Pau Ferro is a tonewood well known especially for electric guitar players, where it enjoys great popularity as a fretboard material. Its warm tone is similar to Indian Rosewood, but offers wilder patterns and a rich colour palette from beige to dark dark brown.
Each piece of wood used on our solid body guitars has been personally and expertly selected based on its individual acoustic and physical properties. Only about 5% of the material we test will pass our final selection.
Hand voicing & Tap tuning
The top is the acoustic heart of the guitar, but each one is a little different. That’s why we invest a lot of time in hand voicing and tap-tuning the braces, adapting them to the character of the top.
Hand crafting the body of the guitar
The wild grain of some tonewoods is enchanting, but it is crucial to marry the back plate to the sides with great care, with precision joinery and sensitively matching the color and material of the inlays, bindings and purfling.
The Body-Neck joint
The way in which the body is joined to the neck influences the guitar’s stability, final playability, and sound. The traditional Dovetail on our Vintage and Master series is chosen deliberately, but if you are looking for something more modern, try our Aura with a bolt-on neck.
The Open Pore finish is one of our most popular and long-standing favorites, and we have found it to be an acid-cured varnish that can be applied in a very thin layer to bring out the natural texture of the wood. However, if a glossier finish suits your taste, we are also happy to supply a Gloss Top, Full Gloss, or a special Vintage Semigloss.
The Bridge and The Frets
The right choice of bridge and saddle position has a significant impact on the sound
That’s why we “pre-knock“ them all and choose only those that have the potential for high quality sound transfer. We also make sure that the frets are positioned and finished properly so that the playing experience is as pleasant and smooth as possible.
Set - up
A well-set-up guitar is an integral part of the manufacturing process. Hand finishing of the fretboard and saddle accompanied by control of the neck angle is essential for a comfortable string height. Our “factory” setting is 2.5mm to 2.7mm at the 12th fret.
Before our guitars leave Dowina’s gates, we take time to thoroughly inspect them. Whether it’s visually appealing or acoustically refined, when our quality controller doesn’t like something, the guitar goes back into production to rectify any flaws.
Macassar is a very dense hardwood sourced mainly in Indonesia. Its dramatic appearance with multicoloured stripes is what attracted us at first glance. It has a resonant and clear sound and especially strong bass, but it needs time to open up fully.
Khaya or African Mahogany is the most popular exotic tone wood used on guitars. Its great advantage is its lightness, so even larger bodies are not particularly heavy. It plays especially well in mid-range. If combined with cedar, it creates a mellow, almost honeyed sound, rich with overtones. On the other hand, if matched with spruce, it rounds out the sound, increasing the mellowness, which can be attractive for those who consider spruce a little too sharp.
Cocobolo is the flagship of our Master series, and with good reason - it’s costly and not easy to work. Time, effort, and exceptional skill are required to get the best from this magnificent hardwood. We use it because its beauty is unrivalled - there is no other wood offering such a spectacular palette of colours. Put simply, a cocobolo back is absolutely stunning and, of course, no two pieces are alike so when you buy an instrument from this series you can rest assured that you’ve purchased a unique and staggeringly beautiful piece. It's not just very pretty. Cocobolo delivers acoustically in spades, with clear highs and deep lows. The sound is unmistakable and speaks of the highest quality available.
Rosewood has it all. With its near-perfect acoustic qualities, it offers great support to all kinds of top plates. With cedar, it makes a powerful combo with long sustain and cathedral volume, if combined with spruce it adds precision and depth. Some love a straight grain, uniform look, while others prefer wilder patterns and colours. We try to keep both types in stock, so there is plenty to choose from.
Granadillo is one of the densest and hardest woods we use. It comes in different colours and sometimes quite startling patterns depending on the cut of the lumber. Similar to macacauba, it’s sometimes called Mexican rosewood since it shares similar properties with its East Indian cousin. If you’re looking for an instrument that is light in weight, however, this isn’t for you. A heavier guitar made with Granadillo with its exceptionally rigid structure will deliver very clear articulation and a bell–like ring. If matched with Swiss spruce it is the perfect fingerstyle guitar with each note clearly separated.
This Madagascar miracle resonates in a way that no other material does. It is rightly compared to Brazilian rosewood, which is the holy grail among all acoustic woods. Its resources are limited because the cut was banned many years ago, and we fully support that decision. However, we still have enough of our old - stocked, more than 26 years old material, to satisfy demanding clients looking for a unique sound experience.
This African hardwood is one that no one can overlook. With its fresh and vibrant reddish colour, it makes each guitar into a showcase piece. Its visual appearance is not the only thing that makes it special, it has an incredibly fast response time and great sustain. Gutsy and powerful across the frequency range but particularly at the bass end, it’s a good choice for both smaller and larger models. As the years pass it will become darker but will still look fresh years from now.
This Central and South American material has exceptional sound properties due to its very tightly arranged structure. Purple heart is dense and usually very regularly structured offering a fast projection of the sound through the body. But frankly speaking, its vibrant purple colour is what makes it a unique tone wood. We like to combine it with Swiss spruce and flamed maple, which creates a great contrast.
Not a lot of luthiers use this wood. We think it’s magical, so we are happy to be one of the few having a Macacauba guitar in our portfolio. The grain is richly coloured with orange, brown, and sometimes a beautiful, wild red. Being highly resonant, it can support both deep bass and high treble for a unique playing experience.
