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I'm looking for an all solid wood guitar to purchase. I recently came across a Takamine EG333C-LTD that is in my price range, but through my research I'm unable to determine if it is all solid wood construction. Takamine's website indicates the guitar's top, back, and sides are all made of "figured" ash (whatever that means). I did find one YouTube video that indicated the entire guitar was covered with an ash veneer, but I don't know if a veneer automatically eliminates an acoustic guitar from being considered 100% solid wood construction. So my questions are:

  1. What is "figured" wood?
  2. If an acoustic guitar has a veneer is it considered "laminate" construction?
  3. If an acoustic guitar has a veneer is it not considered "solid" construction?

Update:

I found a better description of the EG333C-LTD and unfortunately it appears to be laminate construction.

http://www.elderly.com/new_instruments/items/EG333CLTD.htm

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3 Answers 3

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Figured wood is wood with grain that is not straight, that has been cut along the grain to reveal pretty patterns. Think of walnut furniture (or just look at the photograph of the Takemine guitar).

Figured wood is often used as a veneer (for woodwork in general, not just musical instruments) because it makes less wood go further; using cheaper less visually attractive wood for interior structure. However figured wood is not necessarily veneer - solid walnut furniture is made; solid soundboards are made with figured wood.

A veneer would interfere with the vibration of a soundboard, and hence it would be dishonest to describe a veneered soundboard as being solid wood.

Whether a layer of solid wood with a veneer could be described as "laminate" is not really well defined. Strictly speaking it would be a laminate of two layers. But a typical laminate material for guitars has more than two layers.

All of this is important knowledge if you're building a guitar. When you're buying a guitar it's interesting, but academic.

You don't buy a guitar for the satisfaction of knowing what wood it's made of. You buy a guitar to play music with. So make your buying decision based on what it sounds like and how it feels to play (OK, most of us also care what it looks like). You could find a laminate guitar that plays beautifully. You could find a guitar made from the finest hardwood, that you just don't like the feel or sound of.

Regardless of whether the Takamine is veneered, they are a reputable company who make good quality guitars for the price -- but you'll only find out for sure by trying it out.

Unless you're willing to risk paying for a dud, never buy a guitar on specs alone. Try it in a shop before buying.

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For a steel-string or nylon-string flat-top acoustic guitar, or for an archtop guitar, laminated back and sides are not necessarily a bad thing. Many luthiers and many players prefer laminated back and sides, noting that they create a more rigid, durable, stronger construction. In contrast, solid-wood back and sides are more delicate; they may crack over time due to fluctuations in temperature and humidity, or due to damage from banging around.

Everyone agrees that a solid wood top is superior to a laminated top in terms of its acoustical properties, for a flat-top steel-string or nylon-string guitar.

For an acoustic archtop guitar, a solid carved top is regarded as acoustically superior, but many manufacturers make archtop electric guitars where the top, back and sides are all made from pressed laminates, because they are more resistant to feedback from amplifiers on stage, they are more durable for touring purposes, and the woods are far less likely to crack from changes in temperature and humidity.

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I am familiar with quilted, tiger striped (aka fiddle-back), and birdseye. These may be found in maple; I don't know what figure varieties exist in ash.

Yes, any veneer is a laminate.

Solid is a marvelous marketing word. Solid wood can be a laminate, like plywood. I would not expect a glued laminate to be the optimal choice for an acoustic soundboard. For an electric guitar, veneered solid-body models are common. (The quilted example is just that; a 1/4" maple top over a 2-pc mahogany body. Most veneers, however, are very very thin.)

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You are quite mistaken in your usage. "Solid wood" means one thickness of solid wood. No manufacturer would ever use the word "solid" when they mean "laminate" or "plywood." Those are separate terms. Furthermore, in guitar construction, the term "laminate" with regard to a top or back or sides of an acoustic guitar means at least three layers of wood. A laminate top on a solid-body electric guitar is another matter. –  Wheat Williams Aug 15 at 21:53
    
Solid, liquid, or gas? Yes, the term solid can be abused by those intending to mislead. –  Kirk A Aug 16 at 0:20

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