The workshop

Timber and Tone - Tall Trees and Other Stories

All trees have a story to tell. New Zealand Swamp Kauri became submerged and buried 80,000 years ago, and when dug out today is found to be in perfect condition. It didn’t take the same amount of time to try it out in a guitar.  Seqouia Redwood trees are enormous, and very very old, with many properties that attract guitar builders. They are quite rightly protected by law, but that law applies even when they fall down. Not the best application of thinking green. European spruce has been a mainstay of instrument building for centuries, but sometimes it is impossible to tell the difference between European and Englemann spruce from the opposite side of the world. The lovely Koa from Hawaii is the same family and just about identical to Tazmanian Blackwood (which isn’t black).  African Blackwood is actually a Rosewood, but is often regarded as Ebony. Confused? Even Balsa wood has been used for guitar tops. Botanically speaking, Balsa is a hardwood but I’m sure everyone knows that?

I find that describing sound with words is very confusing, different people hear different things, and describe them differently. For example, I have noticed that some makers say Mahogany guitars are “bright”, while Rosewood guitars are “mellow”. That is the exact opposite of my own experience, and the difference between Brazilian Rosewood and Indian is usually perfectly obvious “in the flesh”, but so difficult to describe accurately in words. Taking other peoples perceptions is very misleading ~ when words like “separation” “clarity” and “pristine” are being used, I suspect the emperor has bought new clothes and he’s been reading newsgroups when he should have been playing the guitar ~ or reading this site! 

In the descriptions of instruments on this site, I have tried to find situations where the use of a particular timber is most easily explained by reference to that instrument.

In "The Woods" section are pictures of some of the timbers that have been used to make guitars in this workshop. There are many others that are not shown, and certain pieces might vary enormously from the pictures. They are not intended to be a catalogue of available materials, just an indication of one aspect of what draws a guitar maker to his craft.