Buying Guitar Wood -Materials and Types of Lumber Yards
The first order of business is to know something about lumber yards and the wood and other materials you will be using for your project. For guitar wood you will be looking for a yard that sells what’s referred to as “exotics”, and a nice selection of domestic woods. Exotics are the imported fancy species like rosewood and the like, domestics are homegrown woods like maple, cherry and so on.
For jigs and fixtures you will be looking for a combination of plywood, MDF and domestic hardwoods. If you are extremely lucky you may find everything you are looking for in the same yard, but it’s not likely. You may have quite a ride to get to a good yard, so you want to be prepared when you get there as shopping around for some of this stuff may not be an option.
Types of Lumber Yards
You will need to find a place that sells what you are looking for. These days lumber yards come in a few different flavors:
Yards that sell building materials – They mostly carry 2 x 4’s, plywood and things like that but every once in a great while these places also sell some rough cut wood so call and ask before you go.
Yards that sell mostly rough cut wood – and some have a wide selection of exotics. These types of yards should be your first choice.
What I call wood boutiques – they sell wood that has already been milled so you can drool over the pretty grain. They are expensive, never have enough of what you are looking, nor the right cuts or sizes. Places like Woodcraft are now getting into this. These guys are a last resort.
What You Won’t Find in a Lumber Yard
You will not find wood for your soundboard in any lumber yard. Wood dealers have realized that they can get much more for this wood selling it to people that sell pre-cut wood for musical instruments than they can selling rough cut planks for you and I. For this stuff you will need to look under every rock, anywhere you can. Its out there but you have to ask.
The soundboard has the largest effect on the sound of your instrument. This wood should be hand selected. It will be difficult to establish a criteria of what characteristics you are looking for in a soundboard if you are using whatever they send you. For this reason I never purchase wood for soundboards at places that don’t let you pick out your own wood, unless they have a solid grasp of what I am looking for, and I trust their judgement.
Typically places that sell lots of parts and products as well as wood are not the best places for buying soundboards. The people selecting your wood do not know much about the wood they are selling. If they did they would not be working there. If you intend to make more than a few guitars, or, are looking for optimal sound, then you pick this wood out yourself. There are places and people out there that you can trust, you need to ask around.