In recent years, the term 'Sinker' has been appearing more and more in the world of fine acoustic guitars - but what does the term mean?
The story starts over 100 years ago, with commercial logging in California and the Pacific Northwest of the United States, the North Island of New Zealand, and Belize on the Northeastern coast of Central America. At this time these areas were being colonised and settled by newly-arrived Europeans, who quickly discovered the plentiful supply of old-growth timber in the ancient local forests.
By the early 18th century, the old-growth forests in Europe had been decimated by the Industrial Revolution, and adventurous entrepreneurs saw Europe as an ideal market for the importation of the old-growth hardwoods of the New World. They braved the harsh environments of jungles, snakes, crocodiles and insects to harvest the timber and export it back to Europe.
Some of these ancient trees had reached truly massive proportions - there's evidence of California Redwoods reaching 115m in height and 9m in diameter! The chief way of transporting the logs cut from these enormous trees in perilous locations was to use the natural rivers and waterways. Logs were floated en masse from logging sites to sawmills, often thousands at a time. During this process, over a quarter of logs were lost. Denser, heavier logs often sank to the bottom of the rivers, while others got tangled in the brush and roots along the riverbanks and sank. Old-growth timber was plentiful, and it was simply easier to leave these logs where they lay.
Beneath the water, the timber was protected from decay and rot, due to the lack of oxygen. Sap and moisture was leached out of the logs, and as they slowly aged and cured, they absorbed mineral deposits and tannins, creating striking and sometimes spectacular markings. These timber logs, sometimes centuries old, are of the same vintage as the highly-prized 'Golden Era' tonewoods, and were sheltered by the river for over a hundred years. In the last few decades, luthiers have discovered this hidden stockpile of incredible timber. Sinker Redwood, Cypress, Mahogany, Kauri and Rosewood have all been used by luthiers including Martin, Santa Cruz, Lowden and Taylor.
Sonically, Sinker timber is more dynamic, sensitive and expressive than it's non-Sinker equivalent. Notes bloom faster, harmonics are more pronounced, and it often has a brighter, chimier high-end. Taylor calls Sinker Redwood 'Cedar on steroids' for it's bold and dramatic tone, and vintage guitar expert George Gruhn has praised Martin's Sinker Mahogany guitars as the closest modern equivalent to their fabled Golden Era models.
Visually, Sinker wood can vary immensely. Mineral deposits and environmental variables can create extraordinary colours and textures within the timber, with no two pieces alike. Sinker Redwood is the most striking, with purple, black, pink and orange streaks and swirls, while Sinker Mahogany tends to have a darker, denser look than modern Mahogany, with gorgeous old-growth patina.
If you're looking for a guitar with sustainable timbers, exceptional tone, jaw-dropping aesthetics and a wonderful story, Sinker tonewoods are well worth considering. You can check out our range of Sinker tonewood guitars here, or why not get in touch about a custom order?
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