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Tone Wood & Design

Tone philosophy

The long debate over the question, whether the tone wood plays an important roll in the electric guitar tone or not, is full of theories and opinions from both sides. I will be happy to share my approach and “belief”. 

I believe that you can understand from the topic that I’m using tone woods to get the tone that I’m looking for in a custom guitar build, and hear a big differences in the way different woods resonate in a guitar.


I will start by saying that the wood is a passive element, and a dead organism. Therefore, it can not add anything to the guitar tone, it can only subtract. The wood in electric guitar acts like a tone filter, the wood will resist more to some of the vibration frequencies and to the other less, letting some of the frequencies that the strings vibrate in to sustain and resonate more then others, therefore the pickups could only “see” the string vibration in the frequencies that the wood did not filter. An important factor would be how easy is for the vibrations of the sound waves to resonate throw the wood fibers, a dry and strait grain wood will help to improve this flow of vibration in the wood. The density of the wood will have a big impact as well and it will deepens on the different parts in the guitar, I will prefer a low density wood for the guitar body and a high density for the fingerboard.

The process of selecting and matching tone woods

As an electric guitar maker, I can shape the tone of the guitar in a number of ways. From the scale and neck construction to the hardware and electronics, but for me it all starts from the base, the tone wood.


The day I start a new build is kind of a secret and exciting day. I close the workshop door and the background music and start to pick the different planks of wood from the wood “library”, I pick them by wight, grain and tap tone. All to understand how they will react as a part of a guitar. It’s like cooking, you want to balance between different ingredients and spices to make your own recipe and interpretation for your creation.

The tone woods helps me to get the right guitar tone for the client, when mixing them together in a build, they will provide a specific EQ, sustain, attack, dynamic and compression. Using all of this as a foundation for the construction, pickups and hardware that will come later, will get me much closer to the tone vision that I planed with the client. 

My woods of choice

One concept that lead me to choosing my tone wood species for Bunting guitars, was the history of the string instruments. Way back to the 17th century in Europe, 

when the Italian and Spanish tradition evolved, the Violin and the Spanish guitar.


My thought was to imagine myself as an electric guitar maker in times that all instruments where build by Luthiers and one at a time by hand. In this world that couldn’t exist, I probably would have learned a lot from the traditional Luthiers on the acoustic tone woods and how they use them for there builds. So I did learn from those traditions and took those amazing tone woods for my builds and experimented with them to find how they will improve and mixed into the electric guitar and not in an acoustic box form. 


All Bunting tone woods are air dried, sourced and even some are personally picked strait from the country of origin.  

Bosnian Maple -

Probably the base ingredient for the Bunting sound and unique look of all Bunting necks. The Bosnian Maple origin in the European Alps, and been used by Violin makers from Stradivarius to this day, it is the traditional tone wood for the Violin neck, back and sides. It’s a beautiful species of Maple, much lighter in wight from the north American Maple and still strong and stable. It has an amazing resonance, clear and with beautiful “woody” midrange. 

Spanish Cedar -

My introduction to this tone wood was from the Flamenco Spanish guitar, the Spanish Luthiers use it as the main tone wood for the neck, unlike the acoustic and classical guitar that use Mahogany. The Spanish Cedar is actually not Spanish and not Cedar at all, it’s native to central and south America and its grain and tone is closer to the Honduras Mahogany, lightweight, open grain and very musical with a pronouns midrange. It is one of the best replacement to the Honduras that has been used in the 50’s. 

European Spruce -

Best known for its high-quality reputation as a top choice for acoustic and classical guitars. I have started using it as a top for the Willow model, as a semi acoustic body for electric guitar but with a solid Spruce top, and I just loved it. Pretty soon after working with it, I had to try and make a solid body guitar out of it, and not just as an acoustic top. It has the tonal properties as Pine and swamp Ash. I found that the wide grain planks that doesn’t work as acoustic tops are actually the best as solid body, they are lightweight and has an amazing resonance, you can really feel and hear the acoustic properties of those guitars. And it has been one of my most used tone woods for solid body guitars since the first time I tried it. 

Fretboard -

I use the three traditional tone woods as fretboards. Rosewood, Maple, and Ebony. Each one has it’s own tone characteristics and I use those to get the tone, attack and sustain that I’m looking for. 


