I build guitars using a lot of reclaimed and local woods. It has become imperative in recent times to reduce our impact on the resources of the world as much as we can. Part of this means minimising waste and re-using materials and recycling objects. It also means reducing transportation and not shipping wood half way round the world if a suitable material is available closer to hand.
In the case of furniture and other wooden artefacts it is usually the case that when such an object reaches the end of its useful life, the material it is made from - wood - is still in good usable condition and can have decades, if not centuries, of useful life left in it.
In fact there are many advantages to using old wood: firstly there is a seasoning process during which the moisture in the wood reaches a stable equilibrium with its environment so that it becomes stable and much less likely to warp or crack; secondly, over a number of years there are chemical changes in the structure of the wood; and thirdly a number of woods are becoming increasingly scarce and so what is currently available from timber suppliers is often of an inferior quality to that which was commonplace a few decades ago. With careful selection it is possible to find superb pieces of old wood that can be used in guitar making.
Another great thing about ordering a guitar made from reclaimed wood is that it comes with a story attached. Some of the wood has an interesting history and it gives that individual instrument a connection to different times and places. I have, for example, made a guitar from the lid of an old piano and the I love the way I was able to reincarnate one musical instrument from another.
In addition to reclaimed woods I use many local woods. Again the environmental benefits are clear: a reduction in transportation and a reduction in the exploitation of tropical forests. However I also like the fact that using local woods gives my instruments a connection to the place where they are made. There are some great woods in England, Britain and Europe that not only have the right kind of structural and resonant qualities, but can be just as beautiful as their more exotic tropical counterparts Examples that I have used are cherry, pear, yew, sycamore (European maple), walnut, holly, laburnum, 5000-year-old bog oak, and poplar.
Reclaimed Woods in Stock
Douglas fir from doors made around 1930. Tight grain and very stiff. Great for soundboard bracing and soundboards.
Honduras mahogany from various sources - shelves, doors, counter tops etc. Makes great necks but also suitable for backs, sides and even soundboards on an all- mahogany guitar.
Cuban mahogany salvaged from furniture. Heavier and darker than Honduras mahogany with a lovely golden hue. This is all but impossible to obtain from timber suppliers. It makes very nice resonant back and sides.
Sapele. Salvaged from church pews made in 1960. This is a beautiful wood and I have a few highly figured pieces. It has some similar characteristics to Cuban mahogany and makes great back and sides.
American Black Walnut. I recently salvaged this from the casing of a church organ made in the 1890s. I have a couple of back and sides sets and some other pieces suitable for necks and solid body electrics.
Oak. This is not normally a wood associated with guitar making but I often use it on my acoustics for the inner lamination of the sides. It comes from old tables and other pieces of furniture.