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For the Love of Wood (and Guitars)

Munson Marauder
Munson Marauder – Ash body and a Bare Naked finish

One of the reasons I decided to start making guitars was my love of wood. I guess it runs in the family. In fact some of the tools we still use in the workshop have been passed down for three generations. Wood is a very personal material to work with. Especially highly figured or deep grained woods like ash, oak, maple and even pine. Each piece has its own personality and I feel it’s my job to get the very best out of every inch. After all, it has taken many years of growth to end up with a plank ready for working. 

Making custom guitars means I get to respect the wood I am working with. It’s not like mass producing products and slapping a coat of paint on them. I start by designing a shape then select the best piece of wood that will compliment it. I will often adjust the shape in order to include interesting facets in the wood. 

Reclaimed Materials

We use both new and reclaimed woods for our guitars. I can’t tell you how many solid mahogany tables I have saved from the skip. Recycling is brilliant as it’s giving new life to some amazing chunks of wood that would otherwise end up in landfill. A well made instrument will be around for a long time, so what better way to save the planet than buying a custom guitar.

Local Sawmills

Supporting local business is baked into our ethos, so it was an easy choice to source new wood from family run sawmills in our area. There are many benefits, such as reduced carbon miles and sustainable forest management, but for me it is the ability to work with the the owners of these small business and to find the best materials for our instruments. I am often found rummaging through vast amounts of lumber in oder to find wood that is just right. Sometime I get a call to let me know a particularly interesting tree is about to be felled, and I buy it before it’s even cut down (this is obviously the long game as it can take several years for the timber to air dry to the point we can use it for guitar making).

Here are are few pieces I picked up recently for one of our sawmills here in Norfolk.

English Ash Slabs
English Ash Slabs
Dark Walnut wood
Dark Walnut
Cherry wood
Shed find. This cherry slab had been drying in a local shed for the last 20 years.

Making guitars is all about the feel of the wood

Most people hate sanding wood, but I find it the best part (well I find every part the best, but, hey, that’s me). Sanding is a very tactile process as I feel the wood for consistent smoothness and the finish I am looking for. I use a technique called chiaroscuro (the play of light and shadow) to fine tune the sanded finish to make sure it’s perfect. A good guitar finish starts with good sanding, which is why I don’t skimp on this part of the process.

Of course finding and carving the wood is only a part of the process of bringing out its beauty. We will do just about any finish, but I prefer to still be able to see the wood grain, even though colour.

I use a multi-step process of applying dark colour stains, sanding back, then applying the top colour stain in a way that the underlying grain pops.

It’s only when applying the finish that the wood truly comes alive and the depth of the wood grain is visible.

Ash guitar body
Stained ash guitar body with open pores

Custom Shop Colour Options

We create colours which are unique for each guitar, as each guitar is unique. That’s what makes a custom guitar stand out from the crowd. 

Should you what something different, then we will work with you to develop the colour and finish you want for your custom guitar project.

Whether you chose a bespoke or custom shop guitar, you have the choice of our premium woods, colours and finishes. Our job is to bring the best out of the wood so your instrument looks as good as it plays.

Use our handy online custom shop configurator to design your next guitar

Not sure what your looking for, get in touch and let’s discuss your custom guitar ideas.

ps. Let us know if you have some wood you want to recycle into your next guitar project.

About the author


Carl has managed several multinational technology companies and has founded a handful of successful start-ups during his career. Coming back to his roots, and inspired by three generations of craftsmen, Carl co-founded and put his name to Munson Guitars, a British custom guitar builder that brings together a passion for working with wood, electronics and the innovations that digital technology enables.

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