Who’s burnt out on figured tops? Figured tops, types of maple, history of figured tops

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by chrisq206, Aug 25, 2019.

  1. chrisq206

    chrisq206 Member

    Messages:
    69
    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2012
    These days I would take a plain top over a figured any day, especially if it was eastern hard maple over western soft maple (not that I could 100% say I can hear the difference). No Maple at all might be even better! In addition to some Gibson LPs, I have Burny and an Orville LP customs that are all Mahogany that sound better in some ways to their maple top Gibson counterparts.

    Curious what people know about when the flame top explosion happened and why.

    I started at 10 or 11 (1980) flame maple was not seen very often at all and on only veneer or on very expensive guitars, then maybe in the 90s, it started to become common to ubiquitous on so many guitars it got kind of boring. Was that because builders started using figured and more available western soft maple, or some other reason?

    Just my opinion, but even though I have a handful of guitars with figured tops, I really prefer plain tops right now (like on my ‘74 LP Standard). I’m finding all of the grain pattern too busy looking for my current tastes. Seeing Page’s #1 at the Met Exhibit really drove it home, very little figuring on that guitar at all.

    Anyone else suffering from “grain fatigue,” or have any info about the history, availability and types of maple used in guitar tops over the years.

    Oh and don’t get me wrong a faded late 50s Burst with grain is still pretty cool
     
  2. Gig Young

    Gig Young Orson Wells; Mercury Theater 1935 Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    2,063
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2018
    Location:
    Whimsyville
    Utilitarian Fender type player

    I've never cared for figured tops and all that drama
     
  3. TubeStack

    TubeStack Supporting Member

    Messages:
    9,410
    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2009
    Location:
    Down At The Balinese
    So... you’re burnt out on figured tops, but want to sit around and discuss the history of them?
     
    tuumbaq, donnievaz, NicDo and 15 others like this.
  4. Benz2112

    Benz2112 Supporting Member

    Messages:
    3,135
    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2017
    Location:
    Utica, NY
    I dont own a guitar with a figured top, I'm all about solid colors and satin finishes.
     
    megatrav, shane8, guff and 2 others like this.
  5. clmazza

    clmazza Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,754
    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Location:
    The Garden State
    Not burnt out at all... I love figured tops. Freaks of nature... brings a uniqueness to the mundane. Just my opinion, of course. Ymmv
     
    ELA, Mr.db, Jim85IROC and 6 others like this.
  6. Yamaha 350

    Yamaha 350 Member

    Messages:
    5,020
    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2017
  7. Magnets And Melodies

    Magnets And Melodies Member

    Messages:
    4,224
    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2016
    Location:
    Alberta
    Love them when they're interesting but to me it's never a deciding factor when buying a guitar. If it's an amazing guitar and it also happens to have some interesting flame going on than that's the cherry on top. I'm actually more of a fan of subtle flames with grain patterns and mineral flecking showing through than I am the monster flames.

    I'd be just as happy with a gold top to be honest.
     
  8. VaughnC

    VaughnC Supporting Member

    Messages:
    16,739
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I think PRS really got the ball rolling in the 80's with intense flame tops even though they showed up previously on other manufacturers.

    As far as the appeal of a flame maple top on a guitar goes, to me it depends on the individual piece of maple. Some pieces make me want to throw up while some make me drool!

    But, ultimately, for me it boils down to a guitar's sound & feel first...then, if it happens to look good, it's like icing on the cake. But "looks good" is very subjective and means very little if the tone & feel aren't there.
     
