Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)

L. slab, R. quarter

Sugar Maple Acer saccharum is my preferred material for backs, sides and necks because of its tonal clarity, unequaled beauty under varnish and with figure that is typically more tangled looking than red maple.  All models are stained with water based aniline dye directly to the wood, which deepens and enhances the light reaction of the natural figure of the grain.  Maple also has very fine pores that don't need to be filled before finishing, simplifying the process and contributing to its satin sheen.

The figured grain pattern of maple appears different depending on how the board is cut from the tree. When it is cut parallel to the outside surface of the tree (SLAB CUT), it produces a softer cloud-like appearance.  When it is cut 90 degrees to the surface of the tree (QUARTER CUT), the figure appears as straight lines.  Angled cuts (SPIRAL/RIFT) can produce many subtle variations between slab and quarter.

Maple backs are available as one piece or two piece. OPTIONS  The strongest figure in a maple tree is on the outside of the trunk just under the bark and weakens as it goes further in toward the centre of the tree.  As a result, one piece backs are usually only available as slab or spiral cut as it is less common to find quarter-cut boards 10" or wider with even figure suitable for a well flamed quartered one piece back. As a result, quarter cut backs are normally two narrower boards jointed together.

Two piece backs can be either quarter-cut, spiral or slab and can be either book-matched (two mirror image pieces folded open from a narrower board) or slip-matched from a longer board folded in half lengthwise.  Any subtle tonal difference between one piece/slab or two piece/quartered can be attributed to the little extra stiffness of quartered wood compared to a slab from the same tree.

As sugar maple is the dominant species in the maple syrup industry, the other pleasant feature of working with this timber is a subtle natural sweetness that fills the air when steaming and bending the sides. Side bending day is a good day.

Sugar maple
L. 2 piece book-matched spiral, R. 1 piece slab

Red Maple Acer rubrum is similar in appearance to sugar maple but not as dense, with a figured pattern that is usually broader and more even than sugar maple.  It works well in combination with the softer spruces and the X bracing pattern when the maximum bass response is preferred. OPTIONS


Red spruce (Picea rubens)

For maximum strength to weight ratio, the soundboard is always carved from book-matched quarter-cut spruce billets and graduated with the thickest point in the centre under the bridge, radiating outward to the thinnest just in from the edge.

Bosco che suona, Val de fiemme, Italy

Red Spruce Picea rubens, like sugar maple, is the hardest of its species and a good choice for soundboards where clarity is important when playing with other loud instruments. Needing a little more time to play-in than softer spruces, it has the potential of developing into the clearest most powerful tone with strong mid-range projection, particularly when combined with "parallel" tonebars.  OPTIONS

European Spruce Picea abies is a little softer than red spruce with similar properties to the denser range of engelmann spruce, but trees with harder "compression" growth rings produce many of the same qualities of Picea rubens. It is a good alternative, particularly for larger instruments such as guitars where wider billets with even growth rings are harder to find in Picea rubens. 

Engelmann Spruce Picea engelmannii is the softer of the spruces and can produce a more immediate bass response, particularly when combined with the "X" bracing pattern and a red maple back. The characteristic tone is typically warmer and thicker than the harder spruces. OPTIONS


Fingerboards, fingerboard support blocks, headstock veneers and Model 16jr guitar tailpieces are made from legally sourced Ebony Diospyros spp.