What we do know is that the ship’s boy wasn’t as badly off as you might think. For there was an abundance of wood in dem woods. Endemic hardwoods number in the mid thousands in southern Africa alone. Plenty of them would make fine candidates for a spot on the guitar stand of history, although less than half of them are really known enough to say.
Perhaps the ship’s boy started with a slab of Sapele Mahogany, gathered further up on the ships journey down the coast of Africa and salvaged from the wreck. Maybe he found a couple of pieces of the exotic purple heart in the smashed residue of his abandoned vessel. And if he took his leisurely time in the abundant, generous grasslands of Africa, he might stumbled upon the odd twisted, small, but obviously old Dalbergia Melanoxyon (African Blackwood) tree in the savanna. Now one of the most rare and prized tonewoods in the guitar kingdom, the African Blackwood would not have been big, but would have more than made up for its small size in its exceptional beauty. Our ship’s boy would not have had to look far for a nice bit of top wood. Tamboti (Spirostachys Africana) is relatively abundant in these parts and well worth the effort of carving one up with the ship’s equipment. If he was observant, our aspirant African luthier would have noticed that the latex of the tamboti tree is used by locals as a fish poison, is applied to arrow-tips and is never used as fuel for fires because of the poisonous nature of its smoke. But if he took care not to inhale when sanding his top down with a block of sandstone, he’d have been rewarded with a truly beautiful top for his telecastaway.
And there’s no shortage of other decorative goodies on this rough coast. Shell abounds and, if you’re a little more adventurous, there’s the large quantity of ming dynasty porcelain that was dashed with the Sao Bento, but has been washing up on a little inlet a kilometer up the coast for the past 450 years. Pay it a visit now and, if you’re patient and methodical, you’ll find yourself enough shards of Ming porcelain for the inlays in at least one humble, 7-string, multiscale, baritone guitar neck.
The Lacey Act be damned. If porcelain’s not your thing, help yourself to a little Zebra tooth for exotic measure, even though you’d be hard pressed to produce a certificate of origin when the bureaucrats start poking around the telecastaway.