William Gilbert Guitars


I will use the kind of topwood that the customer requests, from among Sitka Spruce, Engelmann Spruce, European Spruce, or Western Red cedar. That is contingent upon having wood of a particular species of suitable quality that I feel will make a fine instrument. If a player desires European Spruce, there will be an additional cost. I look upon providing different kinds of topwood as meeting a need. To me, the wood choice has a great function in making a person comfortable with their instrument. For example, if a player wanted a cedar guitar and had to buy a spruce one instead, then there would always be that nagging question “what if this was cedar?” Playing an instrument well is task enough without those kinds of uncertainties.

I use Indian Rosewood for the back and sides on the majority of the instruments. It is stable and gives good results. I have available some Madagascan Rosewood, for an additional cost, but it is fairly plain looking. We obtained it about 30 years ago. As to sound, I couldn’t say there is a difference.

In my view, the tonal characteristics of my instruments are very similar no matter what top wood is chosen. We began building in cedar as well as spruce about 20 years ago. We did an experiment and found that the owners of several Gilberts could not pick their own instruments out when blind tested off a stage, nor could they tell the difference between the cedar and spruce instruments. Nevertheless, I would say that there is a difference between cedar and spruce, but it is more of subtle shading than an evident shift. I think that the cedar guitars have a touch more warmth, and the spruce instruments are perhaps slightly clearer.

As to the other parts of the instruments, I use Spanish Cedar for the necks, and Ebony for the fretboards. The heel and heelblock are both Mahogany, as is the tailblock. The main component of the rosette is Ebony

I should note that between Cedar and Spruce one other difference is stability with respect to humidity change. Cedar expands and contracts about half as much as Spruce for a given change in humidity. So Cedar is less likely to crack from such changes. We also use Spanish cedar, Cedrela Odorata because of its stability with respect to humidity, and relatively light weight.