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Thread: Cocobolo: I Love it, I Hate it

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Little River, California

    Default Cocobolo: I Love it, I Hate it

    I built a keeper uke for myself about 5 or 6 years ago that had all the bells and whistles and plenty of ebony and abalone bling. Since I loved cocobolo, I bound the fretboard and body with it. This is what it looks like now compared with a new piece of cocobolo:


    The wood has darkened as coco will and is fast taking on that unappetizing color brown that resembles what we all do everyday in the bathroom if you get my gist. I'm starting to think that it is borderline unethical to sell instruments with cocobolo since it looks great in the beginning and then turns to the color of s---. Plus I got some coco wood dust in my eye the other day and it hurt like hell. So I'm done with it for good. So long cocobolo, I love ya, but it's all over now.

    For a great article on using colored, exotic woods go here:

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Grand Junction, Colorado


    There are plenty of rosewoods as good or better then cocobolo which do not have the allergies and skin reactions.

  3. #3


    Wow. Wouldn't have thought that a wood color would change that much.

  4. #4


    Quote Originally Posted by Bill1 View Post
    Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) has a similar phenomena. Woodworkers wont use some oils or finishes on Jarrah because that will accelerate the process. Maybe there are some finishes and polishes which should not be used on cocobolo?
    Is it getting close to the time when we start talking about the cocobola fad wood rush which ended when the buyers found out that the pretty grain is going to a deep brown looking glob of wood.
    The acacias and spruces can start out looking very plain and over time they develop in colour and the wood grain starts to pop out.
    I think the cocobolo trees would feel much better if the wood was not wanted anymore and the trees are left to grow in peace.
    Thanks. Had really been thinking about a cocobolo uke because the color was mind blowing. Thanks for the warning. I'll save the money for something else. I would have been really disappointed to watch the color vanish even if it was a great player

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2015


    Interesting. I knew that many woods darken when exposed to UV, but had no ideas that for some this is also just a function of aging. Though, I think that mahogany is actually a very light coloured wood, and the darker hues we see on instruments are accomplished by staining ... how does that stand up over time? One dark wood that I see more often used now to replace rosewood is Pau Ferro/Morado. It's also pretty dark, but not on the list of coloured woods. How does it stand up over time?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Marin County, CA


    This also makes me wonder what some earlier Cocobolo Ukuleles look like now.

    Personally, I don’t see the color change to be quite as off-putting as the OP. I generally prefer the look of things that have developed a patina from age (copper is the obvious biggie, but my cast iron skillet, a well-worn wooden handle on a beloved gardening tool, a fine Madeira aged in giant oak casks for decades, etc)

    I realize my examples are more the result of using the things in question rather than the outright powerful oxidizing effect that oxygen has on everything, so not quite the same. But at the root of it all is oxygen: it’s a hell-of-an-element, and probably the singularly most destructive one on our planet.

    Very interested to see and hear of more examples!
    Current UAS fallout:

    Ohana SK-21A — ‘10s L. Nunes Ukulele 0 Hawaii Soprano — 1918-19 Martin 2M Soprano — ‘60s Kamaka ‘Keiki’ Soprano — ‘70s Kamaka White Label Soprano — Blue Frog Soprano — aNueNue Moon Bird US200 — Ohana SK-30L — Cocobolo Concert #382 (teak!) — Outdoor Ukulele Carbon Tenor — ‘50s Harmony Baritone

    Mead Ambassador/Horticulturist at Heidrun Meadery since 2017

    Teaching Music Together since 2019

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