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When and WHY did pine fall out of favor making tops?  I ask, because I recently took out a book from the library and every one of the guitars from the 15 and 1600's were made with pine as the soundboard.  Apparently some of the ones from the 1700's as well.  But the book never detailed WHY it fell out of favor.  Can't be because it did not last, as the guitars pictured were still around and being played.


Also why is  MT.ASH never used in acoustic instrument manufactor (backs and sides)?  It is a native AMerican hardwood.  Where I live it is plentiful.  I keep threatening to make an instrument or two from it and other native woods just for spite, but need to know more about the properties of MT. ASH -like does it bend well (for sides) and what acoustic qualities does it possess.


Thanks for any feedback

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I´ve made a lot of guitars in Sorbus Aucuparia! (back and side) ! This is outstanding in Parlor guitars!

The biggest problem with the Mountain Ash is to dry the wood. And also to find the best pieces!

This is one of them:


Very beautiful.  Thank you for sharing with me.


Hi Janice,

I have used quarter sawn Oregin Pine for Irish bouzouki tops with fine results! Main reason for using spruce rather than pine is weight/stiffness ratio I think. See attached picture for two of my pinetop zouks.



Very nice tops.  I wonder how different Oregon pine is as compared to White pine (Eastern)?

Swiss Pine was the traditional wood used for lute tops also.  Why it fell out of favor, I haven't a clue, unless it was generally concluded that the resonant charactaristics of Spruce were more desireable.

I have made two guitars with Pine tops, one with Sugar Pine and another with Easern white pine.  One, a classical, lacked some brightness, but was very warm and woody sounding.  The other was a steel string and was excellent in every regard.  It was a small body, approximately a 00 with a short scale with conventional Spruce X-bracing.

As for Ash, I have made at least ten guitars from it (one even had an ash neck) and have found that it makes a superior acoustic guitar that is often bery bright and powerful.  In fact, your desire to build an instrument of Ash and Pine is not spite, but good sense.The notion that guitars have to be made of Rosewoods,  Mahoganies and other exotic woods has more to do with tradition, added value and market perception than it does with actual tone.  Torres already demonstrated that you can make a buitar back and rims out of paper machet and Ramirez said in his book, that you could make the back and rims out of anything.


I have made eighty guitars to date and only two have been Mahogany.  All others have been made of Northeastern hardwoods.  As a matter of principle, preference, acoustics, availability, and price, I will never make another guitar from exotic wood.

Consider this as well.  The grass (in this case lumber) is always greener on the other side of the fence, but if you look at the portential in North American hardwoods, we are on the other side of the fence.

Godin guitars use a lot of laminated wild cherry for backs and sides - yet another tone wood...

Thank you.  Mt. Ash is plentiful and large trees that were taken down is not a problem.  I am aware that it takes years to dry wood out properly.  Currently I have some very heavy 18" -24" wide logs that need to be cut down and was thinking of saving at least one to make the back and sides with.  I also have some large (close to 24" diameter) white pine that has been down for 3 or more years.  I know I shall have to haul this stuff to a local saw mill to get it sawn into 1/2" wid pieces (I figured 1/2" wide would hasten drying and still give me plenty to work with for sanding down).  And what does not get used in making an acoustic instrument or two gets tossed in the wood stove!

Yikes!  Whatever you do, don't saw those logs into 1/2 inch thick boards.  It will hasten the drying process nominally and  will reduce your yield to just about nothing because you will only get one book matched set per billet at that thickness and will waste as much as you keep.

Have the Pine quarter sawn to a thickness of 1 1/4 inches.  This will yield three tops per billet if you can resaw acurately.  Better yet, have pine bucked into 24 inch lengths and slipt the lengths into billets along the radial grain.  Split billets will take longer to dry, but will produce a stronger top.  Sawn tops are perfectly acceptable if grain runout is limited.  If you use a sawn top, use split bracing by all means.

 Don't be afraid of narrow, but well quartered top materials.  If a narrow plank or billet is thick enough to produce a four piece top it can be used.  C.F. Martin III told me himself that one could make a guitar top of ten pieces if it was braced carefully.  One of the Pine tops I made was four pieces and the other was 11.  It works.

