Miscellaneous Rumbles

Guys who remove the lacquer to let the guitar breathe and improve tone

51

I don't know a lot about Lucite, but every material behaves differently and I would guess this fairly stiff/rigid stuff or it wouldn't work well. I use terms like metal, plastic, rubber, wood loosely. Each of these categories has an incredibly wide range of materials with diverse properties that fall into it. To me, much of this is the same concepts applied differently. It's like talking about if you want your bridge to be brass, stainless, titanium or what ever. Every material imparts something, finish included. The hope with finish is that it is so thin that whatever it imparts is imperceivable.

52

I would think the bare wood of a guitar would vibrate more without being inhibited by a coating of any kind, regardless of added "mass", much like a snare drum head will resonate more than if you placed a towel over it. Now....am I taking sand paper to any of my guitars???? HELL no!!!!

53

And don't players say the sound/tone is all in the fingertips anyway????

54

I would think the bare wood of a guitar would vibrate more without being inhibited by a coating of any kind, regardless of added "mass", much like a snare drum head will resonate more than if you placed a towel over it. Now....am I taking sand paper to any of my guitars???? HELL no!!!!

– NezJr

me either. lol

55

I think it's not exactly mass but the internal damping qualities of the material. For example, most metals are heavy and have low internal damping and ring well when tapped. A big chunk of rubber is also heavy but has very high internal damping, no ringing, the energy is internally dissipated and you just get a brief thud. You can apply this idea to finishes. Softer mushier finishes absorb energy instead of passing it through. A really thick layer of soft finish would be even worse. Keep in mind that soft is relative. Our reference is generally as compared to Nitro Cellulose Lacquer.

– Grez

This comment coupled with Curt's above it really explains all there is to know about the production of sustain. An LP made of dense rubber and an equal build made of mahogany will not produce the same sustain because the energy required for the strings to keep a mechanical wave is shared more by the rubber.

All woods are not created equal. For starters, the construction of a guitar will lend a great deal of influence to it's properties of sustain. Curt mentioned his Tele builds are Douglas Fir and not very heavy but produce better sustain than many LPs. 2 reasons: 1) quality of the build and design. Construction is key and especially where the neck meets the body. The more energy transferred away from the string to this area will decrease the length of the strings' mechanical wave and therefore decrease sustain. ; 2) The wood is Douglas Fir. Yes it is classified as softwood but that means nothing as DFs are as stable as one can get.

When architects and engineers look for the best in structural lumber, their first choice repeatedly is Douglas Fir. It is dimensionally stable and universally recognized for its superior strength-to-weight ratio. Its high specific gravity provides excellent nail and plate-holding ability.

The Douglas Fir/Western Larch species combination has the highest modulus of elasticity (E or MOE) of the North American softwood species. This is the ratio of the amount a piece of lumber that will deflect in proportion to an applied load; it is a reflection of the species' high degree of stiffness, an important consideration in the design of floors and other systems. In strength properties, Douglas Fir/Western Larch has the highest ratings of any Western softwood for extreme fiber stress in bending (Fb); for tension parallel-to-grain (Ft); for horizontal sheer (Fv); for compression perpendicular-to-grain (Fc); and for compression parallel-to-grain (Fc//).

It is also tight-knotted and close grained. This wood will not eat your energy used your hand produces for the strings mechanical wave. Actually it stabilizes and provides maximum sustain.

Therefore the properties of the wood have a lot more to do with sustain than either influences of poly and lacquer coatings because the variables of the every bit of the body(not just the external shell) influence how much it will affect the mechanical waves of the string.

Hardware can also have an influence. You know your losing mechanical wave from the strings if energy is being sucked by a rattling tune-o-matic bridge vs. a solid Tru-arc.

In the effect to tone? Well sustain I guess is a part of tone but other than that, I cannot revert to Physics to explain why certain build elements of a guitar effect tone(aside from the pups). To me it is too subjective. I am not saying it cannot be done but i cannot do it.