Ebony has enjoyed great popularity for years because of its elegant rich black colour, but the truth is that most ebony wood is not black at all. Bob Taylor, who started to use wild ebony on his guitars in a big way, has a great credit in the education. And once one discovers the beauty of these exotic pieces, there is no going back. We decided to use Exotic Ebony as a body material in an unconventional way. The guitar has its weight, but it will give off a powerful bass and a nice warm tone.
We wanted to include something in our range where the wood was locally grown and in combination with European spruce could produce an instrument that satisfied our criteria for sustainability as well as making something unusual. We considered Cherry or a local Walnut, but then we came across an exceptional log of local Oak, harvested just a few kilometres from our workshop. We managed to source over 200 sets of back and sides from it. Half of it is gone already, used on our Master model DUB. So, if a nicely flamed local Oak is what your heart longs for, don’t wait too long. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. Acoustically it sounds a lot like walnut with a bit more guts at the bottom end.
Walnut is well known for its dense structure and stiffness. Some pieces are truly magnificent, with extravagant patterns and a beautiful colour palette. Acoustically, walnut is strong in bass and mid-range, so it works beautifully with the big boys – dreadnoughts and jumbos. Occasionally, we come across a particularly resonant plate, we then put it on one side for our Tribute to Walnut collection where, unusually, it’s used on the top plate as well. This creates something visually very attractive with a quite specific, well-rounded, mid-range sound.
Luxurious looking, with a nice, bright sound, and amazingly regular flames, that’s good maple. For centuries it has been used on bowed instruments, indeed violins made in the 17th century are still being played, those by Stradivari and Guarnieri are considered some of the best that have ever been made. So, its longevity and ability to mature are undeniable. Maple adds a bell-like colour to the tone with an unmistakable treble ring.
Our friends in Switzerland are as passionate as we are. We visit frequently to pick out the very best ‘moon spruce’ from which we make acoustically exceptional tables. The selection process takes time, expertise and long experience. There is a myth that very tight grain is universally desirable – in fact, this is not the case. Attractive as it undoubtedly is, a tight, straight grain does not always make the finest tops, and careful selection is what makes a master luthier different from somebody who just chooses the pattern based on looks alone. A guitar is a dynamic instrument and if the wood is too weak the table will not ‘sound’ correctly and will frequently deteriorate with age. Good spruce must have a certain rigidity yet also be light in weight. Our Swiss tables meet these criteria very well achieving outstanding acoustic consta. Sometimes with the added advantage of a hint of bear claw about them, which increases cross-grain stiffness, so they look as well as sound attractive.
The neck of the guitar is loaded by string tension corresponding to masses of between 70kg to 100kg, equivalent to a fully grown man hanging from it and trying to bend it. Moreover, the neck cross-section at the weakest point is only about 6 cm2. Rigidity and resistance to deformation is therefore a priority. Various metals or composite bracing are used to counteract the dimensional changes caused by the tension of the strings, in other words, to prevent warping. We are aware that even under these extreme tensions, the surface of the fingerboard must retain flatness or a very slight bow, within tolerances of tenths of millimeters. Therefore, the method and point of attachment of the neck is optimised for strength and reliability. A well-designed and manufactured neck means that the instrument will perform as desired for a very long time. We have developed an innovative neck for our concept guitar Aura, which has a 5-piece neck with needle reinforcement and a hidden heel.
Analysing quantitative data on the properties of timber we use informs the quality of the final product. It enables us to select and process wood in the best possible way Further, results are used to create strict in-house norms using standard materials and optimal manufacturing practices. Analysis allows us to set in place quality control procedures for each operation within the manufacturing process to reduce losses caused by using acoustically inadequate, dry, or poorly processed materials. What this basically means is that we have quantitative data available about how the wood behaves under different environmental conditions and how these influence the resultant sound. The quality of the acoustic palette is influenced by thermal modification, changes in the surface of the wood, or other processes thus in co-operation with Slovak Technical University, our R&D team is constantly experimenting with and evaluating our materials and production methods.
By analysing vibrations, we can evaluate the sound characteristics of a guitar using a number of physical parameters such as acoustic pressure, the spectral composition of a tone, and sustain – the length of decay plus reverberations within the body of the guitar. We do this to better understand what physical properties lead to the subjective feeling of a ‘good’ sound. Sometimes described as ‘colour’, or, more properly, ‘timbre’, the complex harmonics an instrument produces may make sounds that can be described as either light or dark, glossy or matt, heavy or light, warm or cold, and so on so the more information we have, the better we can create acoustic excellence as per customer requirements. We are currently in the process of developing psychoacoustic tests, where volunteers listen to guitars with different measurable variables and select those which they like the best. As we collect more data, we will share the results with you later this year.
Temperature and humidity fluctuate throughout the year, and some important guitar components change shape and size in response. We monitor the changes these cause and we take steps to eliminate them as much as possible. We are very aware that wood improperly stored can have catastrophic effects on both manufacture and long-term acoustic excellence. Dry or overheated wood can crack, damp timber may warp. Samples of resonant timber with known properties are therefore monitored as to how they respond to changes in climatic conditions during standard production. We have mechanisms in place that allow us to quantify the relationships and mutual influences of environmental parameters on the dimensional stability of the relevant elements of the guitar. Hence, we have precise data to work with and consequently can develop better solutions for our clients.
The Ancient Spirit of WoodOur series