Flaxwood Rautia in detail

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by LaXu, Aug 21, 2006.

  1. LaXu

    LaXu Member

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    Flaxwood guitars are made here in Finland and they cost about 2000€ new. I've had the pleasure of trying their models from the few prototype models sold in stores in 2003 as well as the much more refined ones made this year. The newer ones compared to the older ones seem to have nicer finishes and more resonant tone. They have been out of my price range but I finally found a used 2005 Flaxwood Rautia for a very fair price, in a custom Ferrari red color too.

    What makes Flaxwood guitars different from other high end guitars is that they are made of natural wood fiber composite instead of solid wood. What separates them from other composite guitars is that they sound good and don't feel like plastic.

    The first thing you notice with the Flaxwood is how small it is. It reminds me of Music Man guitars in this respect. The body is slightly smaller than a strat and the headstock is a bit shorter as well. The guitar is quite light, about 3 kilos (7 lbs), a very comfortable weight and very good balance with a strap.

    The neck is fairly wide. Personally I'd prefer a narrower neck but the Flaxwood doesn't pose a problem to me at least. Has a C-profile and isn't overly thick. The compensated nut on the guitar is also made of the composite material instead of the more common bone, graphite etc. Interestingly the truss rod adjustment is in the back side of the neck, behind the nut. This probably results in a stronger neck because a large cavity for truss rod adjustment isn't needed. Very clever solution to the age old problem.

    On the neck there are small specks on the fretboard, probably wood fibers or something caused by the molding process. They make the fretboard look like it has a bit of dirt on it. They are only visible close up though. On the back of the neck and headstock as well as the Flax resonator back plate there's gray splotches that make the neck look a bit like marble but also add to the “dirty” look. A totally black neck would be nicer IMO. There's also an abalone inlay in the back of the neck, at the 7th fret. Seems a bit pointless to me. Feelwise the neck is very much like tung oiled or waxed maple, a very smooth feel.

    The stock strap buttons are pretty small, I replaced them with more substantial buttons. I really don't understand why the manufacturer decided to go with these strap buttons that barely hold the strap. I may also end up changing the wiring to two volumes and master tone instead of the 1x volume and 2x tone setup it has since I rarely mess with the tone control on my guitars so I would find a second volume control more useful.

    Acoustically the Flaxwood is noticeably louder than my solid-body guitars but not as loud as a full size semi-hollowbody. It has a pleasing, even tone so it's also tons of fun to play without an amp. Through an amp it is somewhat like a PRS – not quite as thick as a Les Paul but not quite like a strat either. A good allrounder then. I was very impressed by how well it cuts through even with heavy distortion. There's a certain clarity to it that you don't find in most humbucker guitars. The split pickup positions obviously don't have 100% authentic single coil tones but help give the guitar a wide palette of tones. Sustain is very good and the great thing about the tone is that it is extremely balanced and thus sounds very pleasing. This ensures that the guitar sounds good with various amps and various settings without resulting in ice picky highs or muddy lows or any other kind of grating tone unless the player wants it.

    Overall the Flaxwood is a high quality guitar with great tone. In high end guitars from small builders it's usually hard to find any real faults in the tone or construction department and that is the case with the Flaxwood as well. I am fairly certain it will replace my semi-hollowbody and LP as the guitar I will use the most, because it's just so convenient in so many ways.

    For someone looking for a PRS-ish (in terms of features and looks) electric in Europe this could be just the thing since it's ~1000€ cheaper than a new PRS. It would also be a good choice for someone living in a climate where traditional guitars need constant adjustment.

    It's certainly not a be-all-end-all guitar by any means. However this kind of guitar building could have a very promising future. With the dwindling stock of good tonewoods in this world, the Flaxwood represents a more ecological option and in mass production would provide better sounding and more consistent guitars. It's nice to have manufacturers that are willing to take a few risks to develop new ways to build guitars. Flaxwood gets a thumbs up from me.

    In case you read this far and got a feeling of déjà vu, yes, I have posted this on several messageboards. :)

    Without further ado, the pics:
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    PS. I wasn't sure if I should put this in the "small company luthiers" section or not, but thought it would fit here since we're dealing with an unconventional guitar that might be of interest to more than the "boutique crowd" inhabiting the "small company luthiers" forum.
     
  2. Dana Olsen

    Dana Olsen Gold Supporting Member

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    Pretty cool guitar. The demo player for Flaxwood, Timo Kämäräinen, is a really good player too - check out the video(s).

    Thanks LaXu, Dana O.
     
  3. suttree

    suttree Member

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    quite the tone chamber :messedup

    cool looking guitar though.
     
  4. Ben Furman

    Ben Furman Member

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    Congrats, LaXu! Thanks for the review and photos.
     
  5. Luke

    Luke Senior Member

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    Sounds like it is cast made of particle board. Basically saw dust and glue. Ibanez had to make the chromeboys for Satriani of a particle baord since the chrome kept falling of solid wood guitars due to expansion and contraction.
     
  6. googoobaby

    googoobaby Member

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    Actually isn't that what the Ibanez Talman electrics were made out of?
     