The most common one in my build is the Rosewood, I use a few species from the Rosewood family but mostly the Indian. If I will need to sum this big tone wood family and describe their tone and respond, I will say that they will have a worm tone (almost like it has a reverb in it), with a pronounced mid range, long sustain and nice attack. 


The Maple I use for my fretboards is the rock Maple, much harder and denser then the Bosnian Maple that I use for Bunting necks. The Maple tone would be almost the opposite from the rosewood, short sustain, scoped mid, dray sounding but with a nice clear attack. I will  also describe it as low fi, like having an EQ and compressor on your guitar recording that cuts the lows and the highs to achieve a focused tone that cuts through.


The last one is a tricky one. The Ebony. It is not my first choice for a solid body guitar but I do love it on the Willow model, which is a semi hollow guitar with a very live and resonate body. The Ebony would be the first classic choice for most string acoustic instruments, from the Violins to the Acoustic guitar. It has a wide range from lows to highs just like the rosewood but with a scoped mid range and much less sustain. To my ear those to aspects, the scoped mid and low sustain are actually good in hollow body guitars because if the body has a good natural resonance it’s better to “clean up” other long vibrations in the neck so it will not interfere and get all muddy together with the hollow body vibration. Just a note, Hollow body guitars that are build with laminated maple will not have the same liveliness and resonance, so I wouldn’t use the same tone thinking in those. 

Neck design

Many electric guitar builders will say to you that the neck has a major impact on the guitar sound and feel. And they will be right. How stiff or flexible the neck has a big influence on the guitar tone, feel, attack and sustain. 


The stiffness of the neck would be a sum of a many factors. The species of the wood, density, direction of the grain (quarter or flat sawn) and the thickness that will effect the mass of the neck.  

I chose the Bosnian Maple as my neck wood, it is much softer then the north American Maple so I prefer to get the perfect quarter sawn planks but with wide or less dens grain. I wouldn’t say that there is right or wrong in how stiff your neck is, but I find the necks that has some give in them and can flex with the strings, would give you an open and complex tone and not just hit you back in the face, or even don’t allow much vibration in the guitar.  


Most of Bunting models has a bolt-on neck. This classic Leo design, that I love, has a few issues. The first and most important would be the way it let energy flows from the neck to the body and back, this will effect the sustain and the all tone of the guitar. To my opinion sustain is overrated and not the most important in an electric guitar, but getting a good energy and vibration to allow all frequencies to flow between the neck and the body is really important. Because of that I made two major changes in my guitar neck design to get a better result, and it made the magic. So the first change was the neck heel. It is double in hight from the original design so you get much more contact area to allow vibration to path. And the second one is a ten degree headstock angle to allow better string tension on the nut without using the string tree that add a friction point to the string and can effect tuning stability. 

Solid body construction

The simplicity of the solid body guitars always fascinated me. How a simple slab of wood with pickups and six strings resonate so musically, and why one guitar sounds so much better than the others. For me, this is what started my curiosity to building guitars. I have started with swiping the electronics and pickups from my guitars, and play with it to get different character to my guitar tone. But it didn’t took to long for me to understand that a good guitar tone is much more than good pickups, and that I will have to start from the base to achieve the result I was looking for. The wood and construction of the guitar. 

Experimenting with different woods and looking for tone woods out of the electric guitar tradition, with the right qualities, got me to Bunting two main body woods of choice. The European Spruce and the Spanish Cedar. 

My tone thinking in a solid body guitar is very pure. Like Italian cooking, I’m letting the ingrains to shine and speak them tone. Dry and lightweight planks of wood that will let the sound waves to vibrate though the wood fibers and color the guitar tone by filtering some of the frequencies. 

One word to describe it all, resonance.

Simi-hollow body construction

Adding two elements to the solid body design, the wood box construction and air. Of course that I’m talking about the Willow model. The Willow has a semi hollow body that includes two parts. The cure, a hollow plank of Spanish Cedar with a solid block that goes half way though the body, and the solid European Spruce top that is tuned and braced to achieve maximum resonance and overtones.

The air in the semi hollow body adds another flavor to the sound of the guitar, it will give the guitar a clear and punchy bass and rounded softer highs.

Playing this semi hollow body construction is a very different experience to the classic solid body. The way the guitar interact with the amp is unique and rewarding, in clean and in drive.

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