Traditional Tonewoods

From tree to tonewood, we select only the best.

"Spruce has been used for centuries as an ideal tonewood since the days of Stradivari."


Spruce has all the properties that are important for radiating sound. Considered to be the best wood sonically for soundboards, spruce is light and strong, with a high strength to weight ratio. Spruce is also stiff across the grain, both radially and longitudinally. We quarter saw the spruce to maintain sound, strength and integrity in all our soundboards. At Pacific Rim Tonewoods, we offer three types of spruce:

• Sitka spruce has a slightly higher density and is preferred for steel string guitars. Grown at sea level from northern California to southeast Alaska, Sitka spruce is slightly more yellow in tone. Sitka grows in a 1,000 mile radius so can vary in density due to the different environments it grows in.

• Engelmann spruce is found inland in the Cascade mountains at elevations of 3,000 to 4,000 feet. It’s the whitest of all the spruce species and has a lower density than Sitka.

• A mid tone spruce, Lutz is found in a small radius in northern British Columbia and is therefore very consistent in its properties. Like Engleman, Lutz is popular with classical and smaller instrument makers because of its lower density.

Grades: AA, AAA, AAAA  

Figured Maple

Big Leaf maple grows in a 500 mile radius in the area around the mill in Washington State. Primarily used for backs and sides, maple complements spruce in the sound of a guitar, giving it a certain flavor. Highly valued by luthiers for its beauty, figured maple is becoming harder and harder to find. This is one of the reasons Pacific Rim Tonewoods has been working to propagate and cultivate figured maple in the Skagit and surrounding valleys, ensuring there is beautiful maple well into the future.

Grades: AAA, AAAA  


Found nowhere else in the world, Hawai'i koa is revered for both its beauty and resilience, and is sought after by both luthiers and furniture makers. Koa is often used for backs and sides, with a balanced sound that complements the spruce soundboard. Valued for its beautiful figure and rich, dark tones, entire guitars made from this totemic wood are becoming more desirable. In order to meet demand, Pacific Rim Tonewoods has established a forestry project in Hawai'i to ensure a supply of koa wood into the next century.

Grades: AA, AAA, AAAA  

Traditional Grading

Whether you’re looking to test drive a solid AA spruce soundboard, or want extraordinary figure in AAAA koa back and sides, we have tonewood for every budget and aesthetic. 

With over 35 years of experience grading wood, Pacific Rim Tonewoods offers luthiers and guitar makers:

Book matched soundboards, backs and side sets

Clear distinction between grades

A guitar top free from defects within the template 

Soil quality, sun, rainfall, and wind all affect how a tree grows. More importantly, the forest environment as a whole also affects the character of its wood. This is why we not only hand select each log that our traditional tonewoods come from, but with a craftsman’s eye, find the best guitar in every soundboard we sell.

Milling the Best Wood

At Pacific Rim Tonewoods, we take great care and pride when we break a log down and manufacture its parts into musical instrument components. Our focus is always on obtaining the right quality while maximizing the yield in each log. An eye towards quarter, maintaining sharp saws, and minimizing waste allows us to provide the highest quality product in the most sustainable way possible.

Shop Tonewoods

At Pacific Rim Tonewoods, we work with wood that is milled for the eye and the ear. Along with spruce, maple and koa, our Traditional Collection includes rosewood and ebony, sourced ethically from around the world. For one of a kind, limited edition pieces, visit The Vault.