When I started out making instruments I was happy to use whatever woods I could and the more exotic, the better. I was lucky enough to come across some fine Irish woods and realised they had their own qualities that were equally as good or better than the exotics. Most exotics were tropical hardwoods (ebony, rosewoods and similar) which, at that time, nobody was worried about their origins or scarcity. As the problems with illegal logging, environmental damage and potential species destruction became more apparent I became more interested in using non-tropicals (European, north American and particularly Irish woods) whenever possible and I encouraged my customers in this direction. To this end I sourced sawmills in Ireland where I could find quality, home grown, woods ideal for making guitars. I now have a wonderful and growing stock of these woods that I use. It took a while but now the majority of my instruments use non-tropical woods in their construction and many are completely non-tropical or Leonardo guitars like these.
Why Leonardo? Because I am honoured to be a partner of the Leonardo Guitar Research Project which is a European Union sponsored project that promotes the use of non-tropical hardwoods in guitar making. The project has overseen the construction of many superb Leonardo guitars and been involved in testing them with guitar players and audiences. The results prove that, in a blind test situation, neither players or audiences can tell the difference between Leonardo guitars and traditional guitars made with tropical hardwoods. However when tests were non-blind there was a preference for traditional models - some psycho-acoustic effect there! So one of the main aims of the Leonardo Project is to change the perception of the public and players that ‘brown’ guitars sound better! We are going to try. You can find out more about the Leonardo Project and the testing here.
Having said that my preference is to use non-tropical woods in my instruments I am customer driven and, if the customer insists, I will use the wood of their choice but not until I have tried very hard to try to convince them to use a non-tropical alternative. A great guitar is a great guitar regardless of the materials it is made from.