Tonewood: Best Lumber for your Musical Instruments

Tonewood: Best Lumber for your Musical Instruments

Music wood, also known as tonewood, is used to create the top, back sides, fretboards, and bridges of musical instruments. If you’re planning to build a musical masterpiece, choosing an ideal lumber is crucial.

Different kinds of wood have unique properties that may vary considerably in terms of strength, density, color, grain, and finishing. The choice of lumber for instruments such as guitar, violin, piano, banjos, or drum shells cannot solely be based on acoustic considerations. Woodworkers also need to consider factors such as flexibility, traditional high-gloss finish, long-term resistance to cracking, and deformation in response to static stress from strings.

Let us now delve into the types of tonewood and what makes them a prime choice for building handmade and professional musical instruments.

1. Hard Maple

Hard Maple, amongst the hardest and the most stable tonewood, is sturdy, durable, even- grained, and resistant to splitting. It is difficult not to take notice of the obvious aesthetic qualities of this tonewood.

Hard Maple lumber has a uniform texture with unique grain quality that varies from horizontal patterns to circular spots. The patterns formed by the grains make it visually striking and desired by luthiers.

Meanwhile, in addition to its brilliant visual appeal, Hard Maple is regarded as one of the most acoustically transparent tonewood. Instruments made with Hard Maple wood produce a unique tone and deliver excellent note separation. The reason for that is its strength and density.

2. Ebony

Another elegant option for instrument builders is Ebony: one of the most valuable and expensive species of wood in the world. Ebony trees grow in tropical forests and grasslands around the world. A tough and durable variety of tonewood, Ebony is known for its high density and weight and offers a bright, responsive tone with notable sustain. Due to its natural oil content, the wood responds beautifully to finishes. The heartwood is valued for its rich black color, smooth texture, and aesthetic appeal.

Since the early days of string instruments, Ebony has been globally recognized as the best material for fretboards, acoustic backs or sides, and black pianos. Every luthier knows that even a microscopic amount of fret movement can throw an instrument out of tune. And one material that has the potential to take that challenge is Ebony.

3. Cherry

This tonewood is recognized for its rich color, smooth grain, and flexibility. The balanced and articulate tone of Cherry wood lumber is what makes it a good option for musical instruments.

Cherry lumber bends well and makes for solid construction. It also steams easily, making it an ideal choice for curved designs. Therefore, Cherry is usually incorporated into the back and sides of acoustic guitars.

Cool woodworking projects: DIY wood sign

4. Mahogany

A wood species that has played a pivotal role in shaping the musical instruments industry since ancient times is Mahogany. It is a valuable and much-favored type of wood due to its resonant properties. In the woodworking world, Mahogany is known for its stability, durability, color, and beautiful large pore grain.

Mahogany is photo-reactive and gradually darkens over time. This globally demanded tonewood is relatively free of voids and pockets. Its warm midrange tone makes it an essential flavor in the spice rack of tonewood when it comes to acoustic guitars.

Owing to its ability to produce very deep and warm tones, this luxurious wood is a popular choice for making electric guitar bodies, drum shells, and back, sides, and necks of acoustic guitars.

5. Walnut

Walnut is another beautiful hardwood that is considered a top choice by luthiers. Natural Walnut Wood is a dense and heavy tonewood that offers a bright tone with tight low-end.

It is a prized wood amongst woodworkers, sought after for its beautiful grain structure, which ranges from dark to light shades of brown with interlaying yellow stripes.

Types of Walnut Wood are used worldwide to prepare the necks, fretboards, sides, and back of stringed instruments.

Cool woodworking projects: DIY wood sign


Now that you know what goes into creating the unique sounds that come from a musical instrument, we hope you get started soon.

Whether you’re looking for board feet of lumber or bulk lumber for sale, we at Forest 2 Home are happy to help you make an informed decision and deliver the finest hardwood lumber to help you craft a piece that is uniquely yours.

As a lumber company, we love to showcase your stunning creations to our community members. Share your work with us using #BuiltWithF2H. We look forward to it!

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