People often ask me why I choose to build my instruments with Texas, Australian or other strange and sustainable timbers. Perhaps the best way to start this post is to describe what wood is not. It is not the same stiffness (even within the same log), nor is it the same density. I think of timber more like a fingerprint. While there are similarities there are also differences even within the same tree. People have a great deal of opinions about acoustic instruments that are really not based on facts but more on myth. So the idea that wood is not uniform within a species, or forest, or even the same tree is the greatest challenge to many of these misconceptions.

The thing I love most about working with wood is the amount of imperfections to deal with - just like people. Every human is different and unique and I think that is a great way to describe timber as well. You could develop computer technology that cuts the most uniform pieces (factories are doing this right now) and assemble them together with the staggering digital accuracy of a car manufacturer, but in the end, due to variances in stiffness these instruments would all be different from each other. In some cases very different. The vast majority of an instrument's sound quality comes from how it is built, not the materials. To express this concept I thought I would share a couple of stories from some of my luthier heroes. The legendary Spanish luthier Antonio De Torres proved this in 1862. Torres decided to challenge a popular misconception and built one of his guitars with paper mache back and sides. It was no surprise to him that he was able to coax this guitar to sound like his others. Roberto Benedetto proved this again in the 1970s when he went to his local big box home improvement store and bought some inexpensive boards full of knots and went on to build a guitar from them that sounded like his other guitars. Whole forests full of endangered trees have been chopped down because of an insatiable lust based on myth and not on fact. There are plenty of very average or even below average guitars constructed of Brazilian rosewood to support this.

One of my favorite parts of constructing an instrument is hand carving the braces to adjust the voice and sound. I am sure that even as I type some enterprising soul is working with great speed to accomplish equipment to take into consideration stiffness, flexibility and density when computer shaping braces and soundboards. The day will come that someone will be able to press a button and kick out such an instrument from some digital system that is deemed perfect. But for me? I will still build by hand; maybe that's why I love listening to vinyl and hearing people perform live. Cheers, J