Building a guitar, even under the best of circumstances, is a time-consuming affair. You want to make that time count, so there is little incentive to cut corners. But, with the price of quality tonewoods climbing steadily, many luthiers are taking a second look at second-grade materials.
What can you expect with second-grade woods? The answer changes with each species of wood you look at. In most cases, it’s true that our seconds are the result of a discrepancy between our grading standards and those of our suppliers. We do specifically order second grade in big-sellers like Indian Rosewood, Spruce, and Ebony but for most woods, we order the best we can -and inevitably accept a range of qualities. The point here is that for someone along the supply chain, the wood was considered to be first grade. It just wasn’t us.
The great majority of second-grade parts suffer from a small cosmetic flaw. Woods that are cracked or warped are considered defective. We will discard defective woods or remove the defect and use the remaining wood for something smaller. The cosmetic stuff (perhaps some discoloration, wide grain etc.) is often just a negative in the ‘eye of the beholder’. On a number occasions, we have (by appointment only!) allowed a luthier into our warehouse to select wood and were surprised to find that they settled on a mix of 1st and 2nd-grade pieces! Famed luthier Steve Klein (who lives near us) delights in telling people that he’s included discarded wood from our dumpster in some of his $20k instruments! What is important to one builder can be completely irrelevant to another.
Sometimes we describe what’s to be expected on the website, but often there is too much variety to attempt this. In these cases, you are always welcome to ask, and as always, we invite you to let us know what’s important to you when you place your order. The ‘special instructions’ box on the checkout page is the perfect place for these comments.