The term “Swamp Ash” does not refer to any particular species of ash (Fraxinus genus), but is generally used by luthiers to describe lightweight wood yielded from ash trees which are usually found in wet or swampy areas.

Weight of Ash Types Compared

Swamp Ash (guitar)
Swamp Ash (guitar)

Average Dried Weight:

less than 30-33.6 lbs/ft3 (481-538 kg/m3)

Board-foot weight:

 less than 2.5-2.8 pounds

White Ash (Fraxinus americana)
White Ash (Fraxinus americana)

Average Dried Weight:

42 lbs/ft3 (675 kg/m3)

Board-foot weight:

~3.5 pounds

Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)
Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)

Average Dried Weight:

40 lbs/ft3 (640 kg/m3)

 

Board-foot weight:

~3.3 pounds

 

Black Ash (Fraxinus nigra)
Black Ash (Fraxinus nigra)

Average Dried Weight:

34 lbs/ft3 (545 kg/m3)

Board-foot weight:

~2.8 pounds

 

European Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)
European Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)

Average Dried Weight:

42 lbs/ft3 (680 kg/m3)

 

Board-foot weight:

~3.5 pounds

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
11 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jon

I’m just looking for the janka hardness of swamp ash. I get a bunch of scrap swamp ash from work. We make guitar bodies for luthiers. Im not too concerned about definitions just the hardness

JJ Smith Guitars

As a Luthier of 40 plus years (20 years of that at Fender Instruments ) , if someone sells me some Swamp Ash and what shows up isn’t extraordinary light and highly figured with great tonal qualities, they will be getting my check canceled and a load of phony Fraxinus genus back collect. And for the record, Swamp Ash that does not come from growths in high moisture areas, often swampy areas, such as in Georgia, Texas, North Florida, South Carolina, etc have less figure, appealing color and tonal qualities. I know as I shopped sources and built the instruments… Read more »

Ben

Disagree woth you jj

Nick R

You would know. The main commercial use of swamp ash is solid electric guitar bodies. It’s use for that purpose of one of Leo Fender’s many innovations, though he likely used wood readily available from lumberyards in the 50s. My understanding is that the very lightweight true swamp ash is the now threatened Carolina ash (pop ash, water ash–Fraxinus caroliniana). This species has a density much lower than any other in the genus. It’s range is the region you describe.

DaMoysis

I have to disagree with your generalization. Though many manufacturers and others seem intent on describing Swamp Ash as everything from, a form of Fraxinus americana that is simply growing in a wet place, to Pumpkin Ash (Fraxinus profunda,) and who knows what else, it’s all patent nonsense. In biology each living organism is classified using binomial nomenclature, i.e., using a scientific name of two words, Latin in form, and usually derived from Greek or Latin roots. The convention is precise. The first name is the genus of the organism. Genus refers to the lowest classification before determining the related… Read more »

G

WOW! That’s a mouth full! Very well thought out and stated.

Fern C.

I agree with your statement that secondary and local names change according to geography. “Ironwood,” for example, is commonly applied to dozens of different species, for example Desert Ironwood (Olneya tesota) and American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana). Both are commonly referred to as “Ironwood.” To further compound the matter, while “Ironwood” can be used for either species, Desert Ironwood has no other common name (that I know of) while hornbeam can be called musclewood or blue-beech. Geography, man. And that’s only within the continental US. Explore the moniker worldwide and you’ll find even more species that are known as ironwood. I… Read more »

James Lowther

I have often wondered if what is sold as really light “swamp ash” is nothing more than some Catalpa species, since some of the advertised densities of the wood are very much lighter than any Fraxinus species that I know of. If so, that is some really expensive Catalpa!

Stephen Ondich

I have seen some extremely lightweight “swamp ash” lumber in luthier’s shops that I’m pretty sure was actually Paulownia (I’ve not used Catalpa but have heard it’s similar.) Two ways to tell: 1) Paulownia has grain fuzziness where Swamp Ash cuts like butter 2) Most paulownia or empresswood is lighter than even the lightest Swamp Ash. Very little punky guitar ash is under 2.0LB/BF kiln dried. However, most paulownia is.