Tom's Guitars Manila

Tom's Guitars Manila
Vintage and rare guitars!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Checking the Guitar's Wood

Understanding the following concepts are key to knowing if a guitar for sale is a probable bargain or otherwise. This is especially useful if the exact model is unavailable, as in the case of lawsuit-era guitars.

 Bursts and thin finishes use better wood

If you are planning to strip the thick, black paint from your guitar in the hope that it will reveal a nice flame, then you may be disappointed. Nicely figured wood are expensive and are usually painted thin or burst to show the beautiful grains or flames. On the other hand, lower-grade woods are usually painted dark and thick. 

Count the lines

Guitar tops and bottoms are usually made of two wood pieces glued together. A guitar that uses more wood is typically a lower-end model. Book-matched, two-piece tops are more expensive.

Knowing how many pieces of wood were used requires experience. Fortunately, you can practice from the comfort of your home. All you have to do is look at guitar pictures and count the straight lines that cut through the top or back of the guitar. You need close-up images for these. 

Try to guess how many pieces of wood were used in the following pictures. Click on the image to enlarge.

How thick is your maple top? 

Les Paul type guitars usually have a maple top. A thick maple top usually signifies a more expensive guitar. However, figured maples are quite expensive, hence, it is normal that guitars with beautiful flames use thin wood veneers as the top. Veneer is real wood that is thinly cut. This is different from cheap vinyl that is common in furniture. It is also normal to find a hollow space beneath the carved top when veneer is used. Using thick, premium wood, then carving most of it away is a waste of precious wood. To check the thickness of the maple top, look at the bridge pickup cavity. The maple top is usually colored lighter than the mahogany. A cavity that is painted black is a sign of a lower-end guitar.

Looking at the sides

Some guitars have more than two layers of wood. That is normal. However, check the sides to see if smaller pieces of wood were used to fill some gaps.

 Do you want holes with that?

Mahogany is a heavy wood. On some models, guitar makers hollow out selected areas of the body to reduce weight. This is called a chambered body. On the other hand, some models have holes spread in the body that resembles swiss cheese and are called weight relieved. These have effect on the tone that may be favourable to you or otherwise.

Binding nibs

Take a closer look at the fret edge binding. A binding nib at the end of the frets is more expensive to produce and is a usual sign of a mid to high end model.

with binding nibs
without binding nibs
Photo Flame

Be wary of guitars with photo flames. These are photographed images of real flamed wood, wrapped on cheaper wood to simulate a more expensive guitar. A real flamed guitar has a 3D-like image wherein looking at a different angle or lighting will show a slightly different image. Photo flame vinyl usually peels with age.


* Images are from Tom's Guitar Manila

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post about how to check the guitar wood which is also very important when selecting good guitar. Thanks Roy for very helpful post