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benros

 

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wood choices for soundboard strutting 

hey all, im thinking about which wood to choose for the strutting of my sitka soundboard. my intuition is to take the same wood for the strutting as for the soundboard, but have heard alot about luthiers who always use the same wood for the struts equal what wood the soundboard is. what do you think about that topic? which wood(s) do you use for strutting and why?
greetings,
ben
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 15 2016 13:32:33
 
constructordeguitarras

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From: Seattle, Washington, USA

RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to benros

I always use Engelmann spruce for soundboard bracing and usually for the soundboard too. I started using Engelmann when I found a sawyer in Canada who sold great wood at reasonable prices, in bulk. I stocked up. It is convenient to always use wood that you know the properties of; it makes it easier to get reproducible results.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 16 2016 3:27:49
 
Stephen Eden

 

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to benros

I use Euro Spruce because there is a lot of here and it's fairly cheap to. The lump wood appears to be waste from sound board production. I guess in NA you will see more Engelman and Cedar used.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 17 2016 10:59:47
 
benros

 

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to Stephen Eden

thank you ethan and stephen for your comments. so far in used the cut offs of the soundboard for strutting, which seems reasonable to me (same wood, no waste). my question did come up, because when i worked out my sitka soundboard, i mentioned, that it has a unbelievable springyness (i mean very flexible and stiff at the same time), that i never felt/seen before. the soundboard is 1.9-2.1mm now and still so stiff, that i think i have to work it even thinner and cant imagine that sitka strutting would be a good idea. so i probably go with eurospruce. have you built with sitka so far? if so, what have you used for the struts? is this alien quality normal for this species (i immediately fell in love with it, but dont know if it comes out to stiff for the right hands playability and feel)?
greetings,
ben
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 20 2016 19:43:43
 
constructordeguitarras

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to benros

I haven't used Sitka spruce. It is recommended more for steel string guitars, so it makes sense that it is stiffer. This should be interesting. Please let us know how it turns out.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 20 2016 19:59:48
 
jshelton5040

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to benros

quote:

ORIGINAL: benros

that it has a unbelievable springyness (i mean very flexible and stiff at the same time), that i never felt/seen before.

How can it be springy and stiff at the same time? I have built with absolutely top of the line Sitka and so far I hate it. I would happily use either Engelmann or Euro spruce for a guitar but never Sitka. It tends toward very heavy and very stiff which are (apparently) traits that make it suited to steel string guitars but from my experience not suited to flamenco or classics.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 20 2016 23:38:16
 
constructordeguitarras

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to jshelton5040

quote:


How can it be springy and stiff at the same time?

John, try cocking a crossbow.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 20 2016 23:44:24
 
jshelton5040

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to constructordeguitarras

quote:

(i mean very flexible and stiff at the same time),


Perhaps this is the quote I should have used. Isn't flexible the opposite of stiff?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 21 2016 14:06:02
 
constructordeguitarras

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to jshelton5040

Is springy the same as flexible? Doesn't springy mean can bend and spring back, whereas flexible means can bend?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 21 2016 14:31:32
 
jshelton5040

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to constructordeguitarras

Not interested in arguing epistemology. I wish I'd said nothing, it just struck me as an odd choice of words. Perhaps resilient would have been a better choice.

Regardless of that, I still don't like Sitka spruce although apparently some makers of note have the opposite opinion.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 21 2016 18:08:45
 
Tom Blackshear

 

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to jshelton5040

quote:


Regardless of that, I still don't like Sitka spruce although apparently some makers of note have the opposite opinion.


In the past I used Sitka spruce for tops and struts, just a few times, and I have to say about the same thing; I didn't like the tone or the way it responded compared to Engelmann spruce. So, much of my wood is Engelmann and a little Euro and Western red Cedar.

I find that cedar makes very nice fan braces, even for spruce tops.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 21 2016 18:31:46
 
constructordeguitarras

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to jshelton5040

That's why I say talking about music is like dancing about architecture.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 21 2016 19:24:50
 
benros

 

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to benros

thank you all for your responses. probably i havent found the right words, english is not my native tongue. but what i wanted to express was this: it is much more flexible than euro spruce, if you bend it crossgrain (you can bend it more) and springs back with much more power, if you let it go. compared to an highgrade light euro spruce top which a friend of mine worked on at the same time, this top was at 2mm exactly the same weight than the euro (122gr. with soundhole cut out).
anyway, in the meantime i found out, that sitka for flamenco tops was already discussed in this forum and that some of the members here (anders, vince) had build guitars with it, that they really liked.
would be interesting what they (the lovers, not the haters) used for the struts...
greetings,
ben

p.s.: my judgement about the different properties of sitka and euro doesnt meant to be general, since i havent touched enough of either of both to generalize. just my impression after examining and comparing some really high quality (aaa) euro spruce and relatively low grade sitka tops (a).
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 21 2016 19:32:05
 
jshelton5040

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to Tom Blackshear

quote:


I find that cedar makes very nice fan braces, even for spruce tops.

