Guitar Making Tip No. 45

brian forbes westfarthing woodworks author biography about me experience

Guitar Making Tip No. 45 is about tonewood. There is an entire industry dedicated to selling wood that is somehow different because it’s called tonewood. While buying wood from a place that serves instrument makers is not a bad thing, there are some things you really need to know about tonewood.

The Book Store is Now Open!   Happy Building!

You Can Make a Great Guitar With Inexpensive Wood

guitar making tip number 45The first thing about wood that you need to know is that you do not need to buy expensive wood to make a good guitar. You absolutely do not.

In fact, for the first several builds, you will not even notice the difference between very high end wood and middle of the road wood. For that reason alone, you can skip the really expensive stuff.

There are many great guitars that are made with middle of the road wood. There are also many that are made with bottom grade.

The difference is the hands of the maker. If you really pay attention and learn from your builds, you can take any piece of wood in the same species/condition and make it into a perfectly usable guitar part.

Next are the two biggest myths when it comes to tonewood…

Free Woodworking Tips Delivered Every Monday! Add Me to the List!

Wood Prices Are Not Based On What You Think

It’s normal to think you are buying and paying for wood at a wood store. In reality, you are only paying for rarity. The rare pieces of wood, no matter how they look, are always more expensive than common pieces. This is simple supply and demand.

For example, Kauri wood is not particularly flashy. It is not without it’s beauty, but there are a dozen species I can name off the top of my head that are more fun to look at. Even so, the wood has a much higher price tag than any of the better looking pieces I was thinking of.

acoustic guitar making how to make tools templates and jigs book beginner book for new guitar makers

The reason? Rarity. Kauri is from a 50,000 year old peat bog in New Zealand. Scientists think a tsunami hit the Kauri forest long ago and buried the trees, preserving them. There are only so many pieces of 50,000 year old wood in this world. So…it commands a high price.

If Kauri wood grew like Pine trees in America, we would use it for houses and firewood.

Wood Is Not Graded On How It Sounds

There is absolutely no way to grade wood on how it will sound. While it can be guessed at, there is no way of determining if one piece will sound better than another until it is made into an instrument.

That being said, there is no reason to believe that a $100 top will sound better than a $20 top of similar characteristics. In fact, the real difference between those two tops is the person making the guitar.

You can give a poor guitar maker $10,000 worth of tone wood and they will produce a poor guitar. On the other hand, a good guitar maker, or a patient new guitar maker can turn a couple hundred dollars of materials into a fine instrument. It’s not about the expensive wood sounding better, it’s about the wood being treated well in the build.

A Last Word on Tonewood Prices

For your first guitar, shoot for the high-bottom to middle for your wood. Don’t buy wood from a home improvement store, but don’t think you need a $100 top in order to make a nice guitar. You don’t, and your guitar will still be just fine.

Free Woodworking Tips Delivered Every Monday! Add Me to the List!

If you really like the look of a more expensive piece, feel free to buy it. Sometimes, the more expensive wood just looks nicer. (Again, nicer looking boards are rare, so they cost more.) If you fall in love with a certain top and it costs more money, just get it and make yourself happy.

Also, many times the lower grades of wood have more interesting looks. Lots of makers like really straight grain. This forces the pieces into a higher price point. The lower priced pieces have more interesting grain patterns, and will actually be nicer to look at for less money. The biggest example would be East Indian Rosewood.

Post Author-

brian forbes westfarthing woodworks llc owner

  • 20 Years Experience in Woodworking
  • 7 Published Books Available on Amazon
  • 750+ Helpful Posts Written
  • 1 Million+ Words Published
 

You Can Find My Books on Amazon!

woodworking and guitar making books
 

Filter:AllOpenResolvedClosedUnanswered
Forum Guidelines (Please Read)
ClosedWestfarthing Woodworks asked 2 weeks ago • 
89 views0 answers0 votes
How do acoustic guitars work?
OpenWestfarthing Woodworks asked 1 day ago • 
2 views0 answers0 votes
Could DIY guitars built from kits sell?
OpenWestfarthing Woodworks asked 1 day ago • 
7 views0 answers0 votes
What tools does someone need to build electric guitars?
AnsweredBrian answered 2 days ago • 
18 views1 answers0 votes
What types of bone are guitar saddles made from?
AnsweredBrian answered 4 days ago • 
33 views1 answers0 votes
How can I build my own guitar?
OpenWestfarthing Woodworks asked 4 days ago • 
12 views0 answers0 votes
Where do You Get Guitar Making Wood?
AnsweredBrian answered 5 days ago • 
58 views1 answers0 votes
Do You Need a Lot of Tools to Make a Guitar?
AnsweredWestfarthing Woodworks answered 2 weeks ago • 
47 views1 answers0 votes
Is it Hard to Make a Guitar?
AnsweredWestfarthing Woodworks answered 2 weeks ago • 
45 views1 answers0 votes
Does Tru-Oil Change the Tone of Your Instrument?
AnsweredWestfarthing Woodworks answered 2 weeks ago • 
64 views1 answers0 votes
Can You Make Your Own Guitar Making Tools?
AnsweredWestfarthing Woodworks answered 2 weeks ago • 
35 views1 answers0 votes
Easy Finishes for Guitars?
AnsweredWestfarthing Woodworks answered 2 weeks ago • 
53 views1 answers0 votes
Headstock Relief Angle?
AnsweredWestfarthing Woodworks answered 2 weeks ago • 
45 views1 answers0 votes
Building the Fretboard Off the Neck?
AnsweredWestfarthing Woodworks answered 2 weeks ago • 
35 views1 answers0 votes
Should I make a Kit First?
OpenBrian asked 2 weeks ago • 
11 views0 answers0 votes
Finishing a Guitar With the Bridge and Neck Separate?
AnsweredWestfarthing Woodworks answered 2 weeks ago • 
26 views1 answers0 votes
Carbon Fiber and No Truss Rod?
AnsweredWestfarthing Woodworks answered 2 weeks ago • 
36 views1 answers0 votes
Do Carbon Fiber Rods Fight Against the Truss Rod?
AnsweredWestfarthing Woodworks answered 2 weeks ago • 
47 views1 answers0 votes
Epoxy to Fill Gaps on a Guitar?
AnsweredWestfarthing Woodworks answered 2 weeks ago • 
36 views1 answers0 votes
How Durable is Tru-Oil on an Electric Guitar?
AnsweredWestfarthing Woodworks answered 2 weeks ago • 
33 views1 answers0 votes
Do You Finish the Guitar with the Bridge On or Off?
AnsweredWestfarthing Woodworks answered 2 weeks ago • 
33 views1 answers0 votes

An Exclusive Member of Mediavine Home

Westfarthing Woodworks LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.