I also recommend quarter sawing the smaller Ash logs, at 1 1/4 inch thickness as well.  The smaller logs will yield narrower boards, but you can easily make three or even four-piece backs, maximizing your yield.  Boards as narrow as 3 1/2 inches can be used and narrower pieces can be used to make bindings, trim, bridge patches, neck laminates, even jigs and fixtures needed around the shop. 

Quarter sawn lumber dries at the same rate as flat sawn lumber, but its shrinkage across the quartered section is about 1/2 of that across the tangential section.  Quartered Ash air dries well and reasonably quickly provided that it is put up with stickers at least 1 inch thick and is under cover with plenty of circulation.  Paint the ends of the planks to reduce moisture escape through the end grain, where moisture escape ocurrs at twice the rate as thart of the tangential surface.  The only wood that should get tossed into a stove is wood that is not fit for fabrication of anything.

Don't know about a guitar with a pine top, built how about a guitar that was made by Taylor Guitars as a publicity stunt from an old oak shipping pallet!  There was such a request for them that they did a short run of 25 of them and sold them for $10,000 dollars each!!!

The Materials aren’t as important as the workmanship

What do you see?  It’s nothing more than a forklift pallet, right? They are sold for anywhere from $10.00 to maybe $45.0o for a really nice one, because the wood is beat up, unfinished and abused.  It’s use was for nothing more glamorous than to have heavy stuff stacked on it, so a forklift could pick it up and stack it on another pallet of heavy stuff. It could have been anything that was stacked on there, the pallet is non-dicriminatory.  Great books? Sure! Ramen Noodles? You bettcha! They could also stack rice, dirt, porn, steaks, seeds, wood, computers, tile, washing machines, pencils, car parts…you get the idea. There is nothing special about them at all in the least.

That is, until someone with the right set of skills comes along and takes that pallet and turns it into something that sells for $10,000.00.

From the Taylor Guitars Website:

Inspired by the now-infamous guitar the Bob Taylor made in 1995 to prove that it’s the design and the builder, and not the wood, that define a great guitar, the Limited Edition Pallet Series Grand Auditorium 6-string boasts the same features as the original — back and sides of “pallet-grade” oak, and a top of pine fir, or hemlock (who knows? it’s a two-by-four). The fingerboard inlay depicts a factory forklift in yellow Formica Color Core, aluminum, and two kinds of mother of pearl. 

These guitars are hard to come by, but are literally made of a few of the pallets that were out back in the guitar factory.  Now, that same $10.00 pallet, with the addition of some steel, glue and formica, will sell to discerning collectors for 1o grand.   I love that you can still see the nail holes and scuffs on the wood. I don’t think this was an easy guitar to build.  The materials are rough and difficult to form, didn’t bend well, and not in the best shape even in their prime. They’re 2×4′s for crying out loud.  But, Bob Taylor was able to turn that pallet into an instrument of great worth and value.

I remember this .. it impressed on me the importance of workmanship .. 

lol  I have been thinking the same thing about a piece of yellow locust in the woods.   the trunk is about 5  ft wide and really seasoned ..   the density of the locust might be a problem for me ....  still contemplating ..  would love to know if you have heard of anyone using locust ( back and sides only of course.) .. 

Hi, fellow guitar makers!

Kevin la Due: The Portuguese version of "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" is " my neighbor's chicken is always fatter than mine", but the moral is the same. And you're right: native woods may not give you exactly the same things as exotic woods, but, if you learn how to take the best out of them, they will give you different, but equally good, things. One example is, how Spanish luthiers learned to take advantage of cypress wood to make flamenco guitars: they don't sound li rosewood classical guitars, but there's no better flamenco guitar than a cypress one... the picture below shows a Portuguese  guitar back, made of Portuguese walnut, instead of rosewood. It is true that rosewood will provide a deeper, fuller sound, but walnut renders a more flute-like tone, very convenient for a leading instrument (you can see, and listen to,  the instrument in the videos "yesterday" and "fado Alberto" posted in my page).

Edward Sparks: I have never tried oak wood as a tonewood, nor did I know it could be used for the purpose of instrument making. However, oak is very dear to us, because of the oaken Portuguese Caravels of the 15th and 16th centuries. If some tree was to be chosen as a national symbol, it would be oak, for sure. I've looked at the pictures you posted, of those Taylor pallet guitars, with great interest. Well, here's something for you:  the label in the guitar back above is made of oak wood. Call it a romantic/patriotic touch, but all the instruments I make bear oak labels with  my name and the date fire-engraved ...


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