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Top 40 Wood List

Top 40 Wood List

by Nicholas Von Robison

previously published in Lutherie Woods and Steel String Guitars, 1994

See also,
“Taxonomy and Nomenclature” by Nicholas Von Robison
“Glossary of Basic Wood Terms” by Nicholas Von Robison

The contemporary luthier can be said to be either in a bind or in a unique evolutionary position, depending on one’s point of view. In the following list of lutherie woods, many will be noted as banned, extinct, prohibited, embargoed, unavailable, and/or expensive. In many cases I have listed viable alternative woods to replace the traditional species based on my own knowledge, education, experience, and on the advice, suggestions, and experience of respected, reputable wood specialists, dealers, and luthiers. While many species can be freely exchanged or adopted in place of the traditional woods of beauty and adornment, those that fall into the category of replacements for traditional resonant woods must be tried without any assurance or guarantee that musicians will accept these alternative woods. The acceptability of a wood species for the production of stringed musical instruments is largely dictated by the traditional practices and materials handed down through centuries. Many of the favored wood species are those that were available in commerce not only to the luthier but to the European furniture craftsmen as well. It can be very difficult for the luthier to obtain acceptance of new materials by the end user, the musician. The musician expects to hear a certain sound from an instrument, and any variation from that sound, as well as any variation in physical appearance, is suspect. In view of this, the chances of obtaining musical acceptance for instruments built with nontraditional woods has been slim in the past.

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