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Guitar figured maple tops The use of maple wood tops (boards of small thickness within 20mm) which are glued over a guitar or bass body to fine tune the instrument tone to a specific frequency range, is very common for both a matter of look (especially when the body wood is not figured) and tone.

Woods like alder or mahogany are very neutral sounding and missing some of the brightness typical of harder woods like of maple.

The use of hardwood tops accentuates the string's presence, attack and brightness delivering a more even and balanced tone.


Maple wood is the most used wood for this purpose both for its tonal characteristic and for the wonderful look of its figured species like curly maple, flame maple, spalted maple, quilted maple, etc.



Frudua Carved Slave Pentabass with 25 mm quilted maple top
and mahogany body. Pictured above Frudua GFT-Semi Hollow Body.

Here's a brief list of the woods used for tops on electric instruments:

  • hollow body tops: these are usually made of spruce over the most expensive ones or in plywood on the cheaper models.
    This kind of top is called "sound board" and it normally carved on both top and bottom following very specific measurements using a thickness caliber to guarantee the best compromise between tone and stiffness (resistance).
    In case of plywood this is made through a mould.

  • Tops over semi-hollow body o solid body guitars: these are usually tone boards which thickness may range for 6 to over 20mm glued on a mahogany or other neutral body wood which inside has tone chambers.
    In this case the top is most commonly carved on top only but on some guitar, to achieve a more acoustical tone and sustain, the top is also carved on the bottom (see the Frudua C Pro photo below).

  • The Frudua Direct Deal Carved Pro model top is carved both front and rear .

    Finally there is another solution called "drop top" or "contoured drop top": in this case a thin layer of maximum 7mm in heat bent over a guitar or bass body which was sometimes also beforehand carved for the forearm contour and are therefore most commonly seen over tele or strat shapes. Drop tops also offer the chance to "tune" the overall instrument tone by adding this bit of extra brightness and attack which some electric guitar made in neutral wood like mahogany, ash (swamp ash) and basswood may need.

    An handmade Frudua GFT-SHB with tone chambers
    and contoured drop top .



    Finally a mention for look. Maple is a very clear and sometimes highly figured wood and we can take advantage of this to obtain wonderful aniline three dimensional transparent colours as you see on many very expensive instruments all around the world.

    HINTS AND TIPS
    When trying to thickening a blank of flame maple wood, no matter if it's maple or exotic one, instead of planing in the grain direction, try to plane at 45. This will prevent the flame figure to get damaged by the plane.
    Different grain pattern on figured and plain maple.

    A Frudua GFF-MIX quilted maple contoured top after aniline treatment
    covered by the first sealer coat.

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