“Dear Sir,
A few months ago I placed my first order with you and built my very first guitar. Ovangkol back and sides with Sitka top.
I have been a craftsman for a number of years, rebuilding antique pianos, including making new soundboards and bridges, and decided to try my hand at guitars after buying a Taylor 814ce.
The results of my first attempt were surprising, to me and to others. Since I'm a bit "old-school" I built it entirely by hand, no table saw, router, joiner etc. (I did use a drill press!). I have already received requests for custom made guitars, and from a store interested in selling them.
It really helped to find quality supplies, all in one place, so I could start this experiment - which may just turn out to be my next and final career.
Many Thanks.
ps. I have just placed a second order so I can start making a few more......”

- Jon Ballard

Adirondack (Red) Spruce tops

TOPSAdirondackRedSpruceA700a TOPSAdirondackRedSpruceAA700a TOPSAdirondackRedSpruceAAA700a
Adirondack Spruce A grade Adirondack Spruce AA grade Adirondack Spruce AAA grade

Adirondack Spruce was used for the tops on many of the great pre-war American guitars. Many guitarmakers today believe that this wood is a significant contributing factor to the strong, clear tone of those vintage/collectible instruments. Unfortunately, guitarmakers who prefer it have found that the quality and useable sizes of this greatly desired tonewood to be very limited.

Finding available logs that will yield full dreadnought sizes in a quality similar to the Sitka and Engelmann Spruce available today is virtually impossible. Our 3A (AAA) tops are exemplary Adirondack tops and represent only a very small percentage of Adirondack Spruce being cut, hence the higher price.

In general, the visual/cosmetic quality in use today by the best builders and high end factories (typically the 2A (AA) tops) has more grain and color variation than either good Sitka or Engelmann Spruce - but that variation has been accepted in acquiring and working with this fine, great sounding wood.

See an Adirondack Spruce top on a guitar by Jim Hay

Additional Grading Concerns with Adirondack
Here is how we factor in some of the less desirable features of Adirondack Spruce when grading our highest grade 3A/AAA tops:

  • Winter grain (dark grain) - We will only allow this when we see tight grain in center and if it does not detract from an overall lighter color impression from the whole top. Normally it is only going to be on the outside edge of the top. If winter grain is found elsewhere on the top (somewhere in the middle) it is because it is not visually overbearing and because the tightness and evenness of the grain is so exceptional that it “outweighs” it.
  • Wide Grain - This is allowed if the top has an overall even and light color (rare in Adirondack). It may also be allowed in less evenly colored tops if it only appears on the outside edge and appears gradually.
  • Uneven Grain Spacing - This is allowed when the overall color impression is basically light and even or if the grain (especially in the center) is exceptionally tight.

Tops Dimensions
Wood Grading article
Soundboard quality terms