I’ve lost track of how many Taylor guitars I’ve owned over the years. Currently, I have my beloved koa GS Mini for composing, a 2015 818e, a 2018 Builder’s Edition K14ce and a 2008 DN3. As a hobby, I’ve started acquiring early to mid-20th-Century parlor guitars that I do some minor fix-ups on. There’s just something about the tone and sustain from the birch wood that most of them were crafted from that magically voices some of the fingerstyle I compose. Has birch wood ever been used to build Taylor guitars? Can birch even be a viable wood in the future for some of your smaller-bodied guitars? Read Answer
Bob, how difficult is it to train people to grade wood at Taylor? I’m sure you have well-defined criteria established for each tonewood species you work with, yet there also seems to be a human element in assessing a wood’s visual and structural properties since every piece of wood has its own “fingerprint,” so to speak, and not everyone there is a master luthier. Is there a particular wood that tends to be the most challenging to grade? And do you grade spruce sets at Taylor, or does your spruce supplier, Pacific Rim Tonewoods, handle that? Read Answer
For a long time, I’ve been curious about how the choice of tonewoods is made for specific guitars. I’m an engineer (retired) by training, temperament and profession, and my curiosity was further whetted by my recent read of Richard Mark French’s book Engineering the Guitar. The article in the latest issue of Wood&Steel went a long way to explaining tonewood characteristics, but it begs another question: How does one determine that a given wood species makes a good tonewood in the first place?
Given Taylor’s admirable commitment to sustainability, I’m sure you’ve wondered what other plentiful and sustainable wood species out there might make a high-quality guitar. With the arboreal diversity of our country and the world, I can’t help but think that there are many just waiting to be discovered. Living in North Central Pennsylvania, I’ve often wondered specifically about sycamore (for backs and sides), which is often found as an ornamental tree in towns and cities, and our state tree, hemlock (for tops).
I’m sure you did a lot of thinking and evaluation before deciding to go ahead with the Urban Ash project. Would it be possible to do a Wood&Steel article on the testing and experimentation that led to the decision to use ash as a tonewood and, perhaps more generally, how Taylor would go about identifying and evaluating other species for your guitars? Read Answer
I just purchased an AD17 last week and was initially disappointed as the sound seemed to be kind of shrill and tinny to my hearing. My best friend is a professional luthier/piano tuner. As I related to him how the guitar sounded to me he suggested that I should turn down or turn off my hearing aids as the guitar sounded great to him. When I did this it sounded just great to me also. It seems he has noticed his clients who wear hearing aids sometimes tell him their piano now sounds harsh and kind of tinny after he has tuned them. After advising them the problem was their hearing aids and what to do with them, their pianos sounded great again.
I bet there are some folks out there like me who wear hearing aids and play guitars and wonder why their guitar sounds so harsh and tinny. Maybe you can put the word out and help solve the problem for them. Hearing aids are helpful, but they also distort the sound we hear. There is no substitute for our natural hearing. Read Answer
All guitar owners recognize how valuable a well-made and well-sealed guitar case is to the life of the guitar. Can you elaborate on the process for building your cases and, more importantly, the process to ensure the guitars are sealed and protected from the elements?
Aside — I own a vintage Martin 12-string (1967 D35-12) bought new and, after too many years relying on the OEM Martin case, purchased a new hardshell case from Martin Custom shop. What I received was a perfectly sealed and durable case unlike any I’ve ever seen. Does Taylor also carry a comparable tight-seal case? Read Answer
Bob, I love reading about the latest innovations from the Taylor team. We always read about the great things going on at the factory and the wonderful new guitars produced. They are always given rave reviews by various magazines. Of course, with any product development, there is always trial and error. On a lighter note, can you speak about any guitar design or component you were sure would work but turned out to be a total disaster? Or perhaps the innovation that you were sure wouldn’t work but did?
I would be remiss in not mentioning that I very much admire how you encourage the exploration of other luthiers’ guitars and have always spoken positively about their instruments without judgement. Read Answer
With the current (now normal) state of delayed shipping from the factory around the globe and prolonged box storage of guitars sitting in uncontrolled or variable controlled environments (humid, dry, hot/cold temperatures), how confident are you about the long-term stability of the wood?
You mentioned in your previous issue (Issue 1, 2022) that the most important time for protecting the wood is when it’s new to avoid “ratcheting,” which presumably reflects more prolonged exposure to the elements, but can the shipping delays impact the wood? Read Answer
Looking for more Ask Bob? Watch all of Bob’s video answers from digital Wood&Steel and learn more about ebony, bearclaw spruce, eucalyptus fretboards and much more.