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DEAR EMILY: TIGHT WOOD GRAIN FOR TOP?

Posted by cfmartinguitar

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Dear Emily,

I own a bunch of Martins (000-15M, 000-28 Eric Clapton, LX1) and I love them all for different reasons.  For years I’ve been toying with the idea of my perfect Custom Martin.  This is going to be it for me… the last guitar I buy for a while so I really want to go for the gold and make it the ultimate guitar. 

I’ve decided on an OM-Honduran Rosewood.  I’m going for tone over glitz so I’m putting my money into hide glue and Golden Era bracing rather than pearl inlay.  This will be a no-frills, killer sounding guitar!  I’m stuck on the top though.  I love the sound of Adirondack but it usually has wider top grain.  I’ve always read that you want super tight grain on the top.  Should I go with Sitka because the grain is tighter?

Nick


Dear Nick,

This question is asked more than you’d think! In short, it’s all about the stiffness baby! The sound quality you like so much about Adi (Adirondack) is probably the stiffness of the wood more than anything.  And stiffness has a lot more to do with the internal structure of the wood than the actual width of the grain lines.  People like to dissect it and try to find a formula for the perfect top.  I’m not a botanist so all I can tell you is this….  Are tight grain Adi tops often stiff?  Yes.  Are wider grain Adi tops often stiff?  Yes.  Adi is one of the stiffest spruces out there.  I’ve flexed some wide grain Adi tops that really surprised me with how stiff they were. 

With that said, a player who really likes to dig in and bang on the guitar might like a stiffer top because he/she can drive it without things getting muddy. Less stiff tops like an Engelmann can really lend themselves to a softer player, finger picker, maybe a classical player.  With that said, a stiffer top could be just fine for that same player.  It depends on what your ear likes. I have yet to say, “wow, that’s a stinker” about a particular species of spruce. They’re all pretty great in their own way.

Anyway, let’s get back to Adi.  My advice to you on your custom build is get the Adi!  Dive in the deep end, my friend!  It will work so well with the Honduran.  I would go with ¼” Golden Era bracing.  And YES on the hide glue… but that’s a whole other blog.  Contact your local Martin dealer to get this thing started!    

Emily


Emily has worked at Martin Guitar for 10 years. She has been cross-trained in every aspect of guitar building and currently serves as the Martin Guitar Custom Shop Administrator. Dear Emily is an advice column that will appear bi-monthly on the Martin Guitar Blog.

Topics: Ask Emily

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