I agree Tom, we use cedar for fan bracing on all our guitars regardless of top wood. Of course, we live in the middle of WR cedar country and here it's considered a trash tree by the loggers so top quality cedar is easy to acquire.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 21 2016 22:45:14
 
estebanana

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to benros

I like Engelmann for braces. One of the best stiffness to weight ratios. And I have used Sitka for a few guitars. If the same guitar had been made with a Euro top or a Engelmann top it would have been a better guitar, but after I sanded the crap out of it and tuned it up is was very sweet. Although it was a lot of work.

But what do I know, John Gilbert made almost all of his out of Sitka from a lumber yard near San Francisco. And his guitars are a thing concert artists covet. Who knows.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 24 2016 7:56:26
 
Anders Eliasson

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to benros

For struts, I use whatever I have that has the right stiffness to weight ratio and feel. I dont care about the name. To pieces of wood from the same specie of wood may be as different as night and day. What matters is how it feels.

Using Sitka as a top wood is different. Sitka feels different than both Engelmann and Euro Spruce when you thin it down to its final thickness. It flexes in another way. It feels stronger and somehow more flexible at the same time.
I have built a handfull of Sitka topped guitars and I liked them all and so did the owners. The last one was a flamenca blanca that was handpicked by a very good guitarist. I had 2 other guitars to choose from. 1 with Euro spruce and another with cedar. The guy had brought 3 friends, all guitarists and we all agreed that the Sitka guitar was the one that suited this particular player the best.
There are no easy rules in guitarmaking. We´ve all been proven wrong to many times.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 24 2016 21:39:04
 
benros

 

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to estebanana

thank you, stephen and anders, for your comments,
it seems as if sitka is not the best choice for a rooky builder. anyway i will give it a try and will see!
stephen, do you mean, that you had to thin it down alot more than you thought, to make it sound sweet?
im at 1,8-2,0 mm now and it still feels like i can take off some more.
anders, what you say about sitka characteristics is exactly what i tried to express. i love the aesthetics and feel of this wood and so far it feels good. i hope it turns out well, cause sitka in a grade quality in my eyes is much more beautiful and better (in terms of thightness and eveness of years, stiffness and straight long grains) than aaa grade euro spruce at my sources and costs only one third if it.
greetings,
ben
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 25 2016 21:51:28
 
Tom Blackshear

 

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to benros

i hope it turns out well, cause sitka in a grade quality in my eyes is much more beautiful and better (in terms of thightness and eveness of years, stiffness and straight long grains) than aaa grade euro spruce at my sources and costs only one third if it.
greetings,
ben

Ben,

The Sitka I used, not that good, but it should have had a better cross bend that is stiffer than its normal characteristics, more like Englemann spruce, which is a much better tone wood, IMHO. The thinner I made it the more pliable across the grain it became. This favored a more steely treble but didn't have much inner dimensional or vowel tone quality.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 26 2016 13:19:07
 
Anders Eliasson

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to benros

quote:

The Sitka I used, not that good, but it should have had a better cross bend that is stiffer than its normal characteristics, more like Englemann spruce, which is a much better tone wood, IMHO. The thinner I made it the more pliable across the grain it became. This favored a more steely treble but didn't have much inner dimensional or vowel tone quality.


Tom, its not clear if you are talking about your use of Sitka as a soundboard or as a bracing material.

IMHO, Bracing is about weight versus longitudional stiffness and thats about it. Not much mistery there.

And finally, my experience is that some builders are better at using some materials than others. And the first thing that matters is actually just believing it´ll work. Not everyone likes working with Cedar as a top wood. Actually, some dont like it and Sitka is just the same.
I´ve tried very good guitars with both woods, so I know that if I build a guitar with that wood and it turns out to be worse than a guitar with Euro Spruce, then its just because I wasnt good enough.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 27 2016 16:08:39
 
Tom Blackshear

 

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to Anders Eliasson

quote:



Tom, its not clear if you are talking about your use of Sitka as a soundboard or as a bracing material.


