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Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by COYS, Feb 10, 2020.
It's definitely much harder to find nice straight grain quarter sawn Brazilian rosewood nowadays.
I had an interesting conversation with a luthier about 20 years ago. My friend bought some nice Brazilian rosewood, that was big enough to make a few hundreds fingerboards, or a lot of back and sides for acoustic or classical guitars. He's a guitar player, but he also liked woodworking. He bought them to make furniture. They were like 10' long, 12" wide and 4" thick, if I remember correctly, and he bought 6 of them. I told it to my friend who was a luthier. He told me that a lot of BRW was available at the time. And, he said it's the biggest secret that some big guitar companies, like Martin didn't want people to know. I don't remember why BRW was more available around that time, but it was a short period of time. I don't even know if it was legal or not.
this is as far as I got ...
lotsa tgpers are hung up on trad timber ….. Brazilian
but as you say there's stacks of other woods that make great guitars
+ there's no shortage of alder & maple afaik
i'm not that bothered what it's made of as long as it works :|
"good wood" ran out close to 30 years ago. Personally I would not invest real money in a guitar made after 1994. 1992 to me was the last truly great year of wood at least in Fenders. The reason the good wood is gone is two fold:
1 - used it up! last of the great years of consumerism
2 - weather. hurricanes and tornadoes wiped out so much in that era
Acoustic tops seemed to be ok for another 5-7 years. But alder/ash/rosewood all gone. In 1993 I started seeing knotty wood, wide grain, more than 3 pieces in premium guitars etc.
This opinion from a guy that haunted the music stores in 2 states from 1981-2014
I think we should discuss if wood matters, first and foremost.
I have never heard that they were not any decent wood?
there is a flaw in the contentions proffered throughout this thread, that is, wood is necessary to construct a quality guitar. It's not the wood, it's not the quality of the wood, it is the skill of the luthier that is crafting the wood, or whatever into a guitar...
^ So a $2500 build from an experienced luthier turns Paulownia into a quality wood? I’m just curious as to why builders tout this stuff.
He's saying the quality of the build matters more than the "quality", if anyone could agree with that even is, of the wood.
You could bring me the finest wood money can buy, and I could build a terrible guitar out of it.
Ron, you know you spend a fair amount of time looking for quality wood, to use. And you appreciate necks and bodies manufactured by people who know how to select wood and which pieces go in the burn barrel.
Is this about the luthier, or in my case the assembler? Sure it is, but the wood is not chosen by accident. And with kindest regards your post leaves that matter ambiguous.
I think it was Jacksons prior models that kind of set the bar for how dark Ebony should be. They defiantly aren't that today.
There are people all over making great music with guitars made from "inferior" wood while gear fetishist sit around picking their noses and pontificating on the internet about the virtues of old growth brazilians vs quartersawn hondurans. Somewhere along the way the plot got lost as to what musical instruments are actually for.
It is absolutely solid that there's not as much old growth Brazilian rosewood available as there used to be. The anecdotal part is the degree to which that matters. Since tone is subjective, you're going to get different answers from different people, and there's no way to avoid that.
With that in mind, as far as my own anecdotal contribution, I don't have enough experience to say with electrics, but remain unconvinced that the wood in bodies of solid-body guitars has an impact that comes close to the pickups, the strings, picks, and the technique of the player. With acoustics, I think the dearth of old growth rosewood matters -- I'd rather have that than some of the gorgeously figured rosewood you see today -- but lots of other things matter too, and there are some stunningly good guitars being made right now. Plus, the necessity of using other woods has caused the (re)discovery and use of other tonewoods that are different from expectations, but still *good*. So I think it's important to not overstate things.
Hopefully it'll make some think.. You know me.. I'm evil like that.
However.. I was attempting to counter the cognitive avalanche that happens anytime anyone mentions the two words "tone" and "wood" in the same sentence. All of a sudden intellectual myopia sets in and everyone seems to infer that without wood, there can be no quality guitar...
If the opposite is true.. (it is) then the importance of the wood diminishes precipitously simply because if a great guitar can be made with NO wood.. then a great guitar can be made with any amount of wood falling between no, and all wood.. Further, if a great guitar can be made with 150 year old cracked, full of knots and spike holes, or so full or bug holes it's more like a wooden screen than solid, then a great guitar can be made with any wood. It just takes skill to do so..
