What kinds of wood would work well for making woodwind instruments? I know that pearwood, boxwood, ebony, and maple are all standards, but of those only maple is readily available to me (and even then is pretty expensive). What other kinds of wood are suitable? Also, I live in an area where freshly cut maple logs are readily available for free, how long would they need to dry for before being suitable to work with?

To clarify: I'm looking predominantly for cost-effectiveness.

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    You would want to buy wood from the stock of a musical instrument maker if you can afford it. Such an expert would have sourced a suitable grade of wood and seen to it that it was properly aged and dried out. I suppose you would want the cheapest wood they have for your first few instruments; when you get better, you would want a higher grade of wood.
    – user1044
    Jul 30, 2013 at 3:04

2 Answers 2


While maple is the standard wood used for bassoons, in Europe mostly Bosnian mountain maple is used. In the colder climate the tree grows slower and so the wood has more growth rings per inch improving stability. Even then maple is inferior to Grenadilla, since it is easier damaged by moisture, lacking the resins contained in Grenadilla, so it is more important, to dry instruments carefully after use. If I remember correctly from the presentation of a bassoon factory, the wood is dried for some years - for smaller instruments the wood blocks may also be smaller, so the time may be shortened somewhat.

A wood not yet mentioned is African Rosewood.


Unless your speaking about Baroque instruments, I'm assuming you're referring to making Oboes and Clarinets, and Bassoons. Flutes and saxophones are obviously made out of metal.

I am unsure of Bassoons, but I know that the preferred wood for Oboes and Clarinets is Grenadilla because it is a very, very dense, heavy, and sturdy wood that resonates well.

That said, a maple clarinet might be quite nice - I have never heard one. Grenadilla is very expensive and primarily grows in South Africa as far as I know. If you have free materials, then it can't do any harm to work with them.

If you're making reeds, you're going to need arundo donax, not bamboo as I stated earlier. Unfortunately, I don't think there is any acceptable substitute for wood as far as reeds are concerned.

If it's anything like violin-making, you're going to want to let the wood dry for at least a year, probably a couple before you were to do anything serious with it. With that said, I would definitely consult a luthier or an instrument making text for firmer answers.

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    South Africa is Grenadilla's home land, and were it grows most. Discovered by Portuguese sailors.
    – Sergio
    Jul 28, 2013 at 20:23
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    Flutes have only dominantly been made of metal in the last century. Jul 28, 2013 at 21:14
  • Natural woodwind reeds for all of those instruments are made of arundo donax, which is a type of cane, and is not closely related to bamboo.
    – NReilingh
    Jul 29, 2013 at 0:23
  • To Garan - to clarify, I was only speaking about the flute in a modern context. To NReilingh and Sergio - thank you for the corrections; I was misinformed. My answer has been edited to reflect those changes. Jul 29, 2013 at 4:30

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