56

One more point about construction. To say neck-thru or center block is not enough without describing it's physical properties doesn't tell the whole story A solid center-block vs. a neck-thru design like the Gibson Firebird, whose neck is 9 layers of mahogany and walnut, will also impact the strings mechanical wavelength time as well. I can feel the energy transfer in my Firebird neck. I am guessing that it is an integral variable to its tone also.

58

My band Plate was endorsed by Baker Guitars (Gene Baker) in 2001-2002 (see February 2002 Guitar Player magazine with George Harrison on cover) and we were at the NAMM show and Ronnie was there and we were talking tone...I thought it was a bit of a clever statement...thats why I remembered it.

– BoonevilleGretsch

The quote came out a long time back from Chet and from time to time when a new member comes along and asks what amp to use to get Chet's tone, this quote is usually tacked on to the end of the suggestions.

Regardless of who said it first, the statement is dead on, especially the cleaner the tone you're using and the cleaner your playing, in my case fingerstyle using fingernails and a thumbpick.....warts show in a hurry!

59

And don't players say the sound/tone is all in the fingertips anyway????

– NezJr

True enough.....but the distinction here is about sustain, which isn't synonymous with tone. Tone refers to the 'character' of the sound being created and it ranges from the sweet sound of a Stradivarius or Chet's Gretsch to fingernails on a blackboard. They both have 'tone' but are at opposite ends of the spectrum in pleasantness for the human ear. Sustain is the duration period of the 'ringing' which is the object's response to being stuck (set in motion but remaining stationary) of an object. This ringing is within the human ear's detectable range for most objects, however the rubber object used in the example cited wouldn't apply...it's sustain is imperceptibly short and a very low frequency.

60

This comment coupled with Curt's above it really explains all there is to know about the production of sustain. An LP made of dense rubber and an equal build made of mahogany will not produce the same sustain because the energy required for the strings to keep a mechanical wave is shared more by the rubber.

All woods are not created equal. For starters, the construction of a guitar will lend a great deal of influence to it's properties of sustain. Curt mentioned his Tele builds are Douglas Fir and not very heavy but produce better sustain than many LPs. 2 reasons: 1) quality of the build and design. Construction is key and especially where the neck meets the body. The more energy transferred away from the string to this area will decrease the length of the strings' mechanical wave and therefore decrease sustain. ; 2) The wood is Douglas Fir. Yes it is classified as softwood but that means nothing as DFs are as stable as one can get.

When architects and engineers look for the best in structural lumber, their first choice repeatedly is Douglas Fir. It is dimensionally stable and universally recognized for its superior strength-to-weight ratio. Its high specific gravity provides excellent nail and plate-holding ability.

The Douglas Fir/Western Larch species combination has the highest modulus of elasticity (E or MOE) of the North American softwood species. This is the ratio of the amount a piece of lumber that will deflect in proportion to an applied load; it is a reflection of the species' high degree of stiffness, an important consideration in the design of floors and other systems. In strength properties, Douglas Fir/Western Larch has the highest ratings of any Western softwood for extreme fiber stress in bending (Fb); for tension parallel-to-grain (Ft); for horizontal sheer (Fv); for compression perpendicular-to-grain (Fc); and for compression parallel-to-grain (Fc//).

It is also tight-knotted and close grained. This wood will not eat your energy used your hand produces for the strings mechanical wave. Actually it stabilizes and provides maximum sustain.

Therefore the properties of the wood have a lot more to do with sustain than either influences of poly and lacquer coatings because the variables of the every bit of the body(not just the external shell) influence how much it will affect the mechanical waves of the string.

Hardware can also have an influence. You know your losing mechanical wave from the strings if energy is being sucked by a rattling tune-o-matic bridge vs. a solid Tru-arc.

In the effect to tone? Well sustain I guess is a part of tone but other than that, I cannot revert to Physics to explain why certain build elements of a guitar effect tone(aside from the pups). To me it is too subjective. I am not saying it cannot be done but i cannot do it.

