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Woes of a Wood Merchant

Woes of a Wood Merchant

by H.E. Huttig

previously published in Guild of American Luthiers Quarterly 10 #4, 1982

See also,
“The Guitar & I” by H.E. Huttig
“Three Craftsmen” by H.E. Huttig

We became interested in instrument building back in the ’60s and were given a couple of junk guitars by Ernest Kaai, a Hawaiian performer and teacher. We gave up our distribution of canned goods and began to import and sell instrument makers materials, impelled by our own need for supplies. We found suppliers on our trips to Germany and Spain. Later we imported from France, Holland, India and Brazil. The wood we get now is of mixed quality; we simply cannot offer a consistently standard product.

The guitar builder must demand quality in wood as he is gambling his precious time to produce a saleable instrument. On the other hand, I can only sell him the best that I can get. Many builders have read “how to” book that state that all wood must be cut with vertical grain and that the grain must be straight. This is fine for spruce or cedar intended for sound boards but is not necessary or even desirable, say for Brazilian rosewood (it would hide the figure) or for mahogany necks (there is very little grain — the wood is like a bundle of fibres and there are not well defined growth rings). I have reviewed files that represent some ten thousand transactions and have chosen some of the customer’s complaints. Most are valid and all but one has been refused or exchanged. They are:

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