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Wood choices for guitars
Author
Post
naccoachbob

Total Topics: 26
Total Posts: 261
I'm interested in opinions about the use of different woods in kit building, or scratch building. What does everyone look for in the woods they select for the binding of the back and top? I understand of course that sound drives a lot, costs do too, but why did you pick what you picked? Also, what drives your choice of neck bindings? Head plate veneers? I live in the country in East Texas and don't have much access to different woods. So when I pick the sides/back and top for a future build, I don't have any way to know what binding would accent them, which would be weird, which would be cool. When I saw the guitars that Stephen Kinnaird had built, what really piqued my interest was the choice of woods for the different parts. how one wood seemed to enhance another. And I want to build along those lines.
If you want to share pics, please send them to my email. I don't want to tie up Bill's bandwidth in here unless he clears it.
Thanks,
Bob

Feb 01, 10 | 5:21 pm
Adaboy

Total Topics: 64
Total Posts: 509
Bob, Steve is a master at selecting just the right binding to go with his wood choices. I think it's a combination of an artistic eye and experience. Whatever it is, I don't have it (at least not yet) and he sure does.

What kind of wood are you thinking of using for the back/sides on your next build? I am using EIR this time. Al Carruth advises starting with EIR and using it for at least your first 3 builds so as you change things you don't wonder if the tone difference was due to your change or the different back/side wood.

About the bandwidth from posting pictures: as I understand it using the [img] command, it gives you browser a command to go to the website hosting the picture and download the image.......so I'm not sure how that would use any more bandwidth from this site.

Feb 01, 10 | 6:20 pm
naccoachbob

Total Topics: 26
Total Posts: 257
It will probably be rosewood. If so, it will have maple bindings. I've seen that combination a couple of times, and I do like it. It's going to be for my daughter. Not sure what neck, plate, purfling, etc.

Feb 01, 10 | 6:37 pm
Freeman

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
Bob, in my opinion you select your tone woods for sound and appearance first, but ease of work should be a strong second. Many people have written about what they think various tonewoods do for the sound of a guitar - here is one of the best of them

http://www.esomogyi.com/tonewoods.html

You can do this for yourself by listening to different guitars that are as similar as possible in other ways but differ only in tonewood - for example go to the Podium and compare a D-18 (hog) to a D-28. Obviously mixing bracing difference, body sizes, different manufacturers, etc can complicate that.

For most of us, the choice of top woods will be one of the spruces (Sitka or adi) or possibly cedar, and backs and sides will probably be either EIR or Honduran mahogany. You can follow the general rule that rosewood is a little more "complex" sounding, hog is often described as "woody" or "bluesy".

Rosewood and mahogany are completely different in appearance - here is the backs of two of my guitars, rose on the left, hog on the right (the necks on both are mahogany, the one on the left has been stained redish brown as many guitars are (like a D-18))



So once I've selected the tonewood itself, then I try to decide how to bring all the details together in the finish. If the back and sides are rose, I try to make the headplate and heel cap out of the same material. In the case of the hog guitar in the first picture I decided to use a rosewood fretboard and bridge and to bind it in rosewood, using a small line of maple to offset the all of the pieces. Here are the headplates of the two guitars in the first pic - the one on the left is a normal ebony fretboard, rosewood on the right. You can just barely see the little light line inside the slots.



Because the one on the right is attempting to be in the style of a '30's guitar, I used vintage tuners with ivorid buttons and even used unbleached bone for the nut and saddle to give an old timey look.

The one on the left was designed to be "modern" and kind of blingy, so I did abalone rosette and purfling and bound the top and back in rosewood, but with a couple of tiny lines to set it all off. The one on the right I used old time "rope" binding and rosette to try to keep that vintage feel - here is the comparison



Up to this point I have built 6 instruments - four from rosewood, one from mahogany and a flamed maple mandolin. I am starting on one now that will be a little off the wall, but once again I am trying to think thru the "theme" - this one will be a wood bodies tricone resonator so it will have lots of chrome - the coverplate, tailpiece, and grill. Since tonewood doesn't have much effect on a reso, I thought I would use koa for the body and bind it in light flamed maple with a touch of dark lines. The neck will be mahogay (which is similar in color tot he koa) but I want to add a maple stripe down the center and I'll use koa for the head and heel plates. I'm also going to bing the headplate on this one with maple. Wood has all been ordered - once it gets here and I hold the pieces side by side I might decide to change something (btw - we your pieces of wood to see how they will look when finished).