– NJDevil

A wonderful dissertation on the properties of wood.....takes me back to my university days studying forestry! I haven't the slightest quarrel with anything you say and there's not much more to add on the subject regarding how the properties of wood affect sustain. It certainly would be interesting to see the results of a test for sustain of a series of identical size and thickness [non-coated] guitar tops manufactured from not just the usual array of favored species such as Sitka, Cedar, Engelmann etc, but also mahogany and even maple. Has such research been done?

Now the subject of tone keeps coming up in this thread, sometimes being used almost interchangeably with sustain and we need to keep them separate with respect to the issue of the effects of coatings on guitars, and specifically to my initial query regarding flat and archtop guitars. While certainly within the subject of 'sound' both sustain and tone are elements of the equation, effects of coatings on tone is a separate and highly interesting category, in and of itself but isn't a crossover aspect to incorporate into this specific discussion. It's the knowledge coming to light here regarding a coating's thickness, chemical composition and physical properties - soft/hard, density, etc that's very enlightening, particularly when our luthier members join the discussion!

61

wow.....I've got nothin' lol

– BoonevilleGretsch

Ditto....I'm just sitting back and watchin' the smart people... O.O

62

What your hands and your ears tell you is the perceivable truth. I've got the same sugarpine rutters tele bodies, one with a light seal of stain and lacquer after being scorched with a propane tank. The other in a 52' butterscotch nitro finish.. I'll take the non mummified telecaster any day for its rich woody pluck and jangle over the other. I must be insane.

63

Thanks Dave. Douglas Fir is brutally strong and another species, Western Larch shares the same properties except abundance which Douglas Fir is. It is farmed by many states, especially out west, replenish what is used. I believe it is the best, or maybe second only to bamboo, in strength-to-weight ratio. I found out it has the highest level of any western softwood for standing up to extreme fiber bending stress. That alone sounds like a winning variable for a hollow-body. My question would be is it to dense for a hollow-body in so far as it inhibits resonance.

It seemingly walks a tight rope in that it's high density allow for superior build quality for solid bodies that require it to all for the solid for required to maximize sustain. I don't see any mahogany top hollow bodies or sitka spruce solid.

A quote that I just read sums it up nicely: "These physical working properties, as well as to the moderate durability of its heartwood and its excellent dimensional stability, provide the reasons many builders use Douglas Fir as the standard against which all other framing lumber is judged. It is also tight knotted and close-grained, adding the bonus of beauty to its structural capabilities."

Now I'm not suggesting it doesn't need protection to preserve it's integrity, it just seems that Douglas Fir is one damn fine species of wood!!

64

Doug Fir would make a fine archtop, semi-hollowbody or flatop. Like any wood, there is regular lumber grade and there is instrument grade. Not every DF board would make a wonderful guitar. DF has been adopted by the custom Tele market as you all know but hasn't gone much farther yet.

65

Doug Fir would make a fine archtop, semi-hollowbody or flatop. Like any wood, there is regular lumber grade and there is instrument grade. Not every DF board would make a wonderful guitar. DF has been adopted by the custom Tele market as you all know but hasn't gone much farther yet.

– Grez

I think DF has only been adopted by the Curt from GDP market but with the goodness of his creation, watch out everything else-market!!!

66

There's a guy in Brooklyn making some bodies out of old DF. I can tell you that the new DF we used for the rafters weighs four times as much as the 1825 variety, air dried.

68

And the new wood growth rings don't look like this.

69

Thanks Dave. Douglas Fir is brutally strong and another species, Western Larch shares the same properties except abundance which Douglas Fir is. It is farmed by many states, especially out west, replenish what is used. I believe it is the best, or maybe second only to bamboo, in strength-to-weight ratio. I found out it has the highest level of any western softwood for standing up to extreme fiber bending stress. That alone sounds like a winning variable for a hollow-body. My question would be is it to dense for a hollow-body in so far as it inhibits resonance.

