Wood Selection

We at GuitarForm are pleased to offer a small, carefully curated selection of woods for use in custom guitar bodies.

Built for the job

We depend on a select group of trusted suppliers who provide kiln-dried and thermally treated timbers that have the correct moisture content to meet the high tonal and stability demands your instrument asks of them over an operational life lasting many decades. We recognise the importance of hardness and rigidity in our adhesives, and triple-clamp joins under ultra high pressure so that your two-piece body will resonate as one.

Sustainably sourced

We prioritise the practical, physical, tonal and dynamic properties of our wood over and above flashy figuring or prestige species. Many of the traditional instrument-building species are under threat, but fortunately, abundant availability of excellent alternatives mean we no longer have to compromise tone or appearance to make an ethical choice.

Carefully selected

We take a great deal of care to match grain, avoid unsightly blemishes or knots, and bring the best out of each and every board. The two pieces that make up your body have been cut from the same length and joined along the rift. It’s like a one-piece body in two parts! We take great pride in our process, and we hope you will be equally proud of your instrument.

Index of Wood

The raw material your guitar is made from makes up the foundation of all aspects of the instrument. Aesthetics, mass, durability, tonal characteristics – these considerations must all be weighed and balanced to find the right choice for your guitar. Below you’ll find a profile and short description of the species we use at GuitarForm.

Guitar body roasted poplar wood

Roasted Poplar

Poplar has long been a very popular timber for electric guitar construction. The name can refer predominantly to two main groups of timbers – some (particularly budget import) guitars sold as poplar are a far-eastern timber with interlocked grain; whereas we use Yellow Poplar from the Eastern USA (also known as Tulipwood) which has a uniform grain that works and takes finish easily. Lightweight pieces are common, but can be quite absorbent (thirsty with sealer) and dent easily, so a hard finish is preferable and we recommend care is taken not to overtighten screws.

 

Poplar usually has a boring or unattractive grain that can be marred by unsightly grey or green mineral streaks, however the thermal modification (“roasting”) process turns these streaks black and the surrounding wood an attractive chocolate brown, which ranges in colour from Walnut to Rosewood. Thermally modified (“roasted”) timber is also more dimensionally stable, slightly lighter in weight, and more closely resembles antique wood under a microscope than kiln-dried timber.

 

We recommend using Roasted Poplar when the main priority is for the body to be lightweight, when a customer wishes to finish the body themselves in a solid colour, or else if the customer desires a dark chocolate brown transparent finish.

 

Tonally, we find the lighter pieces of Roasted Poplar have a well-rounded tone with plenty of high-end pop (much like Swamp Ash), and the denser pieces have a clear and strong midrange reminiscent of Alder.

Hard Ash

Hard Ash

Hard ash (whether roasted or kiln-dried) is an excellent choice, particularly for our Thinline bodies. It retains the classic appearance of Swamp Ash, allowing for a beautiful and authentic transparent or sunburst finish, but is stronger and much more resilient to damage. In this application, the increased density (when compared to Swamp Ash) is mitigated by the Thinline construction. Thinline JM and Jag bodies constructed from Hard Ash tend to weigh in the low to mid 3lb range (around 1.5kg).

 

Many people find Hard Ash a bit too heavy for a Solidbody, but it is absolutely a viable wood if you don’t mind (or prefer) a heavier guitar. Fender switched to using Hard Ash in the 1970s for many of their models, and it’s not a great deal heavier than most of the Alder you’d commonly find today.

 

Ash of all kinds will require grain-filling if a flat mirror-finish is desired, otherwise the finish will be absorbed variably and the grain structure will be visible in the clear coat, even when using a solid-coloured finish (think of a 1980s black ash veneered speaker cabinet, and you’ll have the right idea). Professional finishers should know exactly how to handle this (just make sure to communicate your ideas clearly), and there is a wealth of information available online regarding grain-filling ash and similar porous woods if you plan to finish the body yourself. As always, one approach is not superior to another – what’s important is to be clear in your own mind what you are aiming for. Some people love the effect of variable absorption, others don’t, and everyone can be happy!

 

Popular opinion would suggest that Hard Ash is a bright sounding timber for Solidbody application, but I find it has great clarity and strength in the low-end, and often results in a very balanced sounding guitar that can be a versatile platform for many different pickup and control configurations to work well.

