On this page, I would like to provide you with a bit of information about the wide-range of selections for tonewood, which are used in guitar building. Click a picture to enlarge it. I would like to express my thanks to the Madinter Company from Madrid, one of the best tonewood dealers in Spain, which was kind enough to provide most of the wood photos here.
German spruce is clearly in first place here. It is the favorite wood for guitar soundboards worldwide. The best spruce grows in the high mountains. The conditions there are optimum for balanced growth, which affects the hardness of the wood positively.
Cedar is used as soundboard less frequently, although it also has outstanding sound properties.
Wood for back and sides
Cypress wood is mainly used for flamenco guitars due to its weight and sound. Woods such as flame maple and of course many rosewood types (e.g., Rio rosewood, caviuna, Santos [pau ferro], Indian rosewood, cocobolo, coralwood, palo escrito, koa, palo rosa) are also popular. In recent times, a lot of wood species also found in Germany have been used, such as pear, cherry, walnut, ash, wenge and other species.
Here are a few examples of the most popular wood types and a few very beautiful and exotic woods. I unfortunately only know the Spanish names of a few of the exotic wood species. Most examples are extremely beautiful specimens, which are not so easy to obtain. You can really see how the wood changes at lacquering in the photos of Rio rosewood, Lebanese cedar, quilted maple and mulberry. I took these four photos from already lacquered backs. The wood looks a lot warmer after lacquering than in its raw state. To see how a piece of wood looks after lacquering, it suffices to moisten a piece of it and it already has more depth and contrast. Many of you might already know that from at home when you re-oil your wood floor or furniture; then the wood is much richer in contrasts.
Ebony, rosewood, wenge, maple, etc.
Head and neck
The neck is almost always made of cedar, because it is light and stable. Additional woods, which are used, are mahogany, wenge, maple, pear, etc.
Rosewood is mainly used for the bridge. Many guitar builders use especially decorative rosewood such as Rio or caviuna, because the bridge is clearly seen and consequently a beautiful bridge draws attention to itself.