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I build my guitars out of solid wood. Any given species of wood has specific qualities and characteristics that distinguish it from another species, but these can vary greatly from one tree to another. Grading standards can vary between vendors but the wood that I use on my instruments is AAA or fine grade wood. This is considered to be second only to “Master Grade” wood. Even so, color and figure can vary greatly. Some consider unique characteristics as defects and use dyes and stains to create identical looking instruments. My philosophy is that the characteristics that make two pieces of wood unique from one another are desirable and support the concept that I am building guitars for unique individuals.
Sitka Spruce: This grows in a coastal "pocket" from Northern California to Alaska. This dense, straight-grained wood has the highest strength and elasticity-to-weight ratio among available tonewoods, an attribute that makes it an ideal material for soundboards.
Engleman Spruce: This grows in the Rocky Mountain range (a lot of the best Engelmann comes from New Mexico, Idaho, and Montana), has many of the desirable traits of German spruce—including workability and a lustrous "ivory" hue. Because its stiffness and weight differ from that of Sitka spruce, Engelmann soundboards produce a smoother, slightly mellower tone, one that many players describe as "more mature." Engleman spruce is a good choice for classical instruments too.
Red Cedar: This has been used for decades as a soundboard material on classical guitars, and it's becoming popular among steel-string enthusiasts, as well. Cedar is a "soft" wood known for producing a "warm," mellow tone, one whose overtones are evenly distributed, rather than concentrated on the highs and lows, making it especially suitable for fingerstyle playing. Cedar's light brown color also lends a guitar a visual warmth that many players find appealing.
Neck, Bridge, Back & Sides, Headstock
Macassar Ebony: With heartwood that is dark brown to black interspersed with contrasting bands of yellow to golden brown, Macassar ebony yields a bold and attractive look by offsetting the darkest of the dark woods with a variety of color. This wood is also very stable, hard, dense and has low damping characteristics. These properties make it a great choice for guitar back and sides, as well as for fingerboards, bridges and headplates.
Back and Side Wood
Brazillian Rosewood: For 200 years, guitar aficionados have coveted Brazilian rosewood above all tonewoods for its density, beauty, and rich, full resonance. Also known as Bahia or Rio rosewood in the US and the UK, and as jacaranda in its native Brazil, its coloring ranges from golden-tan to chocolate-brown, with variegated streaks of violet, purple-black, pink, orange, and even green. It gets its English name not from its coloration, but from a characteristic rose-like fragrance whose intensity is proportional to its age, moisture content, and degree of deterioration. The gorgeous grain figure complements the gloriously complex overtones it produces. Brazilian rosewood is under threat of extinction and has been banned from commercial trade. Pre-ban old stock can be sold legally if it has the CITES certificate.
Indian Rosewood: This is the current standard for high-end guitars since Brazilian is extremely rare and what is available is beyond the budget of many. It is coveted by players and builders alike for its tonal characteristics which include strong bass response and long sustain. Its coloration ranges from brown to purple to rose to black. It remains the most popular tonewoods used in the making of high-quality acoustic guitars.
Camatillo Rosewood: Sometimes known as ’Mexican Kingwood’ Camatillo is a true Rosewood (Dalbergia Congestiflora). Camatillo is purple! And its grain could be considered to be ’on the wild side’’ Similar to some of the Cocobolo and Honduran rosewood which grows in the same region. Straight grain (even on the sides) is rare, there are small, solid pin knots. This wood can have dramatic black ink lines and clean, light colored sapwood, which can be used to create a striking back. Perfect choice for the ‘individual’ that desires something totally unique. Tonally this wood’s tap tone is close to quality Brazilian rosewood
Black Acacia: This wood is also known as Australian Blackwood and is popular alternative to Koa (Koa is an acacia). It is similar to Koa in that it displays much of the characteristic figure and sound quality but is less expensive and more accessible. (This tree grows in Northern California as well). It is considered to be a main stay of Australian builders and is also a favorite of selected US builders such as Kenny Hill and Mark Baranik.