Roasted Ash

Roasted Hard Ash

As above, but with a beautiful dark roasted chocolate colour in the same neighbourhood as rosewood. Kiln-dried Roasted Hard Ash is naturally so stable that the benefits conferred by thermal treatment are a lesser consideration than they might be for other timbers, so we recommend you choose between the two based on appearance.

Idigbo / Afara guitar body wood

Idigbo

Idigbo is a light-coloured, but otherwise mahogany-like timber from North Africa closely related to Limba / Korina. It tends to be medium-weight (generally lighter in weight than African mahoganies like Sapele or Khaya). Like Mahogany or Limba, though the pores are a bit larger and more numerous than most mahogany substitutes. Like Limba, it can sometimes exhibit tiny pin-holes. Very naturally strong, it is sometimes used in fine joinery as an oak substitute, though the natural colour is more yellow and less golden-brown than oak in our experience.

 

Very stable and tough for its weight, Idigbo is highly resistant to dents and this confers an advantage even under a solid finish (though it requires grain-filling if a flat mirror-finish is desired) and is a wonderful candidate for a TV Yellow or “Dog-Hair”-style finish. The heartwood sometimes exhibits purple / red / brown streaks, which can be very beautiful.

 

It is tonally similar to many mahogany-type woods, with a smooth attack, rich midrange and long sustain. Its character pairs especially well with humbucking pickups in our experience, but would also suit a single-coil scheme with series-wiring options.

Maple guitar body wood - sycamore

Maple

Maple of various kinds has a long history of being used to craft instruments, from violins to drums to acoustic and electric guitars, and for good reason. Due to its close-pore structure, it can be worked to a very smooth surface and does not require grain filling. Like Hard Ash, it was once popular as a body wood for electric guitars, but can have a tendency to be heavyweight and a little “peaky” in that application. Today, it is generally considered more suitable as a body wood for bass guitars (which operate in a different frequency range and where the higher density can mitigate neck dive), in hollow and acoustic guitar construction (where the hollow cavities bring their own flavour to the instrument’s tone) or, of course, in neck construction.

 

We use it for our Thinline JM and Thinline JG bodies, and it has a great deal to recommend it. It is naturally light in colour with subtle yet attractive grain that makes for an attractive transparent or sunburst finish and takes all finishes well, making it a great choice if you plan to apply a ‘soft’ oil or hand-rubbed finish. It is naturally very strong, durable and resonant; so it is a great choice for a hollow instrument with intricate details like f-holes which could be quite delicate in other timbers. In short, it’s used widely in this application, and for good reason.

Roasted Limba wood for Guitar body

Roasted Limba

Limba was first used in guitar construction by Gibson in the late 1950s in the original Flying V and Explorer models, and was marketed as “Korina”. They were looking for a mahogany-like wood which had the fashionable blonde appearance of their competitors’ guitars, and most people are now agreed they hit the jackpot – it is now considered one of the most desirable and sought-after construction woods for the solidbody electric guitar, and some have even branded it “super mahogany”!

 

We have been fortunate to source a shipment of limba and have had it thermally treated (roasted) for the benefits that provides to stability, and for the sake of structurally emulating vintage / antique wood at a cellular level. It is medium-weight with a density comparable to Honduran Mahogany, and we think it sounds a lot like Honduran too.

 

As an open-pored wood, and one which commonly exhibits tiny pinholes, it does require grain filling if a flat mirror-finish is desired. But we think this timber is as delicious as the insects do – beautiful folded grain patterns, rich colour, and with a natural lustre that is only enhanced by the heat treatment. Some pieces even exhibit jet-black mineral streaking that is reminiscent of spalted woods or Brazilian rosewood – every piece is unique, and they all seem to ring like a bell.

 

We use it for our Thinline JM and Thinline JG bodies, and it has a great deal to recommend it. It is naturally light in colour with subtle yet attractive grain that makes for an attractive transparent or sunburst finish and takes all finishes well, making it a great choice if you plan to apply a ‘soft’ oil or hand-rubbed finish. It is naturally very strong, durable and resonant; so it is a great choice for a hollow instrument with intricate details like f-holes which could be quite delicate in other timbers. In short, it’s used widely in this application, and for good reason.