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