ed note: I was going thru some old articles and found this one from 4 years ago. it’s an accidental companion piece to the “Wider, Lighter, Brighter, Better” piece I published earlier. It contains some personal thoughts on guitar building that are not included in the more technical article sited above.
From July 2007
So I went through some of my guitar wood this afternoon, and found that I have enough to make about 10 instruments. Varieties like Mahogany, Rosewood, and Koa to name a few.
I’m partial to Mahogany myself. It’s easy to carve, bend, sand and finish. There is not much that I can think of that is a drawback. The material that I’ve pulled out for the first Harp Guitar is some figured Mahogany. The one drawback to this set is that it’s flatsawn (crack city). I’ve made one other guitar from this material about 10 or so years ago. It is a good instrument, with no cracks. In the long run I think it’ll hold up.
Some other material I have for sets for guitar are Koa, Rosewood, and the “Holy Grail” Brazilian Rosewood. I’m not big on the Indian Rosewood, it makes nice looking guitars, but I’ve never been excited about the look or feel. Brazilian on the other hand is a whole different ballgame. This stuff has beauty, character, along with superb tone. I can’t imagine that I’ll be making a guitar out of this stuff too soon.
The last couple of pieces I have are some guitar tops. There are Sitka Spruce, California Figured Redwood, and Englenamm Spruce.
I wanted to take the time and write about guitar top in particular. When I first started building, I was taught that you want a tom that has a lot of “lines” per inch. The lines that they were referring to are the growth rings of the tree. Slower growing trees create smaller distances between the early wood lines, thus giving you more lines per inch. In time I realized that tops that come from trees that grow a little faster…say 10-12 lines per inch were more suitable for the sound I wanted to create. These tops have more late wood. This wood is lighter in weight, and therefore easier to get moving. The one manmade aspect of this top is that it has to be cut perfectly quartersawn. When the grain is 90 degrees to the face of the guitar top, the wood becomes very stiff… Stiff, light tops react better to vibration than do heavy stiff tops. Back in the day we called these tops “Singin Tops”