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estebanana

Posts: 8672
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

When is top wood too weird to be a top? 

I just had this wood resawed this morning. It was a gamble, but not an expensive risk.
It’s Cedar from an island called Yakushima, which is a world heritage site about 60 miles off the south end of Kyushu.
Yakushima is famous for these trees.

Structurally this is very promising, I estimate at 2.3 to 2.0 mm this will be light and stiff along the grain. But when does wood get too strange to be a top?





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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 17 2022 6:42:30
 
ernandez R

Posts: 583
Joined: Mar. 25 2019
From: Alaska USA

RE: When is top wood too weird to be... (in reply to estebanana

Seems like with a matching rib set they would make an exciting back plate?

HR

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I prefer my flamenco guitar spicy,
doesn't have to be fast,
should have some meat on the bones,
can be raw or well done,
as long as it doesn't sound like it's turning green on an elevator floor.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 17 2022 7:44:41
 
estebanana

Posts: 8672
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: When is top wood too weird to be... (in reply to estebanana

Not lacking rib sets. Those are 15” wide x 7’ high



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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 17 2022 9:10:40
 
Ricardo

Posts: 13684
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: When is top wood too weird to be... (in reply to estebanana

Top wood is too weird when it is NOT German spruce.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 17 2022 11:34:43
 
estebanana

Posts: 8672
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: When is top wood too weird to be... (in reply to Ricardo

Says a guy who can’t distinguish a traffic cone from a tree.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 17 2022 13:05:06
 
constructordeguitarras

Posts: 1604
Joined: Jan. 29 2012
From: Seattle, Washington, USA

RE: When is top wood too weird to be... (in reply to estebanana

I vote for the first orientation (top picture). Looks great to me. Maybe even a black golpeador to go with it.

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Ethan Deutsch
www.edluthier.com
www.facebook.com/ethandeutschguitars
www.youtube.com/marioamayaflamenco
I always have flamenco guitars available for sale.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 17 2022 20:37:09
 
tri7/5

 

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Post has been moved to the Recycle Bin at Oct. 17 2022 21:30:44
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 17 2022 21:15:09
 
ernandez R

Posts: 583
Joined: Mar. 25 2019
From: Alaska USA

RE: When is top wood too weird to be... (in reply to estebanana

Take a strip of fretboard and block of bridge and lay it on both ways then foto. Place a sound hole cut out on there too cause?

What does the new cat say?

HR

_____________________________

I prefer my flamenco guitar spicy,
doesn't have to be fast,
should have some meat on the bones,
can be raw or well done,
as long as it doesn't sound like it's turning green on an elevator floor.

www.instagram.com/threeriversguitars
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 17 2022 21:47:06
 
ernandez R

Posts: 583
Joined: Mar. 25 2019
From: Alaska USA

RE: When is top wood too weird to be... (in reply to estebanana

These look nice.

I always get a serge of creativity when I have a new wood to play with. Which is funny cause Im thinking my next guitars need to a little simpler.

Regardless Im sure they will be beautiful

HR

_____________________________

I prefer my flamenco guitar spicy,
doesn't have to be fast,
should have some meat on the bones,
can be raw or well done,
as long as it doesn't sound like it's turning green on an elevator floor.

www.instagram.com/threeriversguitars
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 17 2022 21:51:26
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 3263
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: When is top wood too weird to be... (in reply to estebanana

When I ordered my spruce/Brazilian classical from Abel Garcia years ago he showed me some spruce Romanillos had given him "from early in his career." It could have been the next board in the tree from the top of my '73 Romanillos, or the top of Bream's famous #501. The grain was wide. Narrower near the center, much wider toward the edges, then slightly narrower, then wider again.

I told Garcia, "You are the Maestro, you choose the top for my guitar."

When it arrived, the top showed very narrow, very uniform grain, with a lot of "silk"--medullary rays.

I called Abel to thank him and praise the new guitar. As the conversation went on I reminisced about the wood from Romanillos he had shown me.

