Brazilian Rosewood: The Holy Grail of Tonewoods

Brazilian rosewood.

Say it again, but in a hushed tone, one befitting its mystery and magic.

Brazilian rosewood is perhaps the most sought after tonewood in music-making history, and there’s a good reason for that.

Visually and sonically, it is, for many, the ne plus ultra. It offers colors ranging from violet to chocolate, and sounds the same way.

Bedell Guitars possesses the world’s largest supply of legally documented guitar-ready Brazilian rosewood.

Every back, every side, every set is fully certified and backed up by the proper paperwork. This is Brazilian you can play, Brazilian you can collect and Brazilian you can travel with. No guilt, only joy.

Tom Bedell secured his exquisite cache from a former church ornament manufacturer near Madrid, Spain, which gathered the wood in South America in the 1950s and early 60s, prior to the 1967 export ban. More recently, the heirs of the company opted to mill the remaining boards into tonewood, and Bedell knew immediately that he wanted to share this magnificent find with select buyers who understand the true art of guitar making.

The result, the Bedell Brazilian Collection, is a group of four extremely limited edition instruments. Only eight of each model will be built.

Think of a Brazilian Martin D-45. It’s just about the holy grail of the guitar world, and it’s virtually unaffordable. Now, with the Bedell Brazilian Collection you can acquire an instrument that will bring a lifetime of pleasure while maturing into an investment on par with that Martin, a Loar-era Gibson mandolin or a Stradivari violin.

Along with Angela Christensen, Tom Bedell designed these instruments for perfection, and achieved it. These guitars aren’t for just anyone. They are for you.

“All of our rosewood is registered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Bedell says. “We can get permits to export the guitars for people that buy them, and to travel internationally. We have all the documentation and we’re in a very unique position to be able to legally build and sell with Brazilian rosewood.”

To honor the sources of the Bedell Brazilian Collection, Bedell hinted at the iconic Spanish structures they first served.

In January, the first of the “antiquity designs” was released, an Overture Dreadnought built from the Milagro tree, which means, of course, miracle.

And the instrument, simply put, is a miracle itself. Its back and sides, matched to a European spruce top, are over 450 years old. It feels like you’re holding history in your hands. When you strum, it sustains for centuries, too.

“It’s from a very special tree,” Bedell beams. “Somehow it’s uniquely dense, so we can carve it thinner than anything else. It just chimes. It rings like a piece of glass when you tap on it.”

Like its kin in the collection, the Overture boasts Waverly tuners, a Honduran mahogany neck with a 1 & 11/16 nut width, a compound tapered dovetail neck joint and a custom Ameritage case.

Each of the four Brazilian guitars feature unique inlays and appointments, with intertwining leaves, for example, at the twelfth fret of the Overture.

Dubbed Puerta D’Iglesia, or Church Door, the tree used for the Bedell Forte Dreadnought, released in April, was especially rich in light sapwood, giving the six-string a unique appearance, with natural blonde elements melding with the Adirondack spruce top’s sweet yellow hue.

The Forte, as its name suggests, sounds huge, appropriately so for an instrument originally intended for, well, a church door.

“Spanish cathedrals,” Bedell says, “all liked to have a lot of figure in their entryways and that sapwood made their doors more interesting visually. For us, It just makes beautiful looking backs. It’s stunning.”

Mosaic pins in the African ebony bridge make the Forte even more fetching.

Summer brings the Bedell Serenade Orchestra, a smaller body guitar pairing unique sets of Brazilian with a classic Sitka top. The shape focuses the tone, while the hand-selected backs and sides offer rich, unparalleled clarity along with the beautiful bloom of overtones so long associated with a rosewood guitar.

Art deco stylings on the headstock, Brazilian rosewood fingerboard and soundhole offer a look as unforgettable as the sound.

“All four of the Bedell Brazilian Collection editions are fully sound optimized and built with the finest possible care and appointments,” Bedell says. “We chose to not go real blingy on any of these, so they’re very clean, really handsome instruments.”

The final entry, slated for fall, is even smaller and more intimate, the Bedell Cadenza Parlor.

Esperanza means hope, and the Esperanza tree is the source for the Cadenza. And what a tree! It sat for uncountable years, discarded in a bog in Northeastern Brazil. With each passing day the Esperanza absorbed more and more of the mineral content of the water, becoming ever denser and richer in character until being reborn as a truly brilliant, truly unique tonewood.

What better way to complement Esperanza than by topping it with ocean sinker redwood, itself fortified by its time in the sea. A twelve-fret join and the sharper string angle of a slotted headstock (dressed with ebony tuner buttons) make the deep parlor body sing.

Simple Celtic knots nod to the ancient roots of this flawless instrument.

“Part of the Bedell mystique,” the builder says, “is being able to offer these absolutely extraordinary instruments built out of genuine, legal and carefully maintained Brazilian rosewood.”