Tried and Tested
Great sound is the combination of a good choice of timbers and superior craftsmanship. The timbers that a guitar is made from have a big bearing on the tone and sustain of the guitar. That is why Chris at Angus Guitars has put in countless hours of research and experimentation to find the most suitable woods for each situation.
A guitar is made of two sets of timbers: the front or sound board and the back and sides. Timbers on the front of the guitar are softer and should resonate well, similar to the top of a drum. The most common timbers used for the front of the guitar are Spruce and Cedar.
“I have also used Kauri with good success, and Kahikatea, but it did not have the tone I hoped for. For steel string guitars my pick is Spruce. There are a wide variety of Spruces to choose from but I tend to stick with spruces grown in colder climates like Canada where the growth rate is very slow. For this reason I have often chosen Sitka Spruce which has great variation of colour as well. My preference for a classical guitar is Cedar, usually Weston Red Cedar. It is a lot softer than Spruce and can be damaged easily but it’s resonant quality is exceptional.”
There many choices for the back and sides. Here we are looking at a hardwood with great tone value. The role of the hardwood back and sides is to send the sound forward. If the timber is soft or dense, it will tend to absorb the sound, which is not what we want.
“There are some great NZ native timbers but not many genuine hardwoods. Rimu, for instance, while it looks great, is quite a soft timber and has very little tone value. Another factor for NZ timbers is that they tend to have a very fast growth rate. This means the growth rings are often very wide apart and not always suitable for a good looking guitar with a great tone. Other timbers that are not native to NZ yet are readily available and make excellent instruments, are Black walnut and Tasmanian Blackwood. I try to keep a supply of both of these timbers. However my favourite timbers for guitars still tend to be Rosewoods and Maple. These timbers often grown in the tropics are genuine hardwoods, slow growing, with a proven track record in instrument making. There are others, of course, which have a beautiful tone and appearance. For them it just comes down to price. It is easy to spend a US$1000.00 on the timber for the back and sides alone. The choice, of course, is yours.”
Solid vs Laminate
There is simply no comparison between laminate timber and solid timber guitars. A laminate is basically a high quality plywood, as opposed to one piece of timber all the way through. Laminate will not resonate anywhere near as well as solid timbers. For this reason all Angus guitars are built using solid timber.