When building or buying a guitar, the materials used to make the guitar are just as important as how well the guitar was made. Most guitars are made of wood materials. But, there are so many different types of wood you can make a guitar with. So in this guide we will go over the 5 main types of wood used to make guitars.
In this articles you will learn:
- The 5 main types of wood to make guitars
- Advantages of each wood
- Disadvantages of each wood
What's In This Guide?
Things to know about the main types of wood used to make guitars.
The wood that is used to make a guitar can greatly affect the longevity of the guitar if the wrong wood is used or you don’t know how to properly care for the wood used. There are many different types of woods used to make guitars and they all have different strengths and weaknesses. Knowing how to care for the guitar based on the wood type can help your guitar last much longer over the years.
The 5 main types of wood used to make guitars.
Swamp Ash Wood
The North American trees in the genus Fraxinus is where Swamp ash wood comes from and it may also grow in other wetlands and swamps which is why the name was given. This wood usually has low density and is commonly used when manufacturing musical instruments, specifically electric guitars. Swamp Ash wood is used by many of the american guitar factories simply because of its good looks, Fraxinus and good timbre. The strong bass tones, mid-range bite, airy highs and sustainability is what makes this wood such a great choice to produce guitars with.
Availability of Swamp Ash Wood:
Price of Swamp Ash Wood:
$45+ per body blank
Advantages of Swamp Ash Wood:
- Dries rapidly
- Stains and polishes well
- Relatively lightweight
Disadvantages of Swamp Ash Wood:
- Pre-drilling required for nails
Basswood is a pale brown, almost white sometimes, or a little red faded within it; light, soft with fine close grain; free of knots and doesn’t split too easily. It is poor in the steam-bending categorization and low quality in strength. You can stain and polish it without any problems. You can also glue, plane, screw and nail with it easily. Another name it may also be sold under is tulip-wood and sometimes white-wood. This wood doesn’t really have any smell to it and this makes the wood more popular for manufacturing other wooden objects such as furniture, wagon boxes, wooden-ware and wood-carving.
This wood is common for the use of making and producing the bodies of electric guitars. It is popular to use basswood for making guitars because of its lightweight, strength, simpleness to be painted an opaque color and its visual lack of grain. This wood is extremely popular in heavy metal music.
Availability of Basswood:
Not as Common
Price of Basswood:
$45+ per body blank
Advantages of Basswood:
- Rot resistant
- Easy to work with
- No odor
- Less expensive
Disadvantages of Basswood:
- Not always readily available
Mahogany wood is a common wood used to make bodies in both the guitar and bass. There are about 49 different types of Mahogany wood, but a lot of them are almost extinct because of the wood being a popular choice to produce musical instruments such as guitars and furniture. But the different types of Mahogany wood used back in the mid 1900s is not the same Mahogany wood that we use today. When Mahogany is used on guitars it gives warm timbres with much bottom end.Les Paul type guitars often combine a mahogany body with a maple top for a total that is balanced overall.
This type of wood is fine, straight and has even grain. It also doesn’t have gaps or empty space within the wood. The color of it eventually gets darker with time and shows a red like shine when it is polished. It is very easy to work with and durable. This is what makes the wood very popular for crafting and woodworking.
Mahogany is also a rot resistant wood, making it a popular wood type for outdoor attractions and hobbies as well. This is also considered a tonewood which is why it is used for making instruments such as guitars. Specifically it’s used to make the necks, sides and backs of acoustic guitars and the bodies of electric guitars.
Availability of Mahogany Wood:
Price of Mahogany Wood:
$90+ per body blank
Advantages of Mahogany Wood:
- Great Appearance
- Resistant to external influences
Disadvantages of Mahogany Wood:
- Surface needs to be treated
- Tropical wood (bad environmental balance)
Maple wood, also known as a tone-wood, is wood that is good at carrying sound waves. This tone-wood is used in a number of different types of musical instruments including the most important instrument for this topic, the electric guitar. It is considered to be one of the harder woods and the sound it produces is more vibrant than mahogany wood, which is also a great tone-wood that is used to make guitars.
The neck of electric guitars are usually made of maple wood because it is a good wood to use for the stability of the neck. The Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster necks were originally an entirely maple one piece neck, but later were also available with rosewood fingerboards. Due to how heavy maple wood can be there are not many solid body guitars that are completely made maple wood. But there are several guitars that have necks, tops, and even veneers made of maple.
Availability of Maple Wood:
Price of Maple Wood:
$75+ per body blank
Advantages of Maple Wood:
- Great appearance
- Superior Hardness
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Consistent grain
Disadvantages of Maple Wood:
- Prone to scratches and marks
- Sensitive to humidity and heat
- Difficult to stain
- Fades over time
- Lack of grain pattern
Alder wood is considerably a soft or semi-hardwood that is medium in density and has lower quality in shock resistance, stiffness and bending strength. This wood is excellent for machining and turning as it is easy to work with. It can be stained, painted and sanded to a nice polished finish. The drying process is fairly easy with not much degrading and great dimensional stability when finished drying.
Many electric guitars were manufactured with alder wood bodies. Some companies have been using alder wood since the mid 1900’s. It is recognized for its firm and evenly distributed tone, most commonly when in comparison with mahogany wood.
Availability of Alder Wood:
Price of Alder Wood:
$40+ per body blank
Advantages of Alder Wood:
- Less expensive than other hardwoods
- No odor
- Rot resistant
- Uniform texture
Disadvantages of Alder Wood:
- Doesn’t do well with moisture over time
Although we only mentioned the main popular wood types to be used to make guitars, there are many other types of wood that are used to make guitars. Here are more tone-wood types of wood and the tones they make:
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