If you’re in the market for a new acoustic guitar, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed – I can relate to that, I’ve been there many times and the market is indeed a minefield! It’s hard enough as it is to choose a brand, accessories, and whether you want it electric or solely acoustic, but then you have the nightmare of researching which wood your guitar should be made out of!
A popular wood for acoustic guitars these days is torrefied cedar – I would highly recommend it, but you might be wondering what that even means! Don’t worry though, because I’m experienced in this area and have done a ton of research on it in the past. I’ve decided to put together this guide on what torrefied cedar guitars are, helping to explain what they are, and why they are worth investigating, in addition to some of my top product recommendations.
Whether you’re a seasoned guitarist looking to expand your guitar collection, or a newbie searching for their first acoustic guitar, I’m sure that this guide to torrefied cedar guitars will lend you a helping hand. Read on to find out more!
Bottom Line Up Front:
Torrefied cedar guitars are guitars made from cedar that has been baked at high temperature for the removal of vapor, oils, and natural compounds, improving the resonance of the guitar whilst giving the wood a vintage, aged aesthetic. Guitars such as the Hatcher Pina Parlor pull this off perfectly, although they commonly come with a seriously high price tag.
What Is a Cedar Guitar?
The term “torrefied cedar guitar” sure has a lot of technical terms, so I think the best approach to understanding them is to break it down into little chunks. For now, let’s forget the ‘torrefied’ bit and focus on cedar, something you have probably heard of before.
Cedar is a type of wood that is used for all manner of different things, but one of the most popular use cases is for acoustic guitars. The wood can be commonly found in the top wood of acoustic guitars, especially on classical and steel-string acoustics. The wood is almost exclusively used for the top wood and therefore the qualities of the wood are primarily for tone, giving it the status of a ‘tonewood’.
Tonewoods are essentially woods that are used within the building of a guitar to help resonate the frequencies produced by the strumming of guitar strings. There are tons of different types of tonewood, but as I mentioned earlier, cedar is one of the best for acoustic guitars. Unlike its main competitor of spruce wood which produces clear and balanced tones focused around produced sustained resonance, cedar has a different tone profile.
It instead specializes in facilitating dark, warm, and full tones, generally being more bass and mid-heavy than spruce which focuses on neutral tones.
This ultimately makes it excellent for chord strums, producing deep and rich tones for any recording or performance session. Spruce would generally be a better idea if you’re looking to focus on the higher end of the guitar neck, but if you’re sticking below the twelfth fret (as most acoustic guitarists do), then cedar is a fantastic tonewood that I would highly recommend!
What Is Torrefied Cedar?
So, we’ve solved the first piece of the puzzle – you should now understand what cedar wood is and why it is used in the manufacturing of acoustic guitars. However, this doesn’t yet explain what ‘torrefied cedar guitars’ are – like, what the heck does torrefied mean? Don’t worry, because that’s exactly what I’m going to cover now!
I remember the first time I came across a torrefied cedar guitar – I wasn’t aware that this was what it was made from. I walked into Guitar Centre and it instantly caught my eye due to how vintage and unique it looked. I simply had to play it, and low and behold, when I tested it out, it sounded just as old and wise as it looked.
It turned out that this was because the cedar that the guitar was made from was torrefied. This is essentially the process of baking wood in high temperatures of up to 500 degrees. Once this temperature has been reached, the wood is cooled down, and then baked once again. This process is repeated until vapor, oils, and natural compounds have been excreted from the wood, essentially purifying it.
As we discussed earlier when I was explaining cedar, tonewoods are specifically used in the production of guitars to maximize the resonance of the instrument. However, this can be blocked by oils, vapor, and natural compounds, the exact stuff that the torrefaction process removes. So, as you can imagine, an acoustic guitar made from torrefied wood sounds even better than it would if it wasn’t torrefied.
Ultimately, the torrefaction process can be summarized as a cheat code for the aging of wood. Guitars that are made out of wood and then preserved for decades will sound and look awesome, purely due to the natural aging process that removes vapor, oils, and compounds.
However, torrefaction allows this process to be sped up significantly, leaving the purchaser of a guitar with an instrument that may only be a month old, yet has the characteristics both visually and audibly of a vintage guitar.
Why You Should Consider Purchasing a Torrefied Cedar Guitar
Just now I briefly explained the basic benefits of the torrefaction process on cedar acoustic guitars, but if you’re going to be convinced to look into buying one for yourself, you’ll need more information than that! Let me help you by providing you with some further insight into the four main benefits of torrefied cedar guitars – tone, aesthetic, value, and weight.
Ah, tone – that ubiquitous word in the musical world that is used to describe the sonic qualities of an instrument. You’ll hear it everywhere from jazz bands to synthesizer studios, but most commonly, you’ll hear it to describe the sound of a guitar. The tone of a guitar is affected by all manner of things including the electronic pickups used, tonal controls, effects pedals, and play style, but by far the most important contributor is the tonewoods used to produce the guitar.
As discussed earlier, cedar is one of the most commonly used tonewoods for the production of acoustic guitars, primarily due to the deep, rustic and full tone that it produces. However, tonewoods are not black and white – just because you’ve used cedar within the top wood of a guitar, this does not mean that you will experience the true tonal qualities of the wood.
There could be oils, vapor, and other natural compounds stored within the cedar wood that your guitar is made of, and whilst this is normal, it could greatly reduce the quality of the tone. Ideally, you want to find a cedar guitar with as few of these compounds inside as possible, providing the space that frequencies need to resonate freely within the tonewoods without interruption.
As mentioned already, there are two ways to achieve this – naturally aging the wood over decades or through torrefaction.
Ultimately, torrefied cedar guitars are going to have less natural compounds than freshly cut cedar, and this means that the deep and dark tones are amplified dramatically. Whilst torrefied cedar is certainly more expensive than buying regular cedar, it is my opinion that if you truly want to benefit from the sound profile of cedar, you simply have to ensure that it is torrefied. Simple!
Tone is by far the most important thing to consider when purchasing a new guitar, but let’s be honest – the main reason that most people get into guitars in the first place is that they look cool! This is why I believe that once you have decided on a guitar style, tonewood, and sound profile that you are happy with, it’s important to consider your options in terms of aesthetics.
Acoustic guitars are a lot more minimalistic in appearance in comparison to electric guitars, so your options for aesthetic customization are limited. However, one way to ensure that your acoustic stands out is by purchasing one made of aged wood.
Most people are aware of the visual benefits of aged wood – just take a look at a vintage mahogany coffee table or an old wooden house, and you’ll recognize instantly that it just looks more natural and has more detail than new wood bought from your local hardware store.
Guitars are no different – take a look at any vintage acoustic guitar regardless of the material that it is made from, and it will most certainly look better than its unaged equivalent. However, who can be bothered with waiting for decades to play the guitar simply because it helps it look cooler? If you wait that long, your hands may not be cut out for guitar playing anymore!
There’s a simple solution to this – buying a torrefied cedar guitar. It will have all of the aesthetic qualities of a vintage cedar guitar such as that roasted, hazy, organic visual appeal. However, instead of having to wait for half your lifetime to achieve such a look through natural processes, you can simply skip the queue and grab a torrefied guitar.
Trust me – you can go to Guitar Centre or another music store and compare the look of a torrefied cedar guitar versus a non-torrefied version. I guarantee that the torrefied one is going to have a ton more character.
If you’ve ever considered stepping out of the comfort of your guitar practice room to take to the stage for live performances, you’ve probably considered the comfort of playing your guitar standing up. It can feel a little unnatural when you first try it, and a lot of this is due to the weight distribution.
The components from the bridge upwards are generally quite light, whereas the body of the guitar is much heavier. This puts more weight around your torso when playing the instrument whilst standing up, and whilst not everyone will struggle with this, it can be a serious problem for some people.
There’s not much you can do about this – after all, woods such as cedar are heavy, yet they are necessary due to their excellent sound profiles. There is one thing you can do though, and that is to ensure that the cedar that your guitar is made out of is torrefied!
As explained earlier, the process of torrefaction gradually removes oils, natural compounds, and water vapor from the wood that is being baked, and some of these elements can be seriously heavy. You can think of it like a sponge – holding a dry sponge is incredibly light and can almost feel weightless, yet if you saturate that same sponge with water, it gets heavy quickly.
Wood is the same – if it’s filled with oils and vapor, it’s going to be heavier. Therefore, the removal of such compounds is going to make the wood lighter, it’s as simple as that. So, if you’re concerned about the weight of your guitar and you feel that it is weighing you down during live performances, torrefied cedar is certainly something that you should consider. I’m sure that it will take a lot of weight off of your shoulders (literally!)
Value over Time
The final point that I wanted to make regarding the benefits of torrefied cedar concerns something that many guitarists will not want to think about – value over time. The reason that people avoid this topic is that it implies that you are going to sell your guitar, and for many people, this is not something worth considering.
However, regardless of whether you aim to collect guitars forever or sell them at some point, it’s a smart financial decision to consider their value. After all, unexpected circumstances can arise in life, and whether you like it or not, this sometimes means selling the things that you love the most.
I will always remember doing this with a beloved torrefied cedar acoustic that I owned – I didn’t want to sell it, but the fact that the wood was torrefied gave it a significant boost in value, providing me with the leverage that I needed to ease my financial situation.
Luckily, I was able to buy back my guitar from the pawn shop once my situation improved, but that torrefaction process helped me! This additional value comes from the sheer fact that the torrefaction emulates the aging process, essentially giving a torrefied guitar the value of its vintage equivalent.
The best thing is that this is all achieved without actually having to wait through the aging process – it’s like skipping the queue! Even better, a torrefied guitar will continue to age, making it sound and look even better over time. Now that’s what I call value over time!
My Top Torrefied Cedar Guitar Recommendations
Now that we’ve got to the bottom of what a torrefied cedar guitar is and the many benefits that it provides, let’s step away from the details and focus on what’s important – the products available for you to investigate! I’ll be providing my three favorite torrefied cedar guitar recommendations, and I hope that it helps reduce your research time a little bit!
The first torrefied cedar guitar that has made my list is the Sipe Guitars’ Torrefied Western Red Cedar Classical Guitar, and my god is this a beauty of a guitar! Sipe Guitars has been on my radar for ages so I was thrilled to see that they were producing a torrefied cedar classical, and it looks as good (if not better) than anything else I’ve seen them produce.
The magic here is in the torrefied Western Red Cedar top, complemented beautifully by the Macassar Ebony back and sides. There is a ton of other features that make this guitar stand out such as its increased scale size, wheat purfling motif, and even fret wire made out of black buffalo horns! The guitar is currently available to order directly from the producer, but watch out, because you might have a long wait due to its unique nature!
- Top made from torrefied Western Red cedar
- The top wood is complemented beautifully with Macassar Ebony back and side wood
- Fantastically unique touches such as a wheat purfling motif across the guitar
- Sipe Guitars have a fantastic reputation for unique guitars
- It’s a classical guitar, so it may not be for everyone
- Made to order, which could result in a long wait
Printer2’s Torrefied Cedar Acoustic Guitar
The next guitar on my list of recommendations is… well, it’s not a recommendation. This is a unique list entry because there isn’t much information about the guitar, other than that it was produced by a dude called Printer2 on AcousticGuitarForum.com.
In a thread I discovered, this guitar luthier stated that after many months, he completed a stunning acoustic guitar with top wood made from torrefied cedar, alongside a mahogany and maple neck and a jatoba fretboard! It honestly gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
Whilst you may not be able to purchase this guitar (although it’s certainly worth a try), I think it is worth listing as it shows that anyone can make a torrefied cedar guitar. Sure, the process may be complicated, but with some basic DIY classes and the right wood supplier, it may just be simpler than you think to build your own torrefied cedar guitar. Maybe you should give Printer2 a message for some tips!
- A traditional acoustic guitar, as opposed to being a classical alternative
- Produced by a single luthier, as opposed to being mass-produced
- Features torrefied cedar top wood, alongside a mahogany and maple neck and a jatoba fretboard
- An inspiration to all aspiring guitar luthiers
- There’s not much information available about this guitar, so it’s hard to provide further specifications.
- It would appear that there are only one of these guitars in existence, which would make it very expensive to purchase
The final guitar that I have decided to list as one of my recommendations is the Hatcher Pina Parlor Acoustic Guitar, a guitar that I have seen appear on many marketplaces online. Its torrefied cedar top wood, ebony back and sides and koa neck is tantalizing, to say the least, and many a time I have been ready to click that “add to basket button”.
Alas, there is one major problem here – the guitar’s market value is approximately $7,500! That’s right – whilst the price varies depending on where you shop, it’s an incredibly expensive guitar due to its unique parlor design and use of torrefied wood, and I can only begin to imagine how good it sounds. I’ve even seen some varieties of this guitar going for over $10,000!
However, it goes without saying that if you are made of money and are happy to spend your hard-earned cash on a masterpiece of a guitar, you can’t get much better than this Hatcher torrefied cedar guitar!
- A truly stunning example of the majestic aesthetic that torrefied cedar can deliver
- Paired beautifully with ebony back and sides and a koa neck
- Easily available for purchase online
- The price is enough to make any guitarist’s eyes water
Answer: Yes! Cedar is an excellent top wood for acoustic guitars, especially for classical guitars or any guitarist looking to achieve deep and dark tones.
Answer: Torrefied cedar guitars are guitars that are made from cedar that has been baked at high temperatures to remove oils, vapor, and natural compounds, providing various tonal and aesthetic benefits.
Answer: Whilst torrefied wood is known to have many tonal and aesthetic benefits, it also decreases the weight of the guitar that it is applied to whilst also increasing its value.
Well, that brings me to the end of this guide to torrefied cedar guitars! I hope that it has helped you understand exactly what they are, and why so many people are willing to pay for them! The tone is incredible, especially when it comes to finely crafted examples such as the Hatcher Pina Parlor, and if you have the cash to splash, you’d be crazy not to grab one.
I wish you the best of luck on your guitar journey, and I hope that this guide has helped you understand the importance of high-quality guitar manufacturing. Thanks for reading!