Wenge: Wenge is a large straight growing tree found from central through western Africa. The grain of Wenge is often tight and straight across the entire width of backs and sides. The color is chocolate brown with evenly spaced black veins. This wood is heavier than either Indian or Brazilian Rosewood and is stiffer, but softer, with large pores. Considered to be a good alternative to Rosewoods and has been used to great effect by many master builders.
Padauk: Padauk is a bright orange or almost crimson wood when freshly cut, but oxidizes more to a dark, rich purple-brown over time. However, it stays redder than Indian Rosewood. It is also harder and heavier than Indian Rosewood and is a good tonewood in all respects with a very strong, bright tap tone. Padauk often exhibits very straight grain and is is a great choice for backs and sides, as well trim elements, such as binding or headplate.
Pau Ferro: Also known as Caviuna, Bolivian Rosewood, or Palo Santos, this Rosewood-like (not a true rosewood) wood has many names. In appearance it is often similar to Indian Rosewood, but has rich dark brown, gold and yellow hues rather than purple. Pau Ferro is similar in many ways to Indian Rosewood and is a great alternative. It has a great tap tone finishes beautifully.
Zebra Wood: This wood is aptly named because of the evenly spaced dark brown and contrasting yellow stripes. It is great tone wood and may be considered a bold alternative to Indian Rosewood because of its similar tonal qualities.
Mahogany: There are several varieties of mahogany and many of them are fine woods for guitar making. Many ‘classic’ Martin and Gibson acoustic guitars have been made of Honduran Mahogany but even grained wide stock is becoming harder to obtain. Other varieties include African Mahogany of the genus Khaya, and Sapele of the genus Entandrophragma, which is a little heavier and finer textured than Honduran Mahogany. Like with other woods, extreme figure (quilting, beeswing, etc) can occur in mahogany in many forms and can be used to create a stunning guitar.
Lace Wood: This is a relatively new wood to be used by luthiers. It is dense wood with a loud, sustaining tap tone. Lacewood’s color is a warm cinnamon brown and has bold figure (the name leopard wood is sometimes used). Some builders feel that this wood contributes to a warm tone characteristic of guitars many years older.
Bubinga: Also known as African Rosewood (although it is not a dalbergia) exhibits a pinkish-mauve cast, which oxidizes to a nice brownish-red over time. Bubinga is also hard and dense and is heavier than Indian Rosewood. Its is somewhat similar to mahogany in that it has interlocking grain. Bubinga can also exhibit extreme figure which can rival maple. Over all it is considered a great tonewood.
North American Woods
Maple: Maple has been used for instrument making for hundreds of years and has proven itself as a superior choice for string instruments of the violin family, mandolins and archtop guitars. There are many species available and it grows in many regions of the world. Highly prized specimens include the ‘curly’, ‘flamed’ ‘birds eye’ and ‘quilted’ varieties. Maple is also great choice for acoustic guitars because of its bright tap tone and guitars made with maple are noted for their projection
Walnut: California walnut with its rich brown color and occasional black streaks, produces a striking instrument with a crisp, dry tone and a strong fundamental. Walnut works well in all respects, has a pleasant scent, and is very stable. Black Walnut (from the Eastern United States) is gray in color, often with contrasting tan center strips. In either case, walnut can exhibit great ‘fiddle back’ figure and is a great choice for unique looking and great sounding guitar.
Myrtle: Also known as California or Bay Laurel, or Oregon Myrtle, or Pepperwood, it ranges in color from blond-yellow to taupe and makes very nice guitars. Every guitar built from this wood is an original because of the variety of color and figure found in each piece. It is considered by some to be one of the best tonewoods available and is often compared to maple for its bright ringing tone and superior projection.
Other exotic and rare woods available at market price.
If you don't see a wood here you are interested in please mention
it when filling out the Custom Guitar Estimate Form.
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