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I need help with identifying this wood. This is a 1927ish Supertone I rehabbed five or so years ago. I always assumed it was mahagony. But the more I look at it, I'm not so sure. The original finish is dark so it isn't easy to see the grain. It's a beautiful little instrument that is loud and has a big bottom for such a small guitar. Any ideas would be appreciated.

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Hi Rich,

Can you check to see if the curl has chatoyance?  Curly maple is perhaps the  classic example, where the tiger stripe is dark when viewed from one direction, and light colored when viewed from another.  Also check to see if there is curl on the inside.

I have an antique letter box that looks for all the world as though it is beautiful curly maple, but it is actually just a beautiful paint job.

Here is a video of the back. Forgive the shaky camera, I was holding the guitar in one hand and my iPhone in the other.trim.31F3D2B4-5532-45F2-ACCA-F9F433CDFFB1.MOV

That does look like chatoyance and real curl.  Koa quite frequently is curly, but  I don't think I have ever seen curly mahogany.  My best bet is that your guitar is curly koa.

I just looked at your first picture again, and the wood next to the label on the inside is definitely curly.

Thanks George. The guitar is solid wood, you can see the figure inside the sound hole. I’ve seen curly mahogany, but never a curl this tight. Built almost 100 years ago the had access to woods that don’t exist today. 

Hi Rich,

I have a koa Regal uke and a koa Washburn uke, both Chicago products and the same vintage as your guitar (also from Chicago).  The Regal has exceptionally  tight curl.  I also have a curly koa Martin mandoin from 1922.

Koa seems to have become very popular at that time, and I have wondered if WW1 had made the usual woods less available.  It is also the time period when dyed maple fbs become common.

I vote MAHGONY.

Harmony made a lot of stuff for Sears under the Supertone label.  They also made a hefty production of "Vita Ukes."   I don't recall seeing a Vita Uke that was NOT curly mahogany.  Where they got so much fine curly mahogany, I don't know.

Here's an ad from 1927 that I think was for this guitar. And it says "genuine figured mahogony," so I think Frank is correct. BTW the guitar had no fretboard when I bought it, so cut a new one from ebony –—the inlays match the period. I took out a thin mahogany chewed up bridge plate from the ladder braced top and replaced it with a little wider strap with an ebony inlay where the bridge pins sit. The rest is original.

Thanks for the feedback.

S488_Supertone_1927.jpg

I've had Supertones in both curley mahogany and koa .. here's a snappy back!

yes, Harmony had some beautiful woods back in the day.

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Yep, plus one. 
Rusty

Sooooo..., does anyone have any tips for distinguishing between the koa and the mahogany?

The first 2 pictures are the Washburn uke, Model 1915, No 2070, Style 2623, which I had always assumed was koa.

The next 2 pictures are of the Regal uke, which I had also thought was koa, but now wondering more about the possibility of curly mahogany.

Pictures 5 and 6 are of the Martin mandolin, 1920, Style AK, so I'm pretty confidant that it is koa.

Finally, 7 and 8 are of a "Kumalae Gold Medal 1915 Hawaii " uke, that seems likely to be koa, also.

Certainly appreciate the help and wisdom.

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Koa VS Mahogany

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Kumalae Uke

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