Something commonly unknown is that grenadilla belongs to the palissander family (Dalbergia melanoxylon). Because grenadilla looks so much like ebony, most people think that it is an ebony. An alternative name for grenadilla is African Blackwood, logical - the wood comes from eastern Africa. It is one of the hardest woods around, specific gravity is around 1,3 so it sinks immediately in water.
Grenadilla is a very rewarding wood once the instrument is ready, but while working it one needs very sharp tools, a good dust mask and protective clothes, because it can be irritating. It is very very hard and requires patience both while working it and playing it in: it needs a lot of time to get the sound nice and supple but once the instrument has been played in you have a very stable and reliable recorder. The sound is loud but round, and quite outspoken. As opposed to ebony, grenadilla hardly ever splits, that's why I choose this wood. For lovers of hard woods this is the most prefered, the queen of woods.
Rio rosewood or rio palissander is a milder sister to grenadilla (dalbergia nigra). The most specific of this wood is its smell: it has the sweet scent of chocolate, and similar dark and light brown colours. Its weight is less than that of grenadilla, and the sound of a recorder made of rio rosewood is less imprudent but still typically tropical. The wood comes from, guess where, Brazil. Rio rosewood is an endangered species so international trade is banned now. Fortunately I still have some in stock.
Other rosewoods that I use but that I won't describe here are Honduras, Indian, Vietnam, Madagascar palissander and Kingwood. Information about these on request.
An other palissander that I describe here is cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa) from Mexico, because it has such individual characteristics. It has a variety of colours: starting from bright pink via orange to dark brown and black. In time it turns all black. The wood is a bit spicy, very crossed grained sometimes, finely grained and has to be 'tamed'.
The sound of a cocobolo recorder can be spicy as well and a bit rough, which can be charming and a challenge to the player. Once the wood has been played in well, you have a very flexible, clear and present instrument with a quick attack. Some people never want anything else once they have got an instrument in cocbolo, others don't go for it at all. Once more a reason to use it - such character!
Pau Amarelo (Yellow Wood)
The only blond tropical wood - yellow wood. Look at the picture and you know where the name comes from. The wood itself is from Brazil. Perhaps the nearest to boxwood and also an alternative to this wood. But still different because the sound is milder, and the grain a bit opener. I think the sound of a yellow wood recorder is more friendly than a boxwood one, and certainly worth trying for players who look for a flexible instrument with more that just the clarity of boxwood.
It is stable and durable.