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Poplar For Guitarbuilding...


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Uggh, that was the last wood I wