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Knowing How to Grade Tonewood

master grade

Tonewood plays a significant role in the sound of acoustic guitars. The difference is an obvious one, and even untrained ears can tell. The higher the quality of your tonewood, the better the sound will be. Depending on the tone you’re going for, you want to select a wood with the ideal hardness, density, porosity, oil/moisture content, and grain structure. These attributes can usually be determined through grading. Read more below for a key on how to grade tonewood.

Master Grade Tonewood

This is the best grading available for guitar tonewood. To achieve “Master Grade” tonewood must score in the highest range in several evaluations. A Master Grade is very stiff with uniformed colors and natural rays and flecks. All grain lines run straight and the edge grains are parallel. The Sitka Spruce we use is only of this quality. If it is not, we don’t use it for tonewood.

AAA Grade:

These are still very good; AAA Grade tonewood is almost as good as Master Grade. However, these tonewood didn’t achieve master grade for one minor detail. This is usually something cosmetic, and it will often come close to master grade. Some may try to pass off AAA as master grade, but remember… Master Grade is meant to be “perfect.” Check for grains that run off course, even if it’s mildly. Any knot shadows or out of place markings are signs that it is not perfect.

High AA Grade (HAA):

This is still a great quality of words. Though the grains are still evenly spaced and the tonewood is quality, this wood is not considered perfect. There are noticeable cosmetic flaws that demote this wood. This is a very affordable tonewood, and is used by large, corporate guitar manufacturers.

Below these, you have tonewood that is of lesser quality, which may mean, deviation in grain runs, faded color, and knot shadows.

–Low AA Grade (LAA)
–Select A Grade (SA)
–A Grade
–Low A Grade (LA)
–B Grade



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