One more thougth is how you will finish and particularly, if you will do any staining. If you put light wood accents on something like a headstock it is very hard to keep stains from wicking into them - I would seriously consider staining a hog neck before putting the headplate on.

(it is my understanding that links to a hosting site like Photobucket does not take any bandwidth)

Feb 02, 10 | 6:04 am
Freeman

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
You say this is for your daughter - do give some serious thought to what will make it special for her. I built a parlor sized guitar for my little (40 y.o.) girl. I used rosewood and like the 12 string, bound it in rose with abalone purfling and rosette (lots of bling for the ladies, eh?). My daughter's special icon is the green darner dragonfly, which she has tatooed on her shoulder - so I had some pearl cut to emulate her tat.

http://www.kitguitarsforum.com/forum/threads.php?id=2828_0_9_0_C

Feb 02, 10 | 6:09 am
Adaboy

Total Topics: 64
Total Posts: 509
Freeman, thanks for that link to Somogyi's article!

Feb 02, 10 | 9:45 am
Kevin Sjostrand

Total Topics: 84
Total Posts: 981
Bob,
On my first kit, I tried Palo Escrito; a mexican rosewood that is used very extensively in Mexico for Classical guitars. I wanted to do something different, and I was pleasantly surprised with the result. I have built 2 dreds with this wood now and I loved working with it. It is a little less dense than EIR, and lighter weight. It was easy to work, bend, sand, etc. It is beautiful under the finish. The sound is lively from both of these guitars. The tops (both Sitka) were tuned differently, so the sound is a bit different, but both nice.

I am building now with Cocobolo, only because that is what my son-in-law wanted. It was easy enough to bend on my pipe bender. I am hopeful for the sound. This is also a dreadnaught, with bearclaw sitka top.
The neck this time will be Sapele, one piece. It has a little different look, and is suppose to be a bit heavier than hog, so this will be a heavy guitar. This may be good because it is going to live in India when finished, in a very high humidty environment. Cocobolo is a heavier rosewood than EIR. I love the smell of this wood when working it. I'm using Koa for binding. I've seen Taylor guitars with this combination, and it really looks nice. A little less contrast than maple bindings would be. The cocobolo has some purple hues in it, and I have an EIR fretboard that also has these hues, so I thought they would go nicely together. I may bind the fretboard in the Koa also, but haven't decided yet. I like to match the peghead veneer to the body wood. I have used both ebony and EIR for fretboards, but I think I like the less stark black look of the EIR, although I have read that they both affect the sound of the guitar..........but who knows for sure. That is what I have done, and why.

Kevin

Feb 02, 10 | 10:00 am
Freeman

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
I always thought this was rather stunning - a Charles Fox guitar that I saw at the GAL show. I believe it is cedar over rosewood with bloodwood binding



And you can see all the different tone woods and binding in full color at LMI's website

Feb 02, 10 | 10:14 am
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
I have a rosewood jumbo that I built, and have built a rosewood OM which sounded almost identical after some brace abd soundport modifcations, so I am now looking for something completely different. I am a big believer in high contrast in woods, especially between back/side sets and the binding.

This guitar (the mango) is still unfinished. I picked the Curly Mango because it was the wildest wood I had ever seen. I didn't care what it sounded like, I had to make a guitar out of it. I chose wenge for the binding because I had a lot of it, and I really liked the contrast. Wenge its self, depending on how you cut it, can be a very wild wood as well, and it shows up more subtly in the grain, but I think compliments the mango.



