Pick your Own Wood for Custom Guitars?

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by Tone Disciple, Mar 12, 2006.

  1. Tone Disciple

    Tone Disciple Gold Supporting Member

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    The thread on 'Natural Flame' made me wonder how many of you actually buy the wood you want your custom guitars made from and send it to the builder?

    How many of you select from the builders stockpile?

    How many of you just specify what type you want?

    For those who buy their own wood, where do you find it and what criteria like aging, drying time, moisture content, etc. are important to consider?

    I know that is a lot of questions, but this could be interesting!
     
  2. DWB1960

    DWB1960 Senior Member

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    For my Thorn I chose the wood from Ron's pretty large stash of blanks he has at his place. He had a ton of necks already rough cut and I found a nice black limba one with killer vein like grain patterns.

    [​IMG]

    For buying blanks I'd check out Gilmer Wood:

    http://www.gilmerwood.com/instrument_wood-solid_bodies.htm
     
  3. cnardone

    cnardone Member

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    Bill Chapin and I spoke quite a bit together before settling on his choice of woods. He choose the neck and back from his stash. I was invloved in choosing the top (redwood) from his stash as well. He sent me pics and as silly as it sounds I listened over the phone while he knocked on each piece for me to hear. Bill is a proponent of Tap Toning, as well as tuning, (I buy into it as well) to choose pieces that fit well together. So it does not make much sense (to me) to send him wood when I believe he is going to do a much better job of picking it than I would.
     
  4. 1radicalron

    1radicalron Member

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    A Couple of Years Ago, I took a Road Trip down to NAMM and Took a Day off to go Visit
    Scott Lentz in So Cal.
    He was very Accomidating and Allowed me Up into his Wood Attic! I was able to go through some Nice Pieces of Ash and Alder Wood and Found some Incredible Piece's of Very light and Resonant Large Ash Wood Blanks. I Thought these would be Perfect for a couple of 1 Piece Ash Body Guitars. - As well, I Went through Many Necks Lying around his shop until the prefect Fit for my hand was Found! - A Nice Fat C Neck!
    Many Months Later -and Many Dollars Poorer - I Recieved These Guitars!
    No Dissapointments here! - Incredible Custom Made Classics Built Specifically For me!
    Life is Short! - Go and Live it!
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
     
  5. Jon Silberman

    Jon Silberman 10Q Jerry & Dickey Gold Supporting Member

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    I chose the body from Warmoth's showcase so in essence, yes, I chose the wood, top and body (Malagasy rosewood top, mahogany body).

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  6. fretnot

    fretnot Gold Supporting Member

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    I have sent the top woods, fretboard blanks, and neck blanks.
     
  7. enharmonic

    enharmonic Old Growth Gold Supporting Member

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    I trust the judgement of the luthier. My request is simple. I don't care anywhere near as much about looks as I do tone. I want the best sounding wood in my guitars. Cats that are hooked on looks can have the pretty stuff. If the pretty stuff happens to sound as good as the wood with the tone, so be it.

    Lots of people buy a guitar and think it's great because it looks great. Sometimes, they are right, but IMHO, more often than not they're paying for looks.

    At the end of the day, tone wins. It's what really matters to me :)
     
  8. Chiba

    Chiba Gold Supporting Member

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    I chose several hunks of wood for my Thorns. Whatever I didn't choose, I trust the builder to choose for me based on what he knows about me, my playing, and my tone preferences.

    --chiba
     
  9. onehandfretting

    onehandfretting Member

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    For my custom Nunis guitar, I shopped around and got the wood for the top (African Blackwood) myself and then specified the rest of the wood, which Jim made excelent choices on.

    If you're having a custom guitar built, it's far from anything like going to McDonalds:rolleyes:
     
  10. Long2Play

    Long2Play Member

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    I agree with this. The woods used in an electric guitar need to sound good together. I would prefer a builder that has the expertise to tap match the woods for the build. You will get a far more cohesive and great sounding result if that happens. I believe this is a crucial step and it is the foundation of creating a great guitar.

    This is what Don Grosh does and his guitars never cease to amaze me. I tapped 8 Brazilian Rosewood fingerboard blanks the last time I was in Don's shop and they varied in pitch by the interval of a 4th. Huge differences! I tapped several neck blanks with similar results. It makes so much sense to me to have a group of woods that will sound good together. It is a musical judgement for building a musical instrument. It is part of getting control of the process and leaving less up to chance. It helps nail what the player is going for tonally and it makes for consistant build results, IMO.

