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Smoglessmike13

Exotic woods guitar, Advise and Tips Needed

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Hi guys so recently I've been wanting to get a new guitar and I fall onto doing a build myself. I have a little bit of an idea of what I want to do and the woods I want to use, but not too much detail after that, I can definitely use some advice and recommendations. So here are my plans.

The Idea for the guitar is a 8 string guitar multi scale (26 1/4 inch at the high E and 28 1/2 at the low F) with fanned frets. I want to tone to be bright and crisp with really good articulation of the notes. I have which woods id like to use and ill organize from head stock down...

Headstock -
Koa

Macassar ebony (as the trust rod cover)

Neck -
Koa

Fret board -
Macassar Ebony

Body -
I'm plan on having Wenge and Black Palm alternating, Like so.
Wenge, black palm, Wenge, black palm, Wenge

with a Zebrawood Top

For hardware I want to do 2 slanted Humbuckers with a straight single coil in-between them. I want the pick ups to be passive, but really articulate. I was thinking bareknuckles for the humbuckers, but I'm not sure for the single coil or if how that whole layout will work. As for the rest of the hardware I'm not too sure on what to go with, but I do know I want a individual piece bridge.

I just started planning this out but I would like to get some advice and tips if anyone has some for me.

Edit.. I know that Black Palm is very difficult to work with and I dont plan on doing to much wood work for it but just enough to sandwhich it between the Wenge wood in the body. The other woods seem to be around the same intermediate levels to woodwork,

This is a Rough (ROUGH) Layout of the woods

front of the guitar http://imgur.com/a/B08sF

Back of the Guitar http://imgur.com/a/jctGK

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komodo    81

Pups first. You will need 8 pole HBs and since it is a multi-scale instrument, your individual coils will need to be staggered. You need to have each string go directly over each pole piece on both coils. If you can get that of the shelf, cool, if not it's pretty custom. Electronics ppl, can you can wire two 8 pole singles next to each other to create your own staggered HB?

As far as the woods, the description of the tone you are looking for, added to the amount of pull from 8 string guages makes me think koa is not the wood you are looking for. I'm very familiar with koa, it;s spectacular, easy working and similar to mahogany maybe but I'm thinking you want something with much more strength to counteract the string forces. You want the strings to ring very clear, "bell-like" would be a good description. I;d be looking at something like layered maple, wenge, rosewoods, cocobolo, bubinga, or something like that. I've got an 8-string multi-scale project on hold right now with a roughed in neck of cocobolo that has a tap tone like a marimba bar.

My personal preference is not to layer woods, as sanding and planing is a PITA as they both usually respond to the tool differently. 

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curtisa    466
9 hours ago, komodo said:

You will need 8 pole HBs and since it is a multi-scale instrument, your individual coils will need to be staggered. You need to have each string go directly over each pole piece on both coils.

Only if looks are important. The pickup will still work fine if the pole pieces don't line up under each string.

Or use a pickup with blade pole pieces - Alumitones, Hotrails, X2N, most EMGs, SD blackouts etc.

Or use regular pickups and don't slant them to match the fan.

I believe Bareknuckle will do most of their humbuckers with a max 10 degree slant if you ask them.

 

9 hours ago, komodo said:

Electronics ppl, can you can wire two 8 pole singles next to each other to create your own staggered HB?

Yes, but you need two singles with the magnets in opposite polarity, which may be difficult to obtain as a pair.

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komodo    81

Super helpful info there on multiple points. 

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Prostheta    1,257

Koa is quite soft wood, and suitability aside, in my experience soft woods lead to warmer or darker tones more often than not. The characteristics of the woods you're incorporating are pretty widely-varied. Wengé is useful for instruments where the low-mids need tightening or clarifying, but again this is a broad stroke. I agree with @komodo that adding stiffer woods (Maple, Bubinga) in there will allow a more piano-like defined sound. Always useful in a multiscale (fanned frets are not the same) where emphasising the longer scales with clarity is needed.

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Mike.Mara    48

I'm also with komodo and Prostheta on the neck... Get some bubinga in there, It's dense enough to absorb some of the bass frequencies and accentuate the mids and highs.

It's also worth noting... And I'm sure you would do this anyway, but please wear a mask. Wenge is a bit iffy when it comes to safety... Splinters go septic, dust can cause nervous system effects, NPC ect.

Don't let this put you off, as long as you wear appropriate PPE you're safe... Just something to bare in mind. :thumb: I'm speaking from experience here, I sometimes forget my PPE and occasionally the after-effects can last weeks.

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Prostheta    1,257

Exactly. Don't let it put you off, just don't go breathing that dust and be mindful at all times.

 

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Polymaker    15
3 hours ago, Mike.Mara said:

Wenge is a bit iffy when it comes to safety... Splinters go septic, dust can cause nervous system effects, NPC ect.

48 minutes ago, Prostheta said:

Exactly. Don't let it put you off, just don't go breathing that dust and be mindful at all times.

Oh God... I'm freaking out right now... I did all the wenge carving on my single cut with no mask!! :blink: And on top of that with all the dust there was when I planned some boards and cut strips on the bench saw, I actually had lump of dust on the back of my throat that I only noticed a while after!! And the splinters.... I can't count how many splinter I got from wenge...

What is reassuring in a way is that I haven't noticed any symptom up to now that I can attribute to wenge and my splinters never got infected.

What kind of nervous system effect can it cause? I had coughing that lasted a week or so with no other symptoms that I had a clue it had to do with wood dust and dust in general (with the moving, you uncover some old stuff...)

I feel like I've shortened my lifespan a little ^_^

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Mike.Mara    48
30 minutes ago, Polymaker said:

Oh God... I'm freaking out right now... I did all the wenge carving on my single cut with no mask!! :blink: And on top of that with all the dust there was when I planned some boards and cut strips on the bench saw, I actually had lump of dust on the back of my throat that I only noticed a while after!! And the splinters.... I can't count how many splinter I got from wenge...

What is reassuring in a way is that I haven't noticed any symptom up to now that I can attribute to wenge and my splinters never got infected.

What kind of nervous system effect can it cause? I had coughing that lasted a week or so with no other symptoms that I had a clue it had to do with wood dust and dust in general (with the moving, you uncover some old stuff...)

I feel like I've shortened my lifespan a little ^_^

Don't worry! It's much like the old glue they used in MDF... It was carcinogenic but you had to be around it a lot.

NPC is extremely rare when working with certain woods. How many old guys that never wore masks that worked with oak their entire lives got it? Hardly any. It's just a possibility so we wear PPE just in-case. I'm still going and I never used to wear a mask.

Not entirely sure of the nervous system effects but I'd say your coughing is more likely attributed to just irritation from the dust than a nervous system reaction. As far as I'm aware it's only temporary anyway. I used to be on Diazepam which affects your nervous system and believe me, you would know if yours was affected.

I'm sure you're fine, like I said, they're just possibilities... Standing by a road is more likely to cause problems.

Just remember in future, grab your mask and goggles... We all forget sometimes. But it's better to be safe than sorry.

Mike.

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Mike.Mara    48

And also, my bad, NPC is not associated with Wenge as it seems. 

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Prostheta    1,257

Okay, well let's put this into a better context. All wood dust should be treated as a carcinogen. That is, habitual exposure. Working with uncontrolled wood dust is like having a smoking habit. It won't kill you from a few days or weeks, but allow it to become routine then it's something that needs to be controlled before the risks become too great.

Some woods are worse than others. There are sensitisers, irritants, woods that cause sepsis, plus several very pernicious woods like Sassafras that are an immediate hazard. This is a very good list, which seems to be built on those that have been available on the net for over a decade. A good update.

http://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/wood-allergies-and-toxicity/

Let me quote from that article:

Quote

Just because any given wood is not listed on the chart, does not mean that it is completely safe to use. It simply means that adverse reactions have not been reported as of yet. (The wood may be very obscure or unknown.) One helpful thing to do if you have confirmed that you’re allergic to a specific species of wood, is to check for related species (listed at the end of each wood profile page). Many times, a wood in a particular genus will share similar allergic compounds with other related woods, resulting in cross-reactions.) For example, Cocobolo is in the Dalbergia genus, and is also closely related to other woods such as Kingwood, Tulipwood, Honduran Rosewood, etc. Also, you may notice two wood types that sound like they’re related, such as Black Cherry (Prunus genus) and Brazilian Cherry (Hymenaea genus), but they are actually quite unrelated.

All inhaled wood dust is hazardous to your long-term health. This chart simply lists specific woods that can aggravate symptoms through allergic reactions, or woods that are outright toxic in and of themselves. However, all woods produce fine dust when worked, which in turn can damage your lungs and cause a number of other adverse health reactions. (This particular health issue—and the unhealthy buildup of such dusts in small woodworking or hobbyist shops—has been dealt with at length on Bill Pentz’ website.)

 

Put short; control the dust, preferably when you generate it. Be mindful of the woods you use and limit long term exposure to their dusts. The smallest of considerations in this regard are always going to be good. It is rare that people get seriously ill from a few projects with wood, but when you bring exotics like Cocobolo or Iroko into the equation, you can have reactions on the first time you use it.

Not trying to scare you, and it's nothing to fill your pants about. Keep the place clean, stop dust escaping and keep the air clean. That's all there is to it.

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Prostheta    1,257
4 hours ago, Polymaker said:

I feel like I've shortened my lifespan a little ^_^

 

I've probably done worse, believe me. You've probably shortened it by less than a minute so far.