"It's great wood," Abel replied, "but you might have a hard time selling a guitar with a top that looks like that, without Romanillos's label in it." [Translated]

In an article in American Luthiery Simon Ambridge quotes Romanillos saying guitar wood was hard to come by in England in the early 1970s. Those tops were from re-sawn 'cello blanks. The Brazilian in #501 was from a table bought at auction.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 17 2022 23:28:46
 
estebanana

Posts: 8672
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: When is top wood too weird to be... (in reply to estebanana

That will be hard to sell without a Romanillos label. 😂

I’m going to investigate the similarities between this wood and Hinoki I’ve used for flamenco backs and sides. I just may use this for back and sides for classicals.

If the ribs are laminated with Hinoki on the inside they will become heavier are absolutely stiff. Then brace the back with rosewood braces, leave it a tiny bit thick, they will work. What I worry about with light wood is balance of the guitar. I don’t want to make any neck heavy guitars.

This may not have a Romanillos label, but it does come from Yakushima. In Japan you can get a bit of traction in attracting a buyer with certain woods that gave culture resonance in this society, like certain markings on persimmon wood is desirable. Or meaning in where the wood is from carries a cache’ that’s of interest. And it’s also possible that Japanese guitar buyers are influenced by the status quo, that’s an understatement- they are absolutely driven by status quo and expensive luxury status purchases. They want to pay more than they have to for the status of the object. Every guitar culture is like that, but it’s more intense here. This all holds true until you find the outliers and market to them. There are a minority of buyers who look for unusual qualities in guitars.

Two ways to cultivate them that I’ve found. Send them photos of unusual combinations of wood along with conventional matches of materials and explain why you as a maker find them interesting or satisfying to marry the unusual choices. That brings forth an opening of taste and judgement because you as a maker are sticking your neck out and not just being a passive builder. People actually want to step out of convention, but they need a little nudge. It also helps that I play the role of eccentric gaijin genius with the aplomb and dexterity of Olivier, and they love it.

Lastly, it helps my cause that my unusual wood guitars don’t sound half bad these days.




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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 18 2022 1:05:39
 
JasonM

Posts: 1904
Joined: Dec. 8 2005
From: Baltimore

RE: When is top wood too weird to be... (in reply to estebanana

Sure why not. I keep seeing two back strips, maybe it’s just the pictures
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 18 2022 2:40:11
 
Stu

Posts: 2095
Joined: Jan. 30 2007
From: London (the South of it), England

RE: When is top wood too weird to be... (in reply to estebanana

Looks Lovely.

Seems obvious for a back visually. Dont about density and thickness though and what that would mean. Maybe its more suitable for top in thtat sense

I reckon go for it. I'd love to see how it turns out!

Yeah maybe you can consult the cat oracle. was there one football world cup where they got a cat to pick winners from each game?

Maybe you can devise a way to have your cat make these trciky decisions. Might turn into a quirky marketing ploy! haha
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 18 2022 7:16:46
 
constructordeguitarras

Posts: 1604
Joined: Jan. 29 2012
From: Seattle, Washington, USA

RE: When is top wood too weird to be... (in reply to Stu

quote:

Seems obvious for a back visually. Dont about density and thickness though and what that would mean. Maybe its more suitable for top in thtat sense


I think it would sound good as well for a back. It would be interesting to have sister sets for back and top.

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Ethan Deutsch
www.edluthier.com
www.facebook.com/ethandeutschguitars
www.youtube.com/marioamayaflamenco
I always have flamenco guitars available for sale.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 19 2022 2:34:58
 
estebanana

Posts: 8672
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: When is top wood too weird to be... (in reply to estebanana

It revealed that my first impulse to use the wood for tops was maybe not the important usage. I was led to make back and side sets. I didn’t get greedy, four came from the flitch.



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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 24 2022 14:08:16
 
estebanana

Posts: 8672
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: When is top wood too weird to be... (in reply to estebanana

Now I’m left contemplating my navel.

Why do I build guitars? I ask myself. I’m capable of getting a doctorate in art history and teaching, were there actually teaching positions that would gratify my mind and my sense of integrity, or obsessive demand for integrity. Which is a burden more so than a personal attribute. And privilege to even obsess over integrity.

I’ve played and others have played countless guitars that have given satisfaction and have not been constructed with rare materials. What is it about rare materials that are important? If we are satisfied by common materials why are rare materials, Brazilian rose wood, more important? On the marketplace level there’s an economy based on rare materials, but we still have a dual understanding that the commonest of materials can transform into a guitar that is satisfying, and capable of producing satisfying and even transcendent musics.

