Fender CITES Changes - Rosewood vs. Pau Ferro Fretboards

With all of the changes to CITES law over the last year Fender have taken steps to remove rosewood and other restricted woods from their lineup.

The question is how does the replacement Pau Ferro compare to the traditionally used Rosewood on these new Fender guitars?

Fender have announced that they'll be making a fretboard wood change on all of their Mexican-made and American Elite guitars and basses.

After the game-changing CITES laws passed earlier in the year, many big manufacturers are changing from using Rosewood to other more sustainable woods that don’t require certification to trade across borders. Fender have made the move from Rosewood to Pau Ferro for their fretboards.

All Fender Mexican models now have Pau Ferro instead of Rosewood on their fretboards.

As it stands, these companies could continue using Rosewood, however the cost incurred by applying for certification for each batch of guitars would significantly raise the prices of the guitars.

You can read more about the CITES laws affecting guitarists, bassists and drummers by clicking here.

The difference between Pau Ferro & Rosewood Fretboards

Pau Ferro is a sustainable wood species that Fender have chosen to replace Rosewood on all of their Mexican Standard models. Fortunately, Pau Ferro is quite similar to Rosewood in terms of look and feel with a few subtle differences – which is why Fender have chosen this as a suitable replacement.

These are the differences between Pau Ferro and Rosewood:

  •  - Tighter grain than Rosewood – this results in a slightly snappier tone.
  •  - Tonally, Pau Ferro is like the mid-way point between Ebony and Rosewood. Slightly brighter than Rosewood but with the same depth and warmth.
  •  - Pau Ferro is a harder wood than Rosewood which is what leads to these tonal differences.
  •  - Generally, Pau Ferro is lighter in colour than Rosewood.
  •  - Pau Ferro can vary in appearance going from light brown wood grains to darker streaks.
  •  - It feels quite similar to Ebony under the fingers – smooth and easy to play. Not far removed from Rosewood.

Rosewood vs Pau Ferro Video with Pete Honore and Mick Taylor

The CITES laws in a nutshell

As of the 2nd of January 2017, a new law has been put into place that will affect how Rosewood is traded across international borders.

Rosewood has been used for many years on many different musical instruments and these new laws mean that anything made with Rosewood will need certification explaining where and how it was sourced.

What CITES laws mean for Fender

The CITES laws have affected the distribution of Fender products across borders. So, Fender have changed the woods on some of their guitars.

This does, of course, mean that you’ll have limited time remaining to buy a Rosewood board Fender guitar. But don’t worry too much about the future changes to Fender because they’ll still retain that classic tone that’s been heard on countless records since the 50s.

We are expecting these changes to begin to happen by June/July 2017. As soon as we get more information on these changes, we’ll be sure to update you.

Fender Mexican Models – Ensenada Factory

All Mexican-made Fender guitars that were made with Rosewood will now have Pau Ferro instead. Pau Ferro is sonically similar to Rosewood. It has a warm character with a clear, sweet top-end and was also used on the famous Stevie Ray Vaughan Strat.

We go into more detail about the differences above.

Fender American Elite – Now With Ebony Boards

From July/August 2017 the American Elite models will have Ebony boards instead of Rosewood. Ebony is considered a premium fretboard wood and can also vary in appearance, from light, streaky hues to dark black.

Traditionally, only darker Ebony was used for fingerboards but sustainable harvesting practice suggests that all shades of Ebony should be considered for guitar-making. Ebony is a prized tonewood that blends the sonic qualities of Rosewood and Maple. It’s got a smooth feel, fast attack with a robust bass response and brilliant top-end.

If you have any questions or don’t understand how this may affect you and your future purchases, please contact us and we’ll be sure to help.

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