  7. Ben Furman

    Ben Furman Member

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    It is cast from a natural fiber composite having a polypropylene matrix. It's hardly particle board, and it's not the same material as the Talman either. OTOH, it does have a considerable "plastic" component... but who cares as long as it feels right and sounds right?

    What I think is especially cool is that the material is one of the "infinitely recyclable" thermoplastic varieties. Usually, recycling amounts to "downcycling" that yields inferior materials. This stuff can be used over and over again for new guitars, or window frames, or whatever. The world needs more of this kind of product.
     
  8. Andy J.

    Andy J. Member

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    For the first couple of years, yeah. My '97 TC-825 is solid alder, though.
     
  9. Luke

    Luke Senior Member

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    Still sounds like sawdust and glue. If the guitar sounds good to you and you enjoy it, great. The guitar community is very conservative and any deviation from the norms of 1950s construction methods tend to be frowned upon by the majority. Steinberger had to go to a wood body eventually, the Parket Fly had to go with more traditional woods.
     
  10. wolf9309

    wolf9309 Member

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    interesting how that works out. Several of the Cellists in the Boston Symphony Orchestra have started using Carbon Fiber acoustic cellos because they are much more durable and just sound better.

    I just find it kind of entertaining that the guitar community is generally more conservative about trying something new than the orchestral community...
     
  11. LaXu

    LaXu Member

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    That's what I thought. At the Helsinki Guitar Show last April I tried one of Basslab's STD-Guitar models, which are also made of some kind of composite. Those were incredibly light but the feel was extremely plastic and the tone was kinda uninspiring although I must admit that I didn't try it at proper volumes.

    With Flaxwood I doubt many would even realise it's not made traditionally out of blocks of wood and would just think it has some strange neck finish. I do wish the prices would come down though because the material and injection molding process should lead to significant production time and cost reductions compared to traditional wood guitars.
     
  12. daddyo

    daddyo Guest

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    I bet that would be a cool gig guitar for the travelling pro who wants an axe that never goes south in hot conditions and can take a lot of abuse. I doubt if it is the kind of axe I could caress and love in the confines of my snug man-cave.
     
  13. Ben Furman

    Ben Furman Member

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    Fine, but your statement carries the implication that it is something "cheap," which it is far from. There is an important difference between good design and a bunch of cobbled-together leftovers. It may not look like much of a difference to you, but a lot of people put a lot of hard thinking into it through years of university research. That counts for something, and I believe LaXu that it works.

    Another interesting material is this one: http://www.catalyst.nl/soundcompound.htm

    -Ben
     
  14. Antroid

    Antroid Member

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    Great review LaXu. I remember seeing a Flaxwood on the news and if I remember correctly they said something about linen fiber. I've seen a few Flaxwoods but as they are not lefties, I've never tried one out. I asked if they'd make me a lefty but it would've cost me about 60000€ because they need a different mould. So I settled on a PRS then. ;)
     
  15. Jim Soloway

    Jim Soloway Supporting Member

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    I played a couple of these at the NAMM show yesterday and was really impressed. The feel was superb: light weight and extremely well balanced. The tone was certainly unique. I wouldn't compare it to anything else I've ever played. It had a very nice high fidelity character and was extremely well balanced and consistent from note to note. I'm guessing that it drives pedals exceptionally well and I'm sure that it would work very well for a Holdsworth style player. Yes, it's a very untraditional instrument in a very traditional-bound community, but for someone more interested in music than tradition, I think it could be a terrific guitar.
     
  16. dennyman

    dennyman Member

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    cool guitar! thanks for the pics & description.
     
  17. Peterma

    Peterma Member

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    I'm gassing bad for one of these things.
     
  18. robertkoa

    robertkoa Member

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    Cool Guitar and thanks for the Post.

    It's possible they may be able to alter the composition or Ratio of the fibers to the Binder and change the overall resonant frequency of the guitar .

    I'm not a Builder but it's just a way of saying that same guitar could be built to have more bottom end , sort of like comparing a 00028 Martin Acoustic to a D28.

    It's possible they'll be able to achieve that ( tuned resonance ) and probably have more control over it than being at the mercy of unpredictable natural wood grain and cells - which most of us love. But this may result in some VERY resonant and complex, rich sounding instruments if developed further.

    Wouldn't it be funny if despite the Science - STILL no two sound exactly alike ?

    " I played 8 Flaxwoods today and finally found one with the tone I like........"
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2011
  19. Virtual Pariah

    Virtual Pariah Member

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    These have caught my eye in the past.
    Esp one with the CC pickup in the neck.

    Just can't find one to try out in the US.
     
  20. snarkle

    snarkle Member

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    Can't help you there...I'm in Canada. But if Silver Mountain is in the Pacific Northwest shoot me a PM.

    I picked up a used CC Custom from Wes Bentley (Rebel Guitars) and have been enjoying it a great deal. The CC pickup in the neck gives a very full, detailed sound, and the Duncan in the bridge pickup is one of the best P-90s I've encountered...including vintage units. Kind of a warm snarl, if you know what I mean.

    Now I'm jonesing for a Flaxwood fretless with sustainer...and the OP's Ferrari red Rautia's not too shabby either.
     

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