Tone Wood?

Mark Miller asked 8 months ago

Am I wrong to believe the articles that I have been reading, that say tone wood has to be cut at certain times of the year, split into billets as opposed to sawing , and air dried for several years?

I have always learned from research that typical hardwood from a typical hard wood mill or store is not ideal for musical instrument building, because of kiln drying and harvesting techniques.

Thank you ,


1 Answers
Westfarthing Woodworks answered 8 months ago

Tonewood is a special name given to wood used for making instruments. While it’s different for the way it’s cut and sold, it’s still wood. It still comes from trees, and it’s no more special than any other piece of wood from the same tree.

Tonewood is a marketing term more than a property of wood. A log that is destined for a guitar maker could just as well have ended up in a furniture maker’s hands, and it would not be called tonewood at that point, even though it would have if it made it to the instrument maker.

I cover why tonewood is not special in my acoustic guitar making book. I also dispel a lot of other myths that prevent people from getting into instrument making.

There is no way to predict how a piece of wood will sound, and the quality of your build will have a much bigger effect on the sound of your wood than the wood itself.

If you build poorly, Master Grade wood will not save your guitar. On the other hand, when you know how to build really well, you can use almost anything and still make a good guitar.

For examples, look at the Taylor Pallet Guitars, and Benedetto’s worm hole Spruce guitars. These are made with objectively poor materials, and sound just as good as any guitar made with high end materials.

The maker has more influence on the guitar than any type of wood, and while there is magic in a good origin story for your guitar making wood, the magic does not necessarily translate into a good guitar.

I have personally made dozens of guitars from wood from a hardwood store, and have been successful. Look for the right pieces to work with, and mill them yourself to the right sizes. You will save a lot of money, and you will get the same results.

Happy building.

See Also: 25 Best Guitar Making Tips For Beginners

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