    Madguitrst, tiktok, dbeeman and 6 others like this.
  9. JukeJointJunkie

    JukeJointJunkie Member

    Messages:
    223
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2017
  10. derekd

    derekd Member

    Messages:
    36,866
    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2007
    Location:
    In a van down by the river
    Why do you hate beauty, OP?
     
    uab9253, 27sauce, donnievaz and 12 others like this.
  11. Carbohydrates

    Carbohydrates Member

    Messages:
    2,587
    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2008
    Not into it. I like solid, opaque colors and metallic finishes. I don't like flashy, blingy stuff like flamed or quilted maple, gold hardware, abalone, etc. My favorite classic finish on a Les Paul is a goldtop (or ebony standard) and my favorite PRS look is a solid color finish with no birds. The nicest Gretsch to me is an Anniversary - solid colors, no gold, simple fretboard. Elegant.
     
    middy, Corvid and Danny D like this.
  12. MrGuitarhack

    MrGuitarhack Member

    Messages:
    1,890
    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2012
    Location:
    West Coast
    I suppose the appreciation of a guitars top or finish is very subjective and based upon what you like and don't like.

    I love plain tops and figured tops, variety is the spice of life. I've got both plain tops, figured tops, solid finishes and IMHO, my R0 is my prettiest guitar.

    [​IMG]
     
    buddy7168, Heinz W, uab9253 and 14 others like this.
  13. Mtt02263

    Mtt02263 Supporting Member

    Messages:
    163
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2018
    I love them. I will say though that I prefer an interesting grain pattern over a 10 top type crazy flame. I like mineral lines and other patterns that remind me that it's wood.
     
  14. jvin248

    jvin248 Member

    Messages:
    2,619
    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2016
    .

    Seems like Hamer started it and then PRS used those models in more than one way while marketing hard as a point of differentiation to Gibson and Fender.

    Then Ibanez pulled the tops into their shredder models to be lower priced options against the PRS products.

    Look back to the expansion of 'imported beer' in the 80s as a premium product. Everything imported is better than home grown, at certain points in time. Wood is no different. A mahogany television console was a big premium in the sixties and seventies -- imported rare wood. Those televisions as well as the consoles were junked out when the next larger size came along.

    Highly figured wood has always been a factor in top priced furniture. The more rare and/or imported the lumber the higher the perceived price that can be charged. Same with guitars. It's a tone wood only because it came from far-away-land where idyllic unicorns romp -- not from where the Amazon is Burning...

    I have been pivoting into simpler finished guitars too.

    .
     
    67blackcherry and Tone_Terrific like this.
  15. misterg71

    misterg71 Supporting Member

    Messages:
    939
    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2008
    I’ve always liked plain tops over flamed ones. But I’m not a fan of quilt tops at all.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2019
  16. jm9239

    jm9239 Supporting Member

    Messages:
    2,184
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2012
    I appreciate them but don't prefer them. I have one McCarty burst figured top. The rest are all solid colors... goldtops, surf greens, olympic whites, shell pinks, etc. I want an instrument, not a show piece.
     
    epauley likes this.
  17. makeitstop

    makeitstop Member

    Messages:
    230
    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2019
    Location:
    Somewhere in New York
    Gimme plain tops all day. Never liked flamed/quilted tops. Others might like 'em, they're just not for me.
     
  18. Harryq

    Harryq Member

    Messages:
    451
    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2007
    I'm pretty sure the "flame mania" started with the 59 Les Paul. Though violins, and later, arch top guitars had beautiful figuring many years before that, it seems to me that the '59 craze starting in the 1960s really put flame on the map for solid body guitars. Though the owners might say otherwise, I think flame or figure overrides playability and sound for many of them.
     
    Tone_Terrific likes this.
  19. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Member

    Messages:
    6,955
    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2011
    Location:
    Texas
    I'm not a fan of figured tops, be they flame or quilt. They strike my eyes as gaudy.

    That said, my Ibanez semi-hollow has decent flame. I loved its sound and playability, the looks (not just flamey, but gold hardware and inlay bling as well) didn't matter nearly as much as its sounds.

    [​IMG]

    Whatever. As long as it sounds good, I'm fine, and this one does.
     
  20. ED_P

    ED_P Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    796
    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2015
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    I don't mind a figured top, but I am totally disinterested in the Roasted Maple trend for necks these days. Just looks gross IMO.

    I want a maple neck to be clean natural maple or yellowed lacquer.
     
    Corvid, zombiwoof and Lt Dak like this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice