Local woods

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
Alan Clark
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Local woods

Post by Alan Clark » Sat Feb 20, 2016 12:32 pm

I am planning to build a guitar, purely for my own satisfaction, from local wood that I have a connection with. It will be based somewhat on a guitar with a most beautiful body shape, the 1825 "Aine" by Pons. The back will be a five piece, and the sides each from two strips of wood. So, all narrow strips, easy for me to cut on my 10" circular saw.
For the back, sides, neck and head I am going to use European Ash, from a very straight modest sized tree I cut down in a friend's wood a couple of years ago. ( The original plan was to make some wooden bows from this tree until I split it in half and saw a guitar body in there...)
For the fingerboard, bridge, bindings, dark strips between the back slats and pegs I'm going to use Laburnum, a dense heavy wood with a lovely rich dark brown colour. It came from a garden in a nearby village.
So far, so good. But what about the soundboard wood? I live close to extensive Forestry Commission softwood plantations, so wouldn't have any trouble getting hold of a nice softwood log. But we are not very high up here in North Yorkshire, so anything grown locally would be rather wide in the grain. Should I simply get hold of the best I can and give it a go? Or should I duck the problem and use a nice piece of Alpine spruce that I've had lying around from when I used to make lutes?
I would be interested in your advice on this.

Alan

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Michael.N.
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Re: Local woods

Post by Michael.N. » Sat Feb 20, 2016 12:55 pm

Good decision on the model. You worried about wide grained wood? No fear:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdI0cyCTDRo

Doesn't sound too bad considering some of that grain must be a heady 4 or 5 grains per inch! So much for master grade tonewood.

Not convinced? How about Bouchet's first guitar:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ED-Nw9TKaso#t=10

Difficult to see on that video but take a look at the GSI photo's:

http://www.guitarsalon.com/store/p4893- ... uchet.html

We might be down to 3 or 4 grains per inch!

In any case that type of romantic guitar has a relatively stiff soundboard, nowhere near the flexible nature of the Spanish models. Think of the lute and how all the braces make for a rigid soundboard. I'm pretty sure a reasonably light weight pine (or fir) is suitable and I wouldn't worry too much about a 3 or 4 piece top.
I've used laburnum for a fretboard. It's hard enough providing the player keeps the nails trimmed. You probably know that laburnum starts off a bit green looking but it does turn a fairly dark brown eventually.
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Alan Clark
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Re: Local woods

Post by Alan Clark » Sat Feb 20, 2016 1:26 pm

Michael, thank you for the links. Those guitar soundboards are a real eye opener, especially the Bouchet. Those 3 or 4 grains per inch have given me all the incentive I need to give some local spruce/fir/ pine a try.
Regarding Laburnum, I have never used it but noticed on the logs I split how exposure to light turned it dark. I did hear that it has a natural oiliness that makes it difficult to glue. Not sure if this is true but it's something I can investigate. If it is true, I could use something else for the bridge. I've got some nice Damson branches that I cut off a tree in my garden...

Alan

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Michael.N.
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Re: Local woods

Post by Michael.N. » Sat Feb 20, 2016 1:48 pm

I haven't used Laburnum for a bridge, just the fretboard. I can't say that it proved difficult to glue. Doubt that it's any worse than Rosewood and that glues perfectly fine with hide glue. Try gluing a few off cuts and do a few destruction tests. I'm pretty certain that it will be fine.
Somewhere I have a few spruce boards with very wide grain, maybe not quite as wide as those previous examples though. It could be up to a very fine 7 or 8 grains per inch! No idea where it was grown (certainly Europe) but I'm tempted to use it for an experimental model.
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Alan Clark
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Re: Local woods

Post by Alan Clark » Sat Feb 20, 2016 2:14 pm

Michael, possibly the "oiliness" of Laburnum is just a rumour. As you say it will be easy enough to suss out.
I should have mentioned that I live by a river and have some willow trees at the bottom of the garden. Internal blocks, and linings?
Hazel should be good for linings too. A lovely lightweight creamy wood to cut. Made a bow out of it once. There's lots of it in the hedgerows round here.
I am cutting the Ash up at the moment. (Just came in for a warm) As an alternative, for another guitar, I could use Sycamore for the back and sides. I got some nice logs when my next-door neighbour cut a tree down a couple of years ago. I also have a very nice Cherry log that came from a local National Trust garden where my wife works as a volunteer. Got some nice Yew from there as well.

So, no shortage of very useable hardwoods. It was only the soundboard wood that seemed to be a potential problem. Seeing that wide grained spruce on the Bouchet guitar has removed that problem. Looks like I'm going to be busy.
Thanks again Michael.

Alan

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Michael.N.
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Re: Local woods

Post by Michael.N. » Sat Feb 20, 2016 3:21 pm

Cherry could be useful for the neck, providing it's reasonably straight grained. A bit harder to carve than the usual Mahogany/Cedrela. In fact it's also good for back/sides. No real shortage of options. Of course Yew is also suitable for back/sides and can look pretty spectacular. It's just a matter of getting it without too many swirls or large knots. I've used figured Ash on one lute bowl, many years ago. That can look spectacular too but plain Ash is perfectly fine.
BTW I helped a friend make a couple of laminated bows, although he was the one with the knowledge on bows and all things archery. I just made the jig/mould for the recurve. One was Maple/Ash, the other Maple/Walnut.
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Alan Clark
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Re: Local woods

Post by Alan Clark » Sat Feb 20, 2016 4:00 pm

Michael, it sounds like your bowmaking friend really did know what he was doing -getting you to do all the hard work making the mould.
I bet the figured Ash lute body looked good. I re-fretted a Stephen Barber lute a few years ago that had figured Ash ribs. Very nice. The owner said the wood came from Hungarian railway carriages!
I have quite a bit of nice Yew left over from wood that I used to get from a little sawmill when I lived in Staffordshire. It all came off a nearby country estate. Used a lot on lute backs, though I did make some longbows from it as well. I have some matching pieces that will make a Classical guitar, if I go for a three piece back. Would Yew make a good neck? (I do like things to match!) A bit heavy perhaps. And it does have low bend strength of course.

Alan

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Michael.N.
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Re: Local woods

Post by Michael.N. » Sat Feb 20, 2016 4:39 pm

The Ash lute bowl:

Image

My friend cruelly termed it gingham. :shock:
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Alan Clark
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Re: Local woods

Post by Alan Clark » Sat Feb 20, 2016 5:02 pm

Very nice!
Nice body shape too. Hieber? Venere?

Alan

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Michael.N.
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Re: Local woods

Post by Michael.N. » Sat Feb 20, 2016 5:26 pm

Yes, Wendelio Venere. Can't remember his original name, I think it was changed to make it sound Italian. Probably one of the Bavarian Fussen makers. Clever marketing goes back a long way.
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Scot Tremblay
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Re: Local woods

Post by Scot Tremblay » Sat Feb 20, 2016 5:43 pm

Michael.N. wrote:Yes, Wendelio Venere. Can't remember his original name, I think it was changed to make it sound Italian. Probably one of the Bavarian Fussen makers. Clever marketing goes back a long way.
Tieffenbrucher or sometimes spelled Dieffenbrucher, Duiffoprugcar and even Dubrocard...and you are right that his family originally came from Fussen, Bavaria (Probably the town of Tieffenbruck) with some going to Bologna and others to Padua. A favourite lute shape for many makers these days.
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"One picture is worth a thousand words. So, for me, one good note put where it should be put, will say what it will take some people many notes to say. ~B.B. King, 1986

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Filipp
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Re: Local woods

Post by Filipp » Tue Feb 23, 2016 4:29 pm

The first video, just pause at 0:12 sec.
Second video, pause at 1:17 sec and contemplate...

Off the topic but can't help but think if PhotoShop will be used soon to "help fix things up" like grain width or colours or....
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Alan Clark
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Re: Local woods

Post by Alan Clark » Wed Mar 02, 2016 7:01 pm

I may have got what I need for the soundboard. When I asked a friend who does some local woodland management if he could find a nice pine tree, he said that a larch had come down a few years ago in his local wood.
He later rang me to say he had cut a four foot length that was dead straight with no side branches.
I collected it yesterday , cut it into two 2 foot lengths, and split one of them into quadrants. Although the log is only about 9 inches in diameter, the middle of the tree is off-centre, so I have split quartered faces of about 5 inch width. So a 3 piece front is on the cards. There are about 10 growth rings per inch, with early growth not much wider than Summer growth, all without a blemish or a knot. This is considerably finer grained wood than I thought I was going to get. And it is fairly dry.
But the wood is Larch. I am not sure of its soundboard qualities, but will have more idea when I've cut it thin and dried it out a bit more. It is known as Tamarack in the U.S. I believe.

Alan

Dave M
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Re: Local woods

Post by Dave M » Wed Mar 02, 2016 9:57 pm

Alan a quick check on the Young's modulus and density suggests that Larch ought to work well as soundboard material. The figures look comparable to spruce. Don't know how good my source of info is. I have certainly not heard of larch (Larix occidentalis) being used by anyone. Maybe the other properties such as damping are not so good.

Anyway I do like the idea of the project . Cheers Dave
Dave

Alan Clark
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Re: Local woods

Post by Alan Clark » Thu Mar 03, 2016 1:54 pm

Dave, thanks for your encouragement.
I planed the best faces of the split Larch log this morning, then sawed off four 6mm thick boards. Enough for a 3 piece top plus one spare. It is quite fibrous and has a slight tendancy to tear out along the grain. But it's not quite dry yet. I feel confident I will get a good smooth finish on dry wood with a sharp plane and scraper. There is plenty left for cross braces and linings.

It does seem to have possibilities. When I was making lutes I wouldn't have used it. It would have seemed too dense, with the summer growth too hard. I always went for European Spruce, something more homogenous, more like crisp stale cheese, so the rose could be carved easily. Coincidentally this also seemed to produce the best sound. I also had the customer to worry about then; this is just a fun project, to satisfy a renewed interest in making a musical instrument, for myself.

Alan

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