Nato Wood: The Cheap Alternative To Mahogany

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  November 8, 2022

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Nato wood comes from the Mora tree. Some mistakenly attribute it to the Nyatoh, an Asian hardwood from the Sapotaceae family (legume tree), because of its similar look and characteristics.

Nato is often used for guitars because of the similar tone properties to mahogany while being more affordable.

It can also be a beautiful piece of wood with varying shades of reddish-brown and both lighter and darker streaks.

Nato as a tone wood

It’s a good wood for cheaper instruments.

But it’s dense and not easy to work with, which is why you won’t see it much in handcrafted guitars.

It is being used more in factory-made guitars where the production process can accommodate the harder material.

Brands like Squier, Epiphone, Gretsch, BC Rich, and Yamaha have all adopted nato in some of their guitar models.

Tone characteristics

Many cheaper guitars are made out of a combination of nato and maple, which gives a more balanced tone.

Nato has a distinctive sound and parlor tone, which results in a less brilliant midrange tone. Even though it’s not as loud, it offers a lot of warmth and clarity.

The only disadvantage is that this wood doesn’t offer many lows. But it has a great balance of overtones and undertones, perfect for higher registers.

The high notes are richer and thicker than other woods like alder.

The use of nato in guitars

Is nato as good as mahogany?

Nato is often referred to as ‘Eastern Mahogany.’ That’s because it’s similar in both look and sound properties. It’s almost as good but is still a budget choice to use instead of the deeper sound and better mid-range of mahogany. It’s also harder to work with to build guitars.

Is nato a good wood for a guitar neck?

Nato is very dense and very durable. This makes it a better choice as a neck wood than as a body wood. It resonates similarly to mahogany but is denser and more durable.

It’s a porous wood with a coarse texture and sometimes interlocked grain. This makes it even harder to work with as interlocked grains are easily torn during the sanding process.

But it’s very stable and reliable.

As a wood for acoustic guitars, it’s almost always a cheaper laminated build because nato is so hard to bend. It’s how a lot of Yamaha acoustics get such a durable guitar at low cost.

As a solid wood, it’s often used for important structural parts like neck blocks and tailblocks, and even the entire neck.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

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