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Polymaker    15

@Mike.Mara & @Prostheta Thank you for your explanations. Now I feel a little ashamed to have made some worry, I did over dramatize a little in my post. I also feel like I've hijacked the thread :unsure:

So to get back on topic here is a little advice for your build: go lightly on the wenge. That thing weight a lot and it is very dense. 

Also let me know if you find a place that sells slanted pickups that do not cost an arm and a leg :D

3 hours ago, Prostheta said:

Put short; control the dust

Good thing I bought a secondhand dust extractor last week :)

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Prostheta    1,257

Any dust extractor is better than none at all, that's for sure. Hijacking is fine as long as there is valid conversation to be had, and the OP isn't pushed out.

Wengé is a great wood, and yes, it's fairly heavy. Not as much as the white Oak used in the build for my friend's Telecaster....or Ash for that matter....

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Thanks to everyone who as replied to this post, im still in the process of getting all of the raw woods. Sorry about being pretty inactive on this site, very new to it too and didnt check on it for a while. I've gathered the Wenge, Black Palm and Masaccar ebony so far. The ebony was a perfectly sized piece just a little larger than what i need for the fret board so their is some room for error while working with it.(I can provide photos later on) I am still on the look for the zebra wood for the top and a wood for the neck.  Thanks to your post Komodo, I am more aware of the strength of the wood that will be needed. Im still very partial for koa for the looks and tone purpose, and would still like to use this wood in my build. But doing a multi piece neck with the koa and cocobolo or wenge is very interesting and I'm most likely going do a multi piece neck now. How do you guys think a 3 or 5 piece neck of koa and cocobolo or koa and wenge would be against the strain of the strings force. I got a big enough piece of wenge that i'd to be able to do a koa wenge 3 piece neck. I feel like that would be super unique but not sure of practically of it.

On 6/16/2017 at 2:14 PM, komodo said:

Pups first. You will need 8 pole HBs and since it is a multi-scale instrument, your individual coils will need to be staggered. You need to have each string go directly over each pole piece on both coils. If you can get that of the shelf, cool, if not it's pretty custom. Electronics ppl, can you can wire two 8 pole singles next to each other to create your own staggered HB?

As far as the woods, the description of the tone you are looking for, added to the amount of pull from 8 string guages makes me think koa is not the wood you are looking for. I'm very familiar with koa, it;s spectacular, easy working and similar to mahogany maybe but I'm thinking you want something with much more strength to counteract the string forces. You want the strings to ring very clear, "bell-like" would be a good description. I;d be looking at something like layered maple, wenge, rosewoods, cocobolo, bubinga, or something like that. I've got an 8-string multi-scale project on hold right now with a roughed in neck of cocobolo that has a tap tone like a marimba bar.

My personal preference is not to layer woods, as sanding and planing is a PITA as they both usually respond to the tool differently. 

;

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Prostheta    1,257

The other woods have plenty of resistance to bending under string pressure, however Koa is far lower in terms of stiffness. It will work similarly to genuine Mahogany in principle, so you should be okay unless tension is silly high.

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komodo    81

Didn't mean to throw you for a loop. Koa would work, and for a multi-scale, you are using longer scales for the low strings to balance out string tension. Look at putting in carbon bars on either side of the truss for stability, and you have a truss rod for counteracting string tension and adjustment. You mentioned a bright and crisp with good articulation, and to me that just says a denser/stiffer wood like cocobolo or pau ferro. Layering in 3-5 sections will add a lot to stiffness, but this isn't exactly the same as density for a bell tone like you mention. For stiffness, picture hard maple as a good baseline - It's arguably the ideal neck wood. Koa would be on a less dense/stiff side of that, wenge, coco, bubinga would be on the denser/stiffer side.

I referred to it as bell-like because that was the image I had in my head for the voice of the 8-string multi I was working on. To me thats more than crisp and articulate, but rich in harmonics and with singing sustain. There are a lot of factors that make up a tone like that.
-density of the neck wood
-bridge, nut, and fretboard material
-pickups and placement
-type and gauge of strings, etc.

My last guitar had a 25" scale rosewood neck, carbon bars, a maple cap over a resonant swamp ash body, and hot humbuckers that used Alnico 8s. I can tell you that is incredibly HIFI sounding. It's voice actually stunned me at first because it was so different from a straight up maple neck/mahogany, humbucker guitar. People talk a lot about tone woods, what material for this and that. The final answer is that they all change things - BUT TO WHAT DEGREE - and, they all work together as a system, Hope some of this is useful and not just me blowing hot air!

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Prostheta    1,257

Bright and crisp definitely point more towards harder more compact, finely-grained woods such as Maple. Koa is warmer-sounding, so wouldn't achieve that specification.

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