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Seeking Stable And Dark (brown) Wood


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Hey all,

I love the look of alternating dark/light woods in a laminated project (like many neck-throughs), but I'm uncertain what woods people have had success with in the past.

I'm thinking of alternating White Limba (Korina) as my light wood, which will be the main type of wood; however, I don't know what to use for the dark. Purpleheart seems a good choice, but I have to admit that I'm visualizing a brown colour rather than a reddish one.

Walnut also came to mind, but some web searching showed some pretty big variations in colour, even within one piece. Since this will be the accent colour, I don't imagine I'll be using too much of it; therefore, consistency of brown is more important to me than the 'tone' of the wood. Rosewood is too endangered and doesn't generally come as lumber... Wenge has been mentioned a few times around here.

Another option I was considering was using something like mahogany but then dying it so that it's brownish instead of reddish.

Since the plan IS a neck-through, how does a {limba | wenge | limba} lamination stack up in terms of stability?

Greg

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You should not have too much trouble finding good even-colored walnut. Indeed, a lot of the lumber guys will treat it to homogenize the color (and in the process, darken the sapwood so that they can try to sell it as heartwood). Generally walnut is more even-colored toward the center of the tree; black (eastern) walnut has a very light-colored sapwood, more color variation just inward of that, then its pretty even.

Once you clear-coat it, it will darken up quite a bit.

Try to stay away from oily woods like rosewood, the dust is very sticky and will dirty-up your limba.

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I haven't worked with wenge, so I don't know much about it, other than it looks good.

I like your mahogany idea, to me it looks good as a contrast even without dye or stain.

Walnut would be awesome, in my opinion. You could specify that you want dark, even color when you buy the wood. Most places are helpful with getting what you want as far as grain and color.

Have you checked out Peruvian walnut? It's supposed to be darker than American walnut.

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Wenge is great. I think it's underused but that's just me. Besides its physical properties it's quite a looker. But you should consider what type of finish you're going to use. If you're going with a high gloss lacquer, then Wenge will soak up finish awkwardly. But then again, you'd be grain filling anyway because of the Limba. So a real hard filler would be fine. If you're going to oil it, then you can use whatever. Mahogany and Walnut would be excellent choices, but you'd really just be alternating colors. The grain patterns will look really similar. Whereas Rosewood, Cocobolo, or Wenge will be easily distinguishable. I guess what I'm saying is that depending on the Walnut or Mahogany, it could end up just looking like "multi-colored" rather than laminated. Does that make sense? Like you taped it off and sprayed stain on strips or something. I know that sounds silly, but I'm just pointing it out because of the Limba. If it were Alder or Ash, or Maple then Walnut/Mahogany would contrast more. Sometimes we don't "see" things when we're designing a guitar until it's too late, like after it's buffed out and assembled. Or like, when you look at it you'll see the laminates because you remember making them, while others will just see alternating colors. It obviously depends on the pieces, too. If your Limba is really chalky and grey, with blackish grains, but then your Walnut is a smooth, uniform chocolate brown, it would look pretty great.

BTW you realize your topic title looks like a gay personal ad, right?

Edited by frank falbo
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BTW you realize your topic title looks like a gay personal ad, right?

Experience in subject matter????

Just few comments I like to add.....the latest Ibanez type laminated necks.......have maple/wenge/maple/wenge/maple....type laminate......or walnut instead of wenge.

The new necks look the bomb. Very cool. Here...have look at Walnut and Wenge examples....

Ibanez_necks.jpg

The new Jems have this maple/dyed maple/maple/dyed maple/maple type laminate.

They have stained/colored the maple so two small dark contrasting stripes appear in the neck. Simple solution but very classy looking neck.

db_12_s.jpg

Personally I think the color, structure, and feel of Wenge are just great. Wenge wood has so much character.......it has these open pores.....these streaks of darker/black dense hard woods alternated with the chocolate brown softer (relative here!!) areas.

Bit more complicated to work with. Results are awesome.

Question you have to ask yourself.....how you want to finish the Korina neck laminate parts of the neck. Spraying clear over it...could be bit tricky with the Wenge.

In general everything goes when doing laminated neck. What ever tickles your pickle so to say.

You could use Ebony, Wenge, Bubinga, Walnut, darked Maple......etc...etc....

Edited by RGGR
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Wenge is hard as rock! But it does look really good. It's extremely stable and good for a nekc. A lot of basses have wenge necks. It is hard to finish because it has really big pours that you have to fill, It's also like thers two woods in there. There is the black one that is REALLY hard and than theres a dark gray one that is still hard but not as hard as the black stuff. The gray one soaks up finish like there is no tomorow. It's also really heavy and would balance out a heavy body wood nicely. I'm making a solid body out of it that is smaller than usual bodies and I'm still carving out the top and the back like crazy just to get the weight down to levels where you done break your back after like 40 minutes. Oh and you need to be REALLY carful on the router. Wenge really likes to tear out. You need to go in a little bit at a time and go nice and slow.

Edited by Godin SD
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I was thinking of a Tru Oil finish, or at least something that's fairly low-gloss to leave the wood natural-looking. I hadn't really decided on the specific finish because this is a long ways off, but I'm one of those guys who likes to research for months before beginning.

Thanks for the replies. I'm leaning a bit toward the Wenge right now. :D Those necks look great, by the way. I was originally thinking thin-ish middle stripe and 2 outer limba stripes, but the 3 wide + 2 thin is looking great!

Greg

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Wenge makes great stripes! Trouble is is that it is WAY HARDER than limba, so if you use it be very careful not to sand flat spots in the limba on either side of the wenge.

Pau ferro makes really nice brown stripes, and it is very stiff which is good for the neck. Very hard wood. Color comes out after fine sanding and a bit of sealer or finish.

