A few quick definitions to help describe the qualities
found in our soundboards:
GRAIN: Some people refer to the annular rings as the Grain. Straight grain in this case refers to the lines of the annular rings being straight and parallel to each other. Fine grain is when the annual rings are close together or are seen as fine lines. Course grain is farther apart or the lines are wider and more visible.
FIGURE: You will hear words like curly, quilted, bearclaw, and fiddleback and these are kinds of Figure. Figure is genetic, is only found in a small percentage of trees, and is highly prized by furniture makers and luthiers alike. Of these, only bearclaw is found in softwoods. Hard to describe verbally, bearclaw looks a bit like it sounds, like a bear used the tree to sharpen its claws and left small waves in the grain which may or may not be symmetrical on both sides of the top.
Stiffness: The soundboard serves two purposes on a guitar, one as a stable anchor for the strings, and the other as the vibrating unit with which to move air i.e. produce sound. It is this dual purpose that makes stiffness such an important quality. Too much stiffness and it will dampen the tone – too little and the top will distort. Stiffness or lack thereof is something we do grade for and is one of the first things that will get a top downgraded along with major cosmetic flaws. We feel that the stiffer the top, the better (as it comes to you from us), so the top can be made thinner to reduce weight (another tone killer).
COLOR: Consistent and even color is desirable in our higher grades. As we move down the grading scale there may be color streaks along one edge of the top and maybe even some alternating bands of color with can produce an interesting and attractive visual affect.
SIZE: We have two standard sizes, one for © classical guitars and one for (J) jumbo or steel-strings.
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