In a previous article, I spoke about Burls in wood. A while ago I had someone ask me what is ‘Crotch Mahogany’. Where Burls are as a result of growth, of which the cause is often unknown, Crotch, or Flame Mahogany as it is also sometimes referred to, is a result of the way the tree grows. It is where the tree forks and a “V” is formed, much the same as the crotch of humans. If the tree is cut in the torso, just below the chest and just above the knee (as would be on a person), the wood if then cut or sliced into veneer, would result in the grain forming a type of ‘V’ or ‘U’ and the grain would be somewhat more pronounced forming, if you used your imagination, what may represent a flame. ‘Crotch’ is not only found in the Mahogany species, but in any tree. The size of the tree would matter as the tree would have to be of a fair size for there to be adequate growth to result in the pattern to be of significance.
It is a very distinctive and beautiful feature that is often sought after when making furniture. It would often be used in panelling, door panels, table tops, somewhere where the space or sizes large enough to allow it to be shown off. In solid it would be somewhat of a waste, because you would only see one surface and the repeating visual pattern would be locked in the rest of the piece. So, in this case it would make sense to slice it into veneer, or cut it into thin planks/pieces. It is not often used in guitar making as the size of the instrument would not show off the full beauty, but having said that, if one finds a reasonable specimen and the size and pattern is good, then, a very unique instrument could be made with a good aspect of added value . The visual impact is often highlighted when book matched, as in most veneering pieces; the mirror image often improves the effect. I will discuss book matching in a future blog.