Sometimes I think is it really the sound of the guitar that’s important to me, or the transgression that I derive satisfaction from? And the transgression is of the market, I derive pleasure at at giving the market place the finger by not exalting the fetishization of the ‘exotic’ or rare woods.

I get off on the hunt for slabs of wood that slip under the rare wood radar. I get satisfaction from finding the unlikely board and ripping it open to see if I scored something unique, but still common. Commonly unique, so common it’s not in the market place desired as prime commodity. I’m drawn towards the gamble that I’ll find woods that are undesirable or un fetishizable, like rare conventional guitar materials are, it’s not that I really have anything against rare rosewoods, except that extracting them is an unsustainable environmental act no matter how guitar makers justify it; politics are important and guitar making isn’t immune to criticism.

Anyway all this is for sale, by way of commissioning a guitar, and I’m booked until mid spring. But just wanted to write this to understand for myself why I’m not drawn to rosewood guitars. It’s partly that I’m addicted to the hunt for the commonest of materials that can make a guitar that creates satisfaction for the user, and the satisfaction is based purely on the merits of the guitar itself and not because the guitar is constructed with the materials that the market place dictates. I give the finger to the marketing and also acknowledge my own survival depends on marketing.

Good morning.. welcome to my head trips









c

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 24 2022 14:12:25
 
Morante

 

Posts: 1944
Joined: Nov. 21 2010
 

RE: When is top wood too weird to be... (in reply to estebanana

When the luthier is weirder than the wood!
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 24 2022 15:59:00
 
RobF

Posts: 1341
Joined: Aug. 24 2017
 

RE: When is top wood too weird to be... (in reply to estebanana

quote:

I give the finger to the marketing and also acknowledge my own survival depends on marketing.


There’s no getting around it, marketing is almost certainly more influential than anything you can personally do with the craft, at least in the near term.

My take is individual makers using alternative woods are fighting a steep uphill battle unless they’re willing to enlist the support of dealers, who will then proceed to dictate the terms of engagement, regardless.* Mind you, the internet helps, but it doesn’t take much reading back over the two main forums to see how entrenched the buying public is. Especially in Flamenco. There is very little sense of adventure in flamenco when it comes to guitars, and a huge amount of misinformation.

To me, the wood looks gorgeous as back and sides, but would probably be a hard sell as tops. Even as back and sides you’ll be fighting the “purists” if used for flamenco and, if used for classical, it’s quite likely the best/easiest way forward to move the material would be to go whole hog and do a “modern” classical, complete with raised neck, laminated sides and (possibly) back, and lattice braced or double-top - the whole sheebang. If only because the clientele looking for “cutting edge” will more likely be accepting of the use of alternative woods. Otherwise, you have to accept the role of “voice crying in the wilderness”, at least until the acceptance becomes more mainstream.

Just my own fevered thoughts…

*my first teacher made a guitar with a three piece back and shipped it off to a dealer in California. Not long after that, he got a call from the dealer thanking him, saying the guitar sold within hours of arriving at the store, but please don’t send any more with three piece backs because they are hard to sell.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 24 2022 17:53:58
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 3263
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: When is top wood too weird to be... (in reply to estebanana

quote:

ORIGINAL: estebanana

...were there actually teaching positions that would gratify my mind and my sense of integrity, or obsessive demand for integrity. Which is a burden more so than a personal attribute. And privilege to even obsess over integrity.

------

I derive pleasure at giving the market place the finger by not exalting the fetishization of the ‘exotic’ or rare woods.

------

it’s not that I really have anything against rare rosewoods, except that extracting them is an unsustainable environmental act no matter how guitar makers justify it; politics are important and guitar making isn’t immune to criticism.

----------

I give the finger to the marketing and also acknowledge my own survival depends on marketing.



I have been acquainted with around a dozen successful guitar makers, who have enjoyed a varying range of commercial success. All have been individuals who, in my perception, exhibited exceptional integrity. I have liked all but one of them.

Every one of them has had to deal with conflicts between their personal prefernces and the marketplace. Even Jose Ramirez III, the most successful commercially, complained that the flamencos would not put up with any departure from tradition--although he sold many more cedar topped flamencas than spruce.

