Cedar Tops

Wednesday, May 1, 2013
By: Bob Taylor

Question: I have been playing guitar for many years and am the proud owner of a 314ce. My next purchase will be a 512ce with a cedar top and mahogany [back and] sides. I am mostly a fingerstyle player and have always wanted a cedar-topped, small-body guitar. But my guitar friends say cedar tops are prone to crack, are too soft for a viable guitar top, and won’t last. In fact, they say that is the reason why Martin won’t even use cedar for any of their guitars.

I still really have my heart set on this guitar but was curious as to your thoughts on cedar. Do they show up for repairs more often than other guitars, and why do people seem to think cedar is only good for light-braced, nylon classical guitars? -- Bob S.


Answer: Bob, you have to choose your friends more wisely. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Tell them I love them. Okay, let’s think about it. I’ll bet Takamine uses cedar on almost all the steel-string guitars they’ve made for decades. No cracks really. We’ve made thousands of cedar-topped guitars. Cedar might crack slightly more than spruce on our guitars, but really just barely. The truth is that we have very few cracks at all with either wood. Don’t worry about it. We dry the wood well and assemble the guitar to avoid things like cracking. If they’re abused with low humidity, either will crack, but don’t worry about cedar. Plunge headfirst into it.