Bubinga is a bit lighter brown, but has this really nice virbrant browninsh color. Again, very hard wood.

Purple heart turns almost black after a while.

Dark walnut is not too hard to find, but does not add much in the way of stiffness like the harder woods.

My preference is wenge, or pau ferro with limba. Opinion of course. The limba is like a sponge with sealer, so be carefull to fill it well. I like it because it's light and stiff. It's well suited for a guitar.

Have fun!

-Doug

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I'm throughing out an odd ball.- How about Katalox. I just picked up some figured(curly) very dark material. The stuff I picked up has a dark chocolate color to it. This stuff seems to be very similar to Ebony in terms of stability, seems to have a similar weight, and takes a heck of a high polish. The price is not too bad, especially if you compare it to Ebony. I was told Breedlove was trying it out on fretboards with good results, so I thought I would check it out. So far 2 thumbs up.

Peace, Rich

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I've never heard of it, but I'll certainly look into it as the time approaches.

I did a mock-up of the guitar using Paint Shop Pro and a limba picture I found (I just used brown stripes for the brown wood), and I'm not sure how I like it. I wonder if I'm better off using a whole different 'light' colored wood, too. <chuckle>

Mockup1.jpg

Of course, a mock-up and the real thing are going to be quite different, but I have to say that my initial reaction wasn't necessarily one of pleasure. The grain pattern isn't to scale, though, so that's part of it.

Greg

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Greg, I kinda like the way that guitar looks. Only I might consider making the dark brown stripes a little bit thinner. With the limba grain to scale, and maybe some figuring in the dark brown wood, it would look great.

Douglas Fir? There's something interesting, I hadn't thought of that wood before. I had thought of aromatic cedar the other day when I was at Lowe's. Don't know how it would sound, but it sure would smell good!

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I haven't heard of either of those kinds of woods and guitar wood, Fryo! Certainly worth checking out.

Regarding the stripes-- I haven't even decided for sure how many I'm going to have. I might go 2 down the middle instead of one. In other words, 4 total instead of 3.

Greg

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Greg,

Here are a couple of quotes from the Les Paul Forum.

Originally Posted by Dan Erlewine

It's made from 400-year old Douglas Fir. Much of it is quarter-sawn. It has no truss rod, and doesn't need one.

dan

I found it very interesting that you chose Douglas Fir....I've been using it for several years and offering it as an "alternative" neck lumber on my electroCoustics.

The idea for using fir came about through my study of aerobatic aircraft; while sitka spruce is the lumber of choice for wood aircraft wing spars, fir is often documented as a "second" choice. While the strength/weight ratio is not quite as high as spruce, it is actually STIFFER for a given cross section.

The stability and stiffness of this stuff is amazing. I'd done some "side deflection" and "tuning" tests before I used it the first time....it was measurably stiffer than maple, mahogany, cedar and spruce; I used a 0.400" square cross section for my test, 12" in length. I clamped a dozen or so samples of the various lumbers into my vise and measured the pitch. The fir was nearly two whole tones higher in pitch than the mahogany, which was comparable to spruce in stiffness...the maple was less stiff than the mahogany, while the cedar came in with the lowest pitch.

The only "downside" I can find for fir, is it doesn't like a capo very much...but your guitar design seems to have solved that particular problem.

ALL of my personal electroCoustics use fir for the neck, my guitar, fretless bass and electroBro(square neck). I've built several of these for a pro bassist in Branson(he's the musical director for the "Legends" theatre)....I did use a truss rod in these instruments, and they only require adjusting when new, and then about three weeks later. The first one is 2 1/2 years old, and we haven't adjusted it since....

My customer likes it for it's tone though; imparts a nice set of upper harmonics to the sound of his 5 string "J" basses, one of which is set up as a synth driver...and he says he can hear the difference in that application, even if I can't.

__________________

Dave W.

Wendler Instruments

It's a kinda long post but here is the link.link

I wanted to try it out for soundboards, but it seems to do nicely on necks also.

Kinda different, but I like it.

Peace, Rich

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Having looked at some Fir pics online, and knowing my one-sided fir plywood, it has neither the colour nor the grain pattern I'm looking for.

I think Wes is right about the limba. As for the dark wood, I'm not worried about the grain pattern showing (the stripes will be thinnish) therefore the overall colour is more important, and the structural benefits more important still. So it's still up in the air, but I haven't put wenge out of the running yet. :D

Another question: ideally I'd want the body stripes to follow the same angle as the neck taper. But when I get this project under way, I was thinking of getting the supplier (A & M) to do the laminating for me. I'm just not sure that they'd be able to do the taper. If I need to do it at home, what is the technique to follow in order to keep the taper? Whenever I imagine doing a neck-through, I imagine laminating 'rectangular' segments together. I don't even know HOW to produce a tapered segment that would be properly jointed for gluing.

Greg

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I don't even know HOW to produce a tapered segment that would be properly jointed for gluing.

A template and router would be the answer to your prayers. Make template of taper. Stick to body....route shape. Glue wenge accent stripes to body.....glue end wings to body. Sand everything flat. (as with glueing wood piece tend to have mind of their own and never will stay in place completely, although clipped nail-trick could help in certain cases.)

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Ah, I'm pretty much screwed, then. I don't have the tools or know-how to prep the edges for that kind of gluing. On such a small body, it won't be too disappointing to have the stripes running parrallel anyhow.

Cheers!

Greg

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If you're very, very careful you could do it on a table saw.

What do you mean when you say you don't have the know how to prep the edges for that kind of gluing? It's not any different from gluing a body blank together, there are just a couple more pieces.

Also, most neck-through guitars do have the stripes running parallel and look just fine.

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