Approximate Top measures for Acoustic Guitar (550x215x4,5 mm) x2
The top is the fundamental piece of the guitar and, because of it, the essential factor that decides how the sound would be. Here, the vibration of the strings are carried through the bridge and, when vibrating, the air contained in the soundboard moves, making possible the perception of the amplified sound.
The thickness of the top changes between 2,5 mm and 4 mm and it’s formed by two halves joined in the middle of the top(in the longitudinal sense of the wood grain). That’s how you get simetry in grain distribution.
The most used woods for making tops are Spruce and Cedar. Without doubt, thickness and acoustic properties of these woods are perfect to transmit a good sound throughout the soundboard.
At Maderas Barber, we offer the best qualities in the market to make your own top.
The Engelmann is also known as white, European or German spruce, but they are technically different. Generally they are visually distinguished from Sitka because of its creamy texture. Engelmann tree are so small and bent these days that there is a good quantity of them that surface is not parallel and, as a result, tops are not very symmetric. Regarding the sound, Engelmann tops have a mature sound and largely richer than Stika.
That’s why they’re a good option for guitarist who need a richer and complex sound than usual, specially when the instrument it’s softly played.
BOTANICAL NAME: Picea engelmannii
DESCRIPTION: 330-390 kg/m3 density white wood. The colour of this wood goes from white to pale yellow. Sapwood is no different from heartwood, even so, the last one tend to have a more pink tone. The grain is straight and can be both thin or medium.
SUGGESTIONS: Machining is made without difficulties, so as gluing and finishing do.
DRYING: Easy drying barely without deformation or cracking risks.
USES: Tops mainly.
Thanks to its amazing tonal properties, European Spruce has proved to be greater to any other wood in instrument making history.
It’s slow-growing wood, light weight and, however, it shows a high grade of rigidity. The European Spruce has everything to become the perfect musical instrument. Cushioning properties are very favorable and get a optimal rigidity, weight and inner friction relationship, those are the most desired rules for a good guitar top.
BOTANICAL NAME: Picea abies
DESCRIPTION: 440-470 kg/m3 density. The colour of this wood goes from yellowish white to reddish yellow, there’s no difference between the sapwood and the heartwood. The growth rings are visible and really noticeable. The grain is straight and thin.
SUGGESTIONS: Saw is easy, without problems, as well as brushing. No difficulties in gluing too, but the finish is irregular. This wood is considered not resistant to fungus and sensitive to termites.
DRYING: Drying speed is fast, but with many risks of cracking and knots getting loose.
USES: Mainly for tops of stringed instruments.
Stika Spruce is one of the most important tonal woods for guitar making, thanks to its tonal features.
In addition, they offer a good look, like the “bearclaw” pattern that appears in some boards. It’s not very resistant to descomposition, but with right treatment and care it can last for decades. It has an attractive bright, which turns into an attractive guitar look after the finishing process.
In the finishing process, Sitka dyes easily compared to other woods. It doesn’t have an specific smell and allergies are rare. It’s definitely one of the most used woods for guitar tops.
BOTANICAL NAME: Picea sitchensis
ORIGIN: North America and Europe
DESCRIPTION: 360-490 kg/m3 density. The sapwood colour is cream white and the heartwood colour is mostly the same. The grain is usually straight, but maybe you can find it as spiral or twist.
SUGGESTIONS: Saw is easy and has an average blunt. It doesn’t’ have a particular smell and allergies are rare.
DRYING: Fast drying speed. As it’s a white coloured wood, you have to be careful with the storage temperature, stains can appear due to humidity.
USES: Acoustic steel guitars, classic guitars, wooden airplanes, stair rails.
Adirondack is rather heavy, its has a high sound speed and a greater rigidity due to the width and length of the grain in all wood tops.
It has solid bases, as well as Sitka, but also shows a more complex harmonic sounds. Tops made with Adirondack have volume limit higher than any other kind and a rich tone peak that keeps the clarity of all dynamical levels too.
BOTANICAL NAME: Picea rubra
ORIGIN: Northwest America and East Canada
DESCRIPTION: The colour of this wood goes from white to pale yellow, the sapwood has the same tone as the heartwood, the grain is straight and goes from thin to medium.
SUGGESTIONS: Machining is done easily, but sometimes knots can cause some problems. Gluing, hammering and screwing are good.
DRYING: No deformation risks.
USES: Sounding boards for musical instruments, inside carpentry, woodwork.
This wood is less dense than Spruce, so this softness means a warmer sound. Cedar also makes silent tones stronger.
Western Cedar Neck has a greater sound speed than any other Piceas, a higher quantity of tones, a less fundamental content and less grain rigidity. Besides, Cedar tops have significant shorter breaking time than Spruce tops. So, Cedar tops will get its best sound faster than Spruce tops.
Some luthiers have described this wood tone as “intimate”, they say is a pleasant wood to work with and that the final result might surprise you.
BOTANICAL NAME: Thuja plicata
DESCRIPTION: 330-390 kg/m3 density. The colour of this is greyish white in the sapwood and dark chocolate brown or saffron yellow in the fresh cut heartwood, it gets into a more uniform reddish brown if it’s exposed in the air, outdoors it gets a very appreciated silver grey colour. The grain is straight and thin.
SUGGESTIONS: Is easy to work with, but easily scratched too due to its low hardness. Gluing and finishing are good. Ironed fastening can stain and discolour the wood. It is known for being almost impossible to rot.
DRYING: Slow drying speed, but easy.
USES: Mainly for tops.
The Redwood Sequoia is a species known for being able to reach heights of more than 100 meters, 8 meters in diameter and live almost 2000 years. This wood grows in a very limited area on the Pacific coast of the northwestern United States, where heavy rains and fresh, moist air create a unique environment for these trees. The sawn wood of sequoia is very soft and light with a good strength-to-weight ratio, in addition this wood is characterized by the great straightness of its fibers, besides with its good sound properties and a sweet tone make it a perfect wood for the use on the covers of classical and acoustic guitars.
Botanic name: Sequoia Sempervirens
Density: 350-450 kg/m3
Commercial name: Red wood, Secoya
Origin: East Coast North America
Description: The color of the heartwood can vary from a light pinkish brown to a deep reddish brown. The sapwood is pale white / yellow. Sometimes can be seen a curly figure or burl (occasionally referred to as Redwood Lace or Vavona). Classified in general as moderately durable, and very durable to the rotting. The wood of old-growth trees tends to be more durable than that of younger second-growth trees.
Sustainability: This wood species is not included in the CITES Appendices, but it is on the IUCN Red List. It’ s included as endangered due to a population reduction of approximately 40% in the past three generations, caused by a decrease in its natural range, and exploitation. Because of this, Maderas Barber only works with wood that comes from fallen trees, already dead.
Recommendations: It is usually easy to work with hand tools or machinery, sometimes tearout can occur on figured pieces with curly, wavy or irregular grain. It is a wood that glues and finishes well.
Drying: Drying is easy. In very large pieces it presents risks of an uneven distribution of moisture content, collapse (if it dries very quickly) internal cracks and the appearance of ferruginous or other spots.
Uses: Veneer, construction lumber, beams, posts, decking, exterior furniture, and trim. Burls and other forms of figured Redwood are also used in turning, musical instruments and other small specialty items.