What is the difference between Plainsawn and Quartersawn


What sounds like

Tonewood is the basis for a good instrument. In the following I have put together an overview of the most important tonewoods and their properties. As more and more pieces of wood have been added over the course of time and some have also been forgotten, this representation does not claim to be complete. I will therefore limit myself to the most commonly used types and will add more tonewoods in the course of time. Likewise there is no the Maple and the Swamp ash. Like any natural product, wood is dependent on location and weather, so there are often serious differences within a species. The descriptions therefore relate to the most common properties.

First of all, I would like to explain the difference between normal and quarter-cut timber. Due to the alignment of the growth rings, quarter sawn lumber has several advantages over normal sawn lumber. Since the growth rings in the quarter lumber run parallel throughout the wood, seasonal fluctuations in humidity and temperatures are much easier to cope with. Normal lumber expands significantly more and is not as torsion-resistant as quarter lumber.

Normal lumber

Quarter lumber

Quarter-lumber can be used for all parts of the guitar, especially sides, and is absolutely recommended for necks as well.

Sewing pattern quarter lumber

Pattern normal lumber

Tonewood - tonewoods


In instrument making, maple plays an enormous role as tonewood / tonewood, if not the most important. Ahorn is used for string instruments such as violin, cello, etc. to acoustic and electric guitars and electric basses. The properties of this tonewood ensure a clear, brilliant sound that is rich in overtones, the basses are clearly defined. With the use of maple glue, electric guitars gain in assertiveness. Necks and fingerboards are very often made from maple. In addition, maple with its many variations, such as flamed maple, bird's eye maple, also offers a very elegant and high-quality look. Every good Les Paul has a maple clip on it. Maple is also used by a large margin in the construction of necks for Telecaster and Stratocaster.

use: Trims, sides, tops, necks and fingerboards

properties: bright, brilliant sound, nice overtones, quick response (attack), assertiveness, rather quieter due to the hardness, little tendency towards feedback.

Swamp Ash

Botanically it is the same species, which is also simply called ash. The difference lies in the location of the tree. As the name suggests, the swamp ash comes - unbelievably but true - from swampy, very humid to wet areas. Only the part of the trunk that is either directly and permanently exposed to water or that is always moist is used. This results in a wood that is significantly light compared to normal ash wood. The sound properties are also different from those of ordinary ash. The tone is balanced with subtle highs and balanced lows. The normal ash tree often only offers very hard, unbalanced heights. The swamp ash is mainly used as body wood. Above all, Telecaster bodies are very often made of swamp ash, but the Stratocaster is also always available in the swamp ash variant.

use: Bodies

properties: Compared to normal ash, the lighter tonewood, decent bass, airy and powerful tone

Alder / Red Alder

As the title already shows, there are different types of alder from the genus Alnus. The American red alder and the European alder are used. The wood is quite soft and very easy to process and paint. Alder is used almost exclusively for the construction of bodies for electric guitars. Especially with the Stratocaster and partly with the Telecaster, the body is made of American red alder. The attractively priced wood gives the instrument a very balanced sound. There are enough rich basses, mids and highs rich in overtones without being too dominant in relation to one another.

use: Bodies

properties: Sufficient sustain, balanced, rich bass, good mids and highs rich in overtones


The tropical wood is used very frequently as tonewood in guitar making. It used to be used in shipbuilding. The American mahogany wood (Swietenia) convinces with a sustain-rich, warm, bassy and mid-range sound. Therefore it is very often used with maple as a top. The maple then gives the instrument beautiful highs rich in overtones and significantly more assertiveness - the best example of this is the Les Paul from Gibson. In addition to the best-known type, the Swietenia, Sipo and Khaya mahogany, both of which come from Africa, are used in guitar construction. Tropical wood, especially mahogany, is subject to species protection, so from an ecological point of view, only FSC-certified wood should be used.

use: Bottoms, frames, bodies, necks

properties: Lots of sustain, warm and balanced, rich bass and plenty of mids


This tropical wood is characterized by an above-average density and strength and is therefore extremely durable. The very expensive wood is used for fingerboards of high-priced guitars and basses. The wood, which comes from Central Africa, Southeast Asia and Central America, is not only available in very dark, almost black tones, but also in the Makassar variant, here the wood is striped (zebra look). This variant is also used for backs and sides. Since it is tropical wood, please make sure that it is FSC certified. You can find information on the topic of FSC here: www.wwf.de

use: Fingerboards, bridges, backs and sides as mackassar, headstock veneer

properties: Very hard and durable, a lot of sustain


The tropical wood from the Dalbergia family has long been the first choice for backs and sides when building acoustic guitars (western and classical guitars). Electric guitars often have rosewood fingerboards. The better known type of Rio rosewood (Dalbergia nigra) comes from South America; the second species, Dalbergia latifolia, is East Indian rosewood. The differences are small, although the Rio rosewood is often more beautiful. Which type is to be preferred depends on the respective piece of wood. Both types produce oppressive bass and brilliant overtones. Since this is tropical wood, please make sure that it is FSC certified.

use: Fingerboards, bridges, backs and sides, headstock veneer

properties: Oppressive bass and brilliant overtones, hard and durable, lots of sustain


Spruce (Picea) in its different variations is mainly used as ceiling wood. This tonewood is light, elastic and resistant to bending. About 80% of the top is responsible for the sound of an acoustic guitar. This shows that spruce plays an enormous role in guitar construction. Due to the many species of spruce that are used, the spectrum of timbres is very large. A singing treble (concerning the high strings) and a very good modulation ability usually characterize this tonewood.

  • Sitka spruce comes from the Pacific coast of North America and is probably the largest species of spruce. Due to its versatility, it is suitable for all types of play and is therefore very popular.
  • Bear Claw Sitka spruce Compared to sitka spruce, it has a lateral grain that improves rigidity, resulting in pure and round basic tones. The overall impression is powerful and clear.
  • Adirondack spruce has a slightly reddish color from the winter lines, which give it a nice look. The sound is very powerful, although the wood is still very light.
  • Engelmann spruce has a pale, but beautiful silk look. It is very flexible, sounds with clear overtones and reacts well to gentle strokes.
  • German spruce is the lightest sounding spruce. The sound is clear and bell-like with opulent overtones.

Here you can find more information about tonewood (external link to Wikipedia).