When I asked Abel Garcia about wood for back and sides he seated me upon a stool, and sat a little higher on another, across his workbench from me. Abel published a book on guitar making woods. His ten minute lecture reflected his knowledge and expertise. He concluded by saying he could make me guitars of the same quality from Indian or Brazilian rosewood, Palo Escrito or Cocobolo. He likened using Brazilian rosewood to "putting jewelry on the guitar."

I replied, "Maestro, I am old school. I would like Brazilian."

Abel took me to his temperature- and humidity-controlled wood storage area and showed me the most beautiful straight grained quarter sawn Brazilian I had seen in twenty years. I chose a set. Then I asked him which he would have chosen.

He indicated a slab sawn set. "¿Porqué ese juego?" I asked.

"Es mas blanda."

Stephen, your thoughts prompt me to analyze my choice.

Playing a guitar is an emotional experience. Favorable (or unfavorable) experiences form preferences. I had played a number of Brazilian rosewood guitars, from Ramirez III, Bernabe Sr., Contreras Sr. which gave me great pleasure, and I owned a couple at the time I spoke with Abel. The sound, looks and even the aroma of these instruments all were influences on my choice.

Successful luthiers are the experts on sound, playabiity, durability, materials and other practical aspects. Each has his or her own preferences based on individual experience and preference, which are inherently subjective.

Successful dealers are the experts on what is likely to sell, and what the cusomer may be willing to pay. Their evaluations are to some extent subjective, but I believe commercial success depends largely upon objectivity.

To the extent that luthiers and dealers may depend upon one another, or are their own dealers in fairly high volume like the Spaniards I mentioned, compromise is likely to be required.

I know at least one successful luthier who appears not to depend upon dealers at all. I would never buy a guitar from him because of his offensive behavior. Not dishonest, not lacking in integrity, just offensive. He's the only successful luthier I know whom I don't like.

But his success indicates that a maker of good instruments with some reasonable social skills might be able to succeed with little compromise to his or her ideals.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 24 2022 19:21:03
 
RobF

Posts: 1341
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RE: When is top wood too weird to be... (in reply to estebanana

I want to backtrack a bit on what I earlier posted, as it might come across a being a tad defeatist. To my thought, a beautifully made instrument that also sounds and plays well will always be able to find a discriminating buyer. It may or may not command the same dollar value as an instrument of equal quality made with conventional woods, however, but that’s where the marketing comes in.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 24 2022 21:08:28
 
estebanana

Posts: 8672
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: When is top wood too weird to be... (in reply to estebanana

Richard,

Interesting post, and I think I know which luthier you’re talking about. If I were a person with disposable income for putting together a guitar collection I would by guitars from a few guitar makers I don’t particularly like personality wise, because I can see past my personal style differences. But if we’re thinking of the same guy, who we could confirm via private email, I agree. I wouldn’t give that bastard the sweat off my ass.

I’ve been carefully watching some of the Japanese steel string and classical makers who post photos of their work on Instagram. The tide is beginning to turn even in mostly conservative Japan. Some buyers are maybe tired of galleries of wall to wall dark rosewood guitars. Truth I went to a guitar show in Japan in summer 2018 and I cried when I saw two long lines of tables and guitars on tripod stands. Not a single guitar deviated from rosewood back and sides and spruce top, except a few cedar tops. It was emotionally draining.

It left me with the understanding that in order to make it id have to keep buying sets of rosewood, but that I wouldn’t stop my exploration for native Japan woods. Now I see a couple masterful Japanese makers using woods as common as a species of Japanese Oak. Oak!

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 24 2022 22:26:40
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 3263
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: When is top wood too weird to be... (in reply to estebanana

I once thought of buying from a dealer a second hand guitar made by the luthier I mentioned. It was played on Youtube by a young pro who made it sound really impressive. Then I pictured it in the closet with the rest of the guitars, giving off waves of evil and polluting them with its aura.

quote:

ORIGINAL: estebanana
Now I see a couple masterful Japanese makers using woods as common as a species of Japanese Oak. Oak!


I'm glad to see the tide is starting to turn.

I need to try some non-traditional guitars to see whether they make as strong an impression as the rosewood and cypress ones have done.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 25 2022 2:41:04
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