Wood is the material that a couple of parts of a guitar are made of.. it's not the material that a couple of parts MUST be made of.. and a guitar made of fine seasoned Sitka Spruce, and elegant Maple, does not guarantee that another similar guitar made of some skanky piece of Barn lumber and a hunk of maple scarfed out of some furniture being thrown away will not sounds an play as nicely..
The two guitars seen below were made with lumber that might be listed many places but on the list of superb "tone woods". Nah.. you're not gonna find Pine that full of knots or Chestnuth that full of bug holes on on any list of the kinda of wood you would think of to make a guitar, yet.. both sounded remarkable.. Maybe I just got lucky...
There are two factors that are imperative for any guitar to sound and play superbly.. the Guitarist, and the Luthier that made it... If either of those two falters, the whole thing comes crashing down..
If you build it, they will Rock On..
The problem is, back in the day, you could go out to a forest and fell a tree that had been growing for a hundred years or more. It grew slowly, because it grew naturally. It would be a thick tree that you could pick and choose what parts you wanted to make nice furniture or musical instruments from, and which parts got made into pencils or whatever.
Then we harvested too much, too fast. Now all of that "old growth" is mostly gone. Many species of wood have become endangered. And it wasn't just the over harvesting. It was also from the introduction of parasites and diseases brought on by globalization. You wouldn't know this, because the people selling woods can pretty much call any wood they find by any name they choose. So today's Koa might be yesterday's Acacia. And today's Acacia can be any number of some 100+ species of tree. So while the names stay the same, the trees the wood came from changed. As long as you're not selling it under it's scientific name, then it's not really illegal to call it something else.
Add to this the idea of responsible logging. It's a good thing for sure. But the problem is, it's driven by profits. That means that when they fell a tree, they plant a few new ones to take it's place. That's good for the environment. But they water and fertilize this tree to make it grows faster, so it can be harvested sooner. This makes the rings further apart and the wood less dense. That's bad for luthiers. The trees are also smaller before being harvested, which means that you can't be as picky about the parts you select for you higher end products. They also use genetic hybrids and clones quite often these days to both increase the growth speed and decrease their susceptibility to disease. So we're both mixing up the gene pool, and strictly limiting it at the same time.
Now, that doesn't mean that good wood can't be found. But it does mean that most of the traditional woods used for musical instruments probably won't be as good as it used to be. And it also suggests that when we do find new woods that we eventually all can agree are quite good, we'll over harvest them as well and find ourselves in the exact same situation. Luckily, I'm betting new materials and nano technology will soon take over and give us new materials that can be fully customized to make superior tone materials, making wood obsolete. Hopefully, the musical community won't turn their nose up at it and continue to blindly destroy the earth because they're afraid of change. The vintage gear market suggests this could be a possibility.
I think people do most of their listening with two senses - their eyes and their expectations.
Worked in R&D for a speaker manufacturer. Common phrase within the business was "peoples eyes hear better than you'd think".
maybe someday, we'll have guitars made from wood like this:
it looks like wood!
I agree a lot, with this.
But my eyes and my expectations don't help me if the guitar can't be made to balance. And my eyes and expectations can't help me if the tuning cannot be stabilized enough to play 8 songs back to back. And my eyes and expectations don't help me if the neck is much thinner than I was hoping for, or the fretjob stinks and would have to be redone.
So, there's limits to what we can do with what you say. We're in this "Golden Age" where really nice guitars can be found everywhere, in surplus. And we forget about previous decades where 50% or more of "guitar" shaped things were basically a prop.
again, I do think making sweeping statements about wood availability and quality is sort of dumb.
I always sort of go back to this guitar:
i think it's some kind of one -off that Ken Parker did, when i first saw it , i thought it was his version of a 335 or something, then as I saw a few more pics elsewhere (and of course i can't find them now), it doesn't even look like the sides are finished or enclosed...its looks open....I do think there are a number of builders who really question: how much wood is even needed to make a guitar sound like a guitar?