Design of a classical guitar - by Bert Eendebak

3 Choice of materials

As a starting point for the choice of materials we assume that a classical guitar exclusively is made of wood, with the exception of the strings, frets, tuning machines, nut and saddle. The choice of the soundboard may be among others spruce, cedar, redwood, cypress or mahogany. In many cases the choice is spruce for the "concert" classical guitar or cypress for a flamenco guitar. Within the spruce (Picea) family various variants are used, like Alpine (Fichte), Sitka or Engelmann spruce. The choice is often made based on the availability and price of wood for the soundboard, but the characteristics of the white "Fichte" are clearly different from the harder and finer grained, slightly red-brown colored Sitka. Using a softer material for the top like red cedar asks for a thicker soundboard and adjusted sound bars.

Important are the large differences between different pieces of wood of the same species in view of grain, stiffness, run out, color and figuring. For the top, stiffness and "tap tones" may be the most important ones. For the back color and figuring may be deciding factors. Of course the characteristics of the wood in terms of e.g. strength, hardness or brittleness are important during the construction but have less influence on the main features of the design. The description of the design as given in this article starts from generally preferred materials as rosewood for back and sides, a spruce top, mahogany neck and ebony for the fingerboard and bridge, but other materials with roughly the same strength may be used as well.

Image: Possible wood choices

Guitar materials
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