    Peace

    :BEER
     
  11. fretnot

    fretnot Gold Supporting Member

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    In my opinion, if you send wood to a reputable builder, they would be able to get the most out of it. If they thought that the wood you sent them was really dead sounding, or wouldn't sound right with the rest of his woods, I would hope the builder would give you a heads up about his opinion prior to building an instrument that he thought would sound poor...and have his name on the headstock. If you get it and sell it right away because it sounds lousy, it will reflect poorly on him.
     
  12. Long2Play

    Long2Play Member

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    I mainly agree with this.... but and it is a BIG BUT, your judgement on that material is still in play tonally. That can work great if you are aware of how to pick the right materials sonically to begin with, and have the right relationship with the builder. If not, then it could put the builder in the position of having to challenge your choice or just going with it. I would have to really trust my builder and trust my knowledge & instincts on materials. If you can do that then go for it.....
     
  13. iainmc

    iainmc Member

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    when i sat down at saul kolls place, he showed me a bunch of stuff he had. I eventually decided on korina - i had played a duo glide made of korina before & it resonated so well. Maple top on that (we lookd as a number o ftops, but i decided to go solid black. I went with Korina for my Tornado as well. i now believe Korina is a hugely underrated wood for geetars.

    He also showed me his brazillian rosewood blanks for fretboards. that was fun seeing the eventual one that would be on my eventual guitar.

    second time around, i kinda left it up to Saul.

    /i
     
  14. fretnot

    fretnot Gold Supporting Member

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    It has always worked for me! (Thankfully)

    :AOK
     
  15. Down and Out in NYC

    Down and Out in NYC Gold Supporting Member

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    I'm having two custom guitars built. I wanted one of them to have a koa top. I thought it would be cool to supply the top. After looking for like 6 months I found this,
    [​IMG]
    Its large enough to build about 5 solidbodies from. Its like 108 " x 24 " x 2 ". I'm pretty sure I'm gonna have it cut in half, and have it shipped to two different luthiers FOR THERE APPROVAL. If it doesnt meet there standards it will be resold. If it doesnt ring right whats the point ?
     
  16. Long2Play

    Long2Play Member

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    Nice Koa!! Hard to get in that size and curl! :cool:
     
  17. GuitarGuy510

    GuitarGuy510 Member

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    I was shown pictures of walnut tops in Ron Thorn's possesion and chose between two. I was given the idea of using walnut for the body and flamed/figured walnut for the neck and fretboard too by Ron, so I just let Ron pick out the wood for me. In the end, an experienced luthier is better suited to pick out woods for TONE, and honestly, unless you want a museum piece, shouldn't a custom guitar SOUND awesome? That's what I wanted, and I know Ron will deliver the goods if I leave it up to him. When I can afford a second one, I plan on giving him an idea on what I want and letting him run with it, possibly without seeing the wood until he is totally done deciding what I should go with. I think he uses the "Yeti" (not to be mistaken with "Jedi" lol) Force, Luke. :AOK To summarize all that in one sentence, tell them what you want and let THEM pick it out as they can match the pieces of wood to get the best tone for you.
     
  18. Tone Disciple

    Tone Disciple Gold Supporting Member

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    Thanks for all the great responses guys. You all have interesting points.

    Here are some points I was considering:

    For those of you who are shipping wood to your builder:
    • Where did you find it in the first place.
    • Is there something we need to know about age, drying technique used, moisture content, etc before just selecting nice looking wood (aside from tone tapping for sound quality).
    • Odinarily I would agree with those of you who said just trust the builder, but I am also wondering if you can get some great wood buying it yourself and payng your builder only for the art and labor involved in building the guitar and avoiding all of the upcharges associated with wood options. Would you save money? And, more importantly, would you come out ahead?
    Keep in mind, I am not advocating this, I was just wondering if it would be the case.
     
  19. realmpel

    realmpel Supporting Member

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    I picked the koa top for Thorn 67 from a stack at Ron Thorn's shop. I thought it would be fun to select this fundamental piece on my own, and indeed it was! Regarding tonal quality, I had confidence that Ron wouldn't let me choose a sub-par piece~he probably wouldn't make low quality wood available at all. I imagine that's true for most small luthiers.

    ~Kevin
     
  20. Karmateria

    Karmateria Member

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    This is an interesting subject. I would think that the luthier would have the final say on what comprises an instrument with their name on it. I'm certainly the last guy to tell a Paul Smith or a Tom Anderson how to make a guitar!

    But if you've got a nice piece of wood, they might consider it. I don't think you are going to save any $$$ doing this, as almost all of the costs involved in building relate to things other than the materials.

    Karma
     

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