Numerous famous luthiers have used low grade salvaged timber and non-wood products to demonstrate that how a guitar is designed to exploit available materials is more important than using prime tonewoods. The material properties of timber are highly variable and are not the single figures frequently quoted in reference books. Within-species material properties can vary by a factor of two. Consequently, there is significant overlap of the material properties of one species with others, implying that wood species substitution is possible with little acoustical impact if the component is designed and built to acoustical tolerances rather than dimensional tolerances. However, species selection remains a significant factor in designing guitar components, primarily for structural rather than acoustical reasons. The woods chosen have to survive long-term loading without excessive distortion over time whilst still allowing the radiating surfaces to vibrate freely. Important parameters include Young's modulus, density, stability with humidity variation, heat bendability, and hardness. The author considers wood for soundboards, braces, backs, sides, necks, fretboards, and bridges. Guitars designed to acoustical criteria (rather than dimensional criteria) where the effects of different stiffnesses and densities of species are minimised, sound very similar.

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