I have used the same thought process on the zebrawood OM and the Padauk OM as well. Those woods are a little more well known as tonewoods, but the high contrast and the figure in the wood really intrigued me. On one of the guitars I will build next summer, maybe an all padauk, I am even tempted to try to make a maple bridge to tie the bridge into the binding. A pro from another forum couldn't understand why I ever thought of doing that until I explained top, back, and sides would all be the same material, and I wanted to highlight the bridge the same way the binding would be highlighted......he'd never even thought of that before, and changed his opinion on the matter. I have yet to do it, but I still plan on it.

Another angle might be to pick woods simply becaue they are local. Make a statement "Here's what I can do with whats in our own back yard" sort of a statement. Assuming you can make good guitar, it will definitely sound good. Thats why I don't really consider sound as a critical deciding factor in choosing wood. I am not searching for a particular sound any longer, but for something striking and appealing for wahtever strikes me at the moment I see it.

Feb 02, 10 | 11:37 am
Freeman

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
Here are some other wood ideas. Click on each image for details

http://www.alliedlutherie.com/backsnsides.htm

Feb 02, 10 | 1:45 pm
naccoachbob

Total Topics: 26
Total Posts: 257
Ken H, I love the Mango and Wenge - they complement each other even though there's vivid contrast. And the picture Freeman posted of the rosewood with bloodwood is one of the ones I'm considering for my daughter's project. The other considered combination is rosewood with maple binding - the binding having a rosewood lam that I would show on the top, maybe with some white/black purfling to round it out.
Our local woods are pine, pine, and pine. We're deep in the Piney Woods of east Texas. However, there is black walnut, pecan, and oak. Of those, only the walnut sounds good, possibly pecan for a different look. Steve Kinnaird was just dared to do a pine guitar. Not sure if he's gonna bite on that or not.
I spent a lot of today looking on another (cough) forum (cough). And saw some really nice things. Problem is, many of them didn't have adequate descriptions.
This is what I was hoping to hear when I started thinking of this thread. There's some great eyes here, thanks.
Bob

Feb 02, 10 | 3:53 pm
Ken C

Total Topics: 30
Total Posts: 554
Bob, Lots of great combinations out there. If you seek a particular sound, start there. If you just want to experiment, we hobby luthiers have many options available to us. One of the things that attracted me to building guitars was the opportunity to work more with exotic woods than I had in the past. I had used pau ferro, bloodwood, purple heart, and rosewoods in furniture, but an acoustic guitar seemed to provide the perfect avenue to try even more woods and in varying combinations.

I have used quilted mahogany, flamed maple, southeast Asian RW, Madagascar RW, and claro walnut combined with curly eucalyptus, curly maple, curly koa, cocobolo, ebony, tulipwood, boxwood, burls, shell, and tortoise. I spend weeks or months noodling ideas and combinations prior to starting. I try to limit the different woods used on a guitar to just a few. I like a matching fingerboard and bridge, but I really think that is personal preference. I like my end graft to either match the bindings or wood used elsewhere. I like the neck heel graft to match the head plate, rosette, or tie into some other feature of the guitar. I built one guitar with a wide rosette and felt it was too wide, so I now use narrower rosettes--again personal preference. All this goes into developing your style. I think a lot of woods can work in combination, but execution and good craftsmanship are key to pulling it off.

I won't post links to pictures as you can easily find pictures of the mahogany, maple, and mad rose guitars in the Show it Off forum and the other two in the Guitar Building forum. Hopefully I'll have the claro walnut in the Show it Off forum soon!

Ken

Feb 02, 10 | 6:41 pm
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
Actually, some of the $100 contest acoustics are made from knotty pine....I am tempted next summer to look at lowes and HD and see if there are any interesting specimens. I'd be interested in an all cheapwood guitar and really test my skills at creating good sound. I can get cherry and Oak as well.

With regards to the rosewood....I built a rosewood guitar for guy that saw my website a couple years ago (The Lion and the Lamb, if you visit my site). He chose Rosewood with Koa binding. I disagreed with him, but built what he asked for. It turned out a beautiful combination....I just couldn't see it in my head, and koa looks like crap until it is sanded and scraped smooth. Think about that one too.

www.nocturnalguitars.com

Feb 03, 10 | 8:14 am



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