Englemann, Lutz and Sitka spruces are local to the Pacific Northwest. This proximity allows me to be very picky in selecting the highest quality tonewood. If you would like to have your guitar built with North American spruce, I will select a set that best compliments the sound you are looking for. We can discuss those nuances when we get closer to the beginning of construction of your guitar.
The majority of rosewood (RW) guitars built today are made with this tonewood. Initially seen as a less expensive alternative to Brazilian rosewood, East Indian Rosewood (EIR) has earned its respected place among luthiers and musicians alike. While high-quality Brazilian rosewood is either unavailable or very expensive, EIR can still be obtained at reasonable prices and of excellent quality. It has superb tonal characteristics as well as physical strength and dimensional stability.
Frequently referred to as “German” spruce, despite the fact that much of European spruce tonewood sold today originates in Italy, Austria, Switzerland, France, and the region of Carpathian mountains. Best examples of European spruce are low-weight, posses excellent cross-grain stiffness, and complex tonal palette.
Traditionally, the holy grail of guitar tonewoods. In 1992, Brazilian rosewood was listed as endangered with CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), and can no longer be imported or exported unless it was harvested prior to that date, and has an accompanying CITES certificate. The wood is therefore very expensive, and the quality of the remaining pre-CITES stock tends to be of inferior grade.
A true rosewood. Extremely dense, it literally sinks in water! Some consider this wood superior to Brazilian. Rare and expensive for a couple of reasons. Firstly, high-quality logs are rare. Very few trees are large enough to yield guitar backs. Secondly, a significantly higher labor investment in working this material. The wood is very difficult to plane, scrape, and finish-but the results are more than worth it! Incredible dynamic range, tonal palette and volume.
I am literally surrounded by red cedar trees in the Pacific Northwest. While spruce-topped guitars often require a longer break-in period, a cedar soundboard guitar provides more instant gratification, offering a more open sound right from the start. A very lightweight wood. Cedar trees tend to grow without “twist” — a huge benefit to the tree cutter, yielding tops that have very little short-grain or run-out.
Several hundred maple species exist, although there are four primarily used in guitarmaking. They are Western Big Leaf maple, Eastern maple (North American), European Red Maple, and American Red maple.
Maple figures prominently in the violin family of instruments, as well as in archtop guitars. Historically, many nylon-stringed guitars have been made with maple as well. Two examples are flamenco and classical guitars built by Torres, and Panormo guitars made in England. Maple can have the effect of “warming” the sound, and making the instrument sound more “intimate.” Maple’s higher dampening properties tend to emphasize the fundamental tones. With overtones and harmonics subdued and in the background, the guitar acquires a more immediate, focused sound.
Traditional choice for flamenco guitars, although excellent classical guitars can be built with this wood as well. In the yesteryear of Spanish guitarmaking, Spanish cypress was considered to be an inexpensive option, and did not necessarily imply “flamenco.” Instead, it was the guitar for a person on a tight budget. Today, no longer a “budget” wood, well-cut cypress costs more than Indian rosewood. Most commercially available cypress is cut in Italy and Turkey. I have an excellent selection of well-aged, dry cypress. A superb tonewood with an intoxicating fragrance that will linger inside your cypress guitar for years!
Not Spanish, nor a cedar! Lighter in weight than mahogany and a preferred material for flamenco guitar necks. Many Spanish classical guitar makers also used Spanish cedar exclusively. Exceptionally stable wood with a distinct fragrance reminiscent of cigar humidors (which are typically made of the same wood).
Generally heavier and denser than Spanish cedar. Excellent choice for classical guitars. Well-quartered wood is very stable and strong.
Traditional choice for guitar fingerboards. Ranging from nearly jet black in color to dark with slight gray and brown streaking. Ebony’s abrasion-resistant properties make it a long-lasting material ideal for fingerboards.
Elegant and traditional choice for flamenco guitars. Wooden pegs may seem low-tech and unreliable. Not so! Top-quality materials and precision fit result in excellent functionality and great looks.
If you are not a fan of black, and want slightly lighter-weight pegs, rosewood is a great choice.
Nearly indistinguishable from ebony pegs, these tuners are no simple wooden affair. While maintaining traditional aesthetic and low mass, the tuners’ internal geared mechanism affords more controlled tuning. Made of anodized aluminum and fiber-reinforced resin.
Irving Sloane tuners are manufactured in Montana, USA. Very nice fit and finish. Plates are machined out of bronze, and with age acquire a nice patina.
Perhaps the best quality tuners from a large-scale manufacturer. Not to be confused with basic Gotoh tuners, premium Gotohs are a huge leap forward in terms of design and quality. Very smooth and reliable tuners.
One of many variations of Spanish-style rosettes.
- One example of natural wood grain and pattern rosette..
A custom rosette made according to your design.
A number of different rosewoods can be used for fingerboards: Indian RW, Madagascar, Brazilian, Cocobolo, African blackwood, etc. One advantage is that RW fingerboards tend to be less heavy than ebony. Secondly, RWs are more resonant (lower dampening or sound-absorbing attributes) and can contribute to better sustain in guitars. If RW is specified, I generally use an Indian RW fingerboard with a matching bridge. If you have a specific rosewood in mind, please let me know and I will check my supply.