GUITAR WOOD DRYING METHODS

 
(561) 706-6011

View Larger Map

In dealing with various guitar issues from fret buzz to wood cracks, splits, or fingerboard (fret-board) warps I made the argument that how wood is treated (prior to construction) makes a difference in the outcome.
 
After spending a week at the Taylor Guitar Factory in construction & repair, I investigated the issue of wood treatment that effects a guitar after construction and during ownership. Below is the information I gathered.
 
Woods arrive at a guitar factory with varying levels of moisture content depending on the wood species and its growth locations.
For example, ebony and rosewood tend to be less stable thus vulnerable to distress if dried too quickly. Koa wood falls in-between. Mahogany can contain 6-10% moisture content, ebony up to 20%+ moisture, other woods can be 30%+ moisture content.
 
I found that how a factory stores new wood makes a difference, that is, their location (state) impacts the wood moisture content. And how they treat or dry the wood's moisture content is the gravamen of the instruments stability.
 
Shed stored woods lose a majority of their mositure and are more stable. Kiln drying after shed storage where mositure content is 12-15% continues the drying process. A kiln drying process is usually a week (depending on the species) and temperatures are increased 5o per day topping out at 270o fahrenheit. When no water drips out of the wood the kiln drying process is complete.
 
At -0- humidity wood should be re-hydrated to about 6%. At that point wood is ready to be used to build a guitar. This is especially significant for acoustic guitars.
 
Bringing guitar wood to zero (0) humidity then re-hydrating to 6-7% not only prepares the wood for construction, but pepares a guitar for what it will face later on. For example, climate change in shipping, conditions in a music store, feeling heat or or humidity changes (i.e., A/C; heating).
Guitars with sharp fret ends, fret buzz, wood shrinkage, and warping is a symptom of dry wood suffering various climate change(s).
 
By the way, Spruce and ebony can be oven dried (at 200o) as opposed to kiln drying (see above) for about 2-3 hours. Woods like spruce are very stable and can handle high temps. Ebony resists any cracking and "etc" at high heat and will not shrink. Usually oven drying for this reason and the fact that these two woods resist losing moisture easily is an acceptable method to de-hydrate to -0- then re-hydrate to that 6-7% level.
 
Understanding how wood is treated for construction of its body, neck, and fret-board makes the difference. This is why I experience the frustration of dealing with fret buzz, warped necks, or fret board inconsistencies that leaves an owner upset given the money spent on a guitar and the cost to execute a fix or repair.
 
Although wood-drying techniques are significant for acoustic and classical guitars, there is an impact to solid body guitars as well as full archtops (e.g., L-5) and semi archtops (e.g., ES-335). Naturally, all guitars fret/fingerboards are victims of wood drying methods.
 
In sum, there is more information that can be written here, but the above gives an owner a good idea of how important wood is and how climate change can impact a guitar.