! Because of its wildness only a small part of a stem can be used for instruments. The picture shows how spectacular olive wood can be.
The sound of olive wood recorders in a way can be compared with the sound of boxwood, although saying this is 'dangerous' as they both literally have their own voice. I see a similarity in the charm of the sound though. Also olive wood is a versatile wood for all kinds of models of recorders.