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Acoustic Woods and other options

An acoustic instrument has many factors that determine the sound. Most importantly is the shape and size of the instrument, but beyond that, wood selection can be a big factor in the final tonality. Many luthiers are using non traditional woods these days with great results. If you would like a guitar made with a non traditional wood like Pear wood or Osage orange or Purple heart that is not a problem. Here is a summary of the more traditional woods used for acoustic guitars.

Top Woods

Sitka Spruce

A very abundant wood from the northwest north America. Lightly tan or slightly pinkish in color, sitka spruce has a strong fundamental in relation to the overtones. Sitka has a meaty tone and it holds up well when played hard although it may not respond as well when played softly.

Adirondack Spruce

Also known as red spruce, adirondack spruce was the standard on old Martins. Like sitka it has a strong fundamental but it also has complex overtones. It retains it's clarity at all volume levels. Adirondack spruce was once over harvested but it is now available again thanks to replanting and wise forestry. The down side to this wood is that it is expensive and it is not as finely grained.

Engleman Spruce

A light colored spruce, engleman spruce has a weaker fundamental with stronger overtones making it richer sounding even when played softly, although clarity may be lost when it is played loud.

European Spruce

Is a great choice for classical guitars. European spruce has much of the same characteristics as engelman spruce.

Western Red Cedar

Darker in color than the spruces this fine tone wood has great overtones and a lower fundamental, Cedar has less projection than spruce and it can loose clarity when played hard. It has a very short break in time.



Backs and Sides


Cocobolo, Indian Rosewood, Madagascar Rosewood, Brazilian Rosewood, Honduran Rosewood, African Blackwood, Kingwood, and Amazon Rosewood can vary in color, price and availability but all rosewoods have some things in common, they offer a ringing tone (like a built in reverb) and strong low overtones.


Mahogany and Koa

Lacking the ring and low overtones of the rosewoods, these woods have a dryer, more woody sound. Koa is a stunningly beautiful wood from Hawaii. Koa is a traditional wood for Ukuleles and it is sometimes used as a soundboard in addition to being used as back and sides. Mahogany has been used on great sounding instruments for many decades. Honduran Mahogany is becoming more scarce. It is very stable and easy to work. Fortunately African Mahogany has many of the same characteristics.



Maple, Cherry and Walnut

These woods tend to be more acoustically transparent, allowing the top wood to be uncolored. Maples can display beautiful figure such as birds eye, flame and quilt. These native woods are traditional and sustainable.



Walnut__________Quilted Maple _________Cherry


Other body wood choices

Although the demand for exotic woods from the guitar industry is less than one percent, traditional woods are becoming scarce. There are many new choices for great tone woods today. It seems that every year more and more are introduced. Many of these woods will give a guitar the sound of traditional woods and others can have uniquely great sounds of their own, some have a traditional look others offer beautiful alternatives.

I offer woods that are Forest Stewardship Council certified.



Other considerations that alter the sound of a guitar

When a player changes from light strings to medium strings, the weight of the strings is increased and therefore the tension must be increased in order to create the same pitch as before. This causes more pressure on the bridge and it gives the guitar's sound more punch.

A similar situation happens when a guitar has a longer scale length. With a longer string, the tension must be increased in order to maintain the same pitch (A= 440hrtz.). This situation also gives a more punchy sound. A shorter scale length will give a sweeter sound. On most standard guitars, scale lengths range from about 24.5" to about 25.5".



A cutaway body is a great way to gain access to the upper frets. Two styles are common.

----The Florentine cutaway --------------------------------The Venetian Cutaway

Florentene---------------------- Venetian

Recently I have made some changes to the way that the cuaway meets the body of the guitar. The sides of the body now meet the neck heel with a smooth seamless transition that gives even more access and comfort when playing up the neck.




About my necks

My necks are engineered to be lightweight, resonant as well as stiff and resistant to breakage. Here is how I do that. First, the neck joint is a dovetail joint. This makes a very solid connection to the body. Secondly, the neck is laminated with Mahogany, Maple and Walnut, all great tone woods. This not only looks good but laminating makes the neck strong and stiff. Stiffness is a good thing for several reasons. It holds up well against the string tension, instead of absorbing vibrations, it reflects them back to the soundboard and it can be important if for slim modern neck shapes. Finally, the headstock is scarfed onto the neck. This allows the grain direction to be oriented on the headstock in a way that prevents breaking from impact.



You can have a pickup added to any acoustic guitar that I build. I recomend K&K pickups. These soundboard pickups capture the true sound of the guitar, not just the sound of the string.




I recommend a good case to protect your investment. A low cost option is available from either Guardian or TKL.





guardian master


Cedar Creek case options are extensive, here are some examples.


Cedar Creek


Cedar Creek CaseCedar Creek Case

Cedar Creek CaseCedar Creek Case



Ameritage is a world class case and is avaliable in many colr chices inside and out.

Ameritage logo


ameritage case




All Content Copyright Tim Reede 2012