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Some Alternative Lutherie Woods

Some Alternative Lutherie Woods

by Tom Ribbecke

from his 1992 GAL Convention workshop

Originally published in American Lutherie #35, 1993 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Three, 2004

My name is Tom Ribbecke and I’m on the staff of Luthiers Mercantile, pretty much the technical guy there. What I’ve brought to this presentation is based on my years of building and repairing guitars along with my four years at Luthiers Mercantile. I’m not a botanist or scientist, no more than any of you are... except for the botanists and scientists who are here. (laughter) I know there are many here as I caught Nick Von Robison’s workshop earlier today. So when I was asked to do this presentation, I thought, what could I do to focus on the alternative woods situation which is pretty much on all our minds these days? I’ve brought woods which have come up in my discussions with customers, things that we sell, and just about anything I could get ahold of on short notice.

When I look at materials, and people present them to me, I see things in blocks and 1" thick material and it’s hard to make judgments on what will sound good. Most guitar makers, like myself, like to hold, fondle, mutilate, and bang on the material in dimensions that are appropriate for the guitar. So this is what I’ve brought — woods of many species that could be used or considered for guitar building in appropriate sizes and thicknesses. I’ve brought some things that are commonly available, some not so available, and some which might be considered exotics. Many of these I’ve lacquered — usually with a lacquer gun in one hand and a phone in the other. The lacquer will give you an idea of the color of these materials.

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