It was a light brown Sitka top, not too white, and it was too flexible across its grain. The tone was too generic for me, not very much character toward a vowel tone. Not much color.

But I agree that some builders have an affinity for it. I never got used to building with it due to my first impressions with a few guitars.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 28 2016 7:41:24
 
Anders Eliasson

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to benros

Thanks for clearing that out Tom

I think we all have our aversions, thats part of being human. But IMHO, the best is to leave them as much as possible and not make them into little rules of life.

When I lived in Granada, there was quite a few builders with aversions against the use of Cedar as a soundboard material for flamenco guitars. So I was kind of brought up with that aversion. But then I tried a Rodriguez and a Ramirez with Cedar tops and I told myself that its not a matter of which material you use, but how you use it because those 2 guitars were very nice. Some builders just dont funcion with cedar while others do and thats it... But its not because cedar is inferior to spruce. Its just different. And so is Sitka Spuce (and Caucassian spruce etc. you name it)

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 28 2016 11:57:27
 
estebanana

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to benros

When it comes down to it, I split the braces out of a board. The ones that don't break or hold a bend when I flex them, turn into braces. I disqualify about half the braces I split. The others get worked down and retested. If they are stiff and have good memory, in other words don't take a set when flexed, they get glued in.

Port orford cedar, red cedar, any spruce, but mainly Engelmann, or even fine grain pine or fir are all possible. As long as it it split and has no runout.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 29 2016 2:07:00
 
estebanana

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to benros

quote:

stephen, do you mean, that you had to thin it down alot more than you thought, to make it sound sweet?


That particular Sitka was ropey and tough. I built the top thick like over 2.5 mm and with big parabolic braces. I eventually removed the bridge and shellac and sanded the whole top until it was at least .50mm less thick all over and thinner below the bridge. Then I made a lighter bridge and the whole thing was more responsive and open. Same basic sound, but bigger and better trebles. More interesting midrange.

If I had Sitka that was not ropey like that...I would use it, but it's harder to find I think. I have used Lutz srpuce too, a hybrid of Sitka and Englemann, it's good, but like any woods some pieces or flitches are better than others for guitars. It's a tree by tree evaluation.

Right now I'm more interested in aged German spruce, Engelmann and WRC- But if the right Sitka piece cam along...

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 29 2016 2:19:52
 
Anders Eliasson

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to benros

What does ropey mean?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 29 2016 7:14:37
 
Escribano

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to Anders Eliasson

quote:

What does ropey mean?


Means rough or not very good.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 29 2016 11:05:10
 
Ricardo

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to jshelton5040

quote:

ORIGINAL: jshelton5040

quote:

(i mean very flexible and stiff at the same time),


Perhaps this is the quote I should have used. Isn't flexible the opposite of stiff?


I am probably no help, but the way I envision what is desicribed is a piece of wood that is not easy to bend, but when you DO apply enough pressure to bend it, you can bend it a lot before it will break. Opposite of this would be BRITTLE, not only stiff.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 29 2016 11:24:24
 
constructordeguitarras

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to Escribano

Cabinetmaker and author James Krenov refers to "roey" wood, meaning wood that has complicated grain patterns which makes planing difficult, as there is no direction "with the grain."

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 29 2016 13:38:08
 
Escribano

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to constructordeguitarras

quote:

grain patterns which makes planing difficult, as there is no direction "with the grain."


If you mean "ropey" then I stand corrected as I was thinking about "ropy" which is spelt differently

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 29 2016 15:00:29
 
Anders Eliasson

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to benros

Am I confused with this ropi thing?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 29 2016 21:27:25
 
Anders Eliasson

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RE: wood choices for soundboard stru... (in reply to Ricardo

quote:


I am probably no help, but the way I envision what is desicribed is a piece of wood that is not easy to bend, but when you DO apply enough pressure to bend it, you can bend it a lot before it will break. Opposite of this would be BRITTLE, not only stiff.


Youp, thats my personal observations with Sitka. it can take a lot of cross grain bending before it snaps.

Back to STRUTTING
Sitka was always (and sometimes is) used for building aircrafts. Top quality sitka is also called aircraft spruce. What the airmen looked for was the the best strength to weight relationship.
Strutting is the same. The less weight you have when you have found the right stiffness is what you should look for.
Using sitka as a soundboard material is another story and there´s absolutely no reason to mix the 2 things. And when several posters do it, it just makes the whole thing muddy. (just one of my usual hick-ups )

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 29 2016 21:36:58
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