It seemingly walks a tight rope in that it's high density allow for superior build quality for solid bodies that require it to all for the solid for required to maximize sustain. I don't see any mahogany top hollow bodies or sitka spruce solid.

A quote that I just read sums it up nicely: "These physical working properties, as well as to the moderate durability of its heartwood and its excellent dimensional stability, provide the reasons many builders use Douglas Fir as the standard against which all other framing lumber is judged. It is also tight knotted and close-grained, adding the bonus of beauty to its structural capabilities."

Now I'm not suggesting it doesn't need protection to preserve it's integrity, it just seems that Douglas Fir is one damn fine species of wood!!

– NJDevil

Well, I'm living in the heart of the DF rainforests and there certainly isn't any shortage of it around here!! There's a lot of fine independent small production luthiers in coastal BC and Sitka and Engelmann are their favored go-to trees for tops but I'm going to check with an acquaintance who owns Bluedog Guitars (incredible boutique store in North Van) and ask Paul what material predominates the tops for choice of wood as he deals with many of these local luthiers.

70

And the new wood growth rings don't look like this.

– Curt Wilson

Boy Curt, that sure is a mighty tight grain. We're noticing a few more flat tops being made these days with western red cedar and the ones I've played definitely have a much more mellow sound to them and certainly aren't as loud either. What I'm wondering is, is there anyone using CA Redwood or Sequoia for tops? It sure would be pretty, but I don't know if it's physical characteristics would have enough strength for a guitar top. Sides or back okay as there isn't the string tension to deal with but redwood is quite a soft, softwood.

71

I don't think the 'more mass = more sustain' or 'more resonance' equation has much mileage, to be honest. You still need to take into account that the strings produce the vibrations. A lot of parlor guitars have at least the same volume and often more definition as bigger bodied guitars and that's because the thin, small soundboard transmits and amplifies the string vibration much more efficiently than the thicker,bigger board on, say, a jumbo. It's not mass per se that's important, it's how the individual parts combine into an instrument.

72

Redwood is insanely soft &, in my limited experience, has a wide grain pattern. I used it to build part of a bass. The bass had a maple top & neck. Redwood was used to keep weight down & allow the relatively thin maple top to have some resonance. & that is where resonance comes into the equation. At some point a wood sucks up a lot of tone & sustain. In the case of a traditional archtop, we keep the spruce top quite thin. The thin spruce top projects a beautifully warm tone to a maple back which reflects it back as the voice. So, taking hardware & electronics out of the thought...wood has resonance properties that must be properly discerned & crafted into an instrument which resonates. Looking above tells you that a piece of wood will have an optimum thickness, in comparison to its length & width, to vibrate the string vibrations throughout the body in a manner that enhances sustain but, is not too lively or dead.

73

I LOVE making, and do regularly make all sorts of guitars from reclaimed Redwood. Like Doug Fir, the old stuff is nothing like the new stuff. Living in Northern California, there is plenty of old growth redwood from old barns, train tunnels, wine tanks and it's absolutely great stuff. You find it a board at a time, not the type of quantities you could feed a factory with.

74

I LOVE making, and do regularly make all sorts of guitars from reclaimed Redwood. Like Doug Fir, the old stuff is nothing like the new stuff. Living in Northern California, there is plenty of old growth redwood from old barns, train tunnels, wine tanks and it's absolutely great stuff. You find it a board at a time, not the type of quantities you could feed a factory with.

– Grez

That's nice to hear. Too bad it's softness precludes its use for fingerboards as it would make a stunning one.

Would using a chemical such as Varathane over a stained piece of redwood artificially harden it sufficiently to be suitable for a fingerboard? I've used it to refinished old pine floors because it will harden and prevent the dimpling that softwood floors used to endure a very long time ago.

75

I'm afraid not, it's just too soft for use as a finger board.


Register Sign in to join the conversation