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I'm going to make my first attempt at carving an archtop pretty soon. I don't want to risk my good billets on a process I haven't been through before. I'd rather try to make an archtop out of budget wood first, just to go through all of the steps once before I commit more expensive resources to the project. Necks, sides, and fingerboards are no problem. However, billets large enough to use for tops and backs are a little hard to come by. What is the most economical material that you would recommend for this purpose?
How about a spruce 2x8 or 2x10? Although it won’t be quartersawn, you can pick though the pile and find one with two 21” knot free sections.
Yeah, it looks like a 2x10 would be sufficinet in actual dimensions, and it looks like my local hardware store stocks it. I might be able to get a pair of tops out of a 2x10x10. And maybe I can cobble together enough 5/4 - 6/4 maple for a 3 piece back. That ought to work.
If there's a hardwood place nearby you might be able to get a wide board of poplar or birch for a back. If you have a bandsaw you can re-saw a 6/4 board 8" or 10" wide and get a book match. These, and especially the poplar, would be fairly easy to carve, and can actually make a nice instrument if they turn out well enough. There are lots of birch Gibsons out there, and Strad used poplar for violas and 'cellos.
I start with 1" thick boards, so resawing a 6/4 board is a non-starter. My first archtop was a 2X8 of fine grained fully quartersawn cedar from Home Depot, in their decking pile. It's not book-matched, and it's a four piece top, but I think it came out great. What I would do is buy utility grade pieces from a place like https://www.woodtoworks.com/Engelmann-S ... 27918.html they have inexpensive tops and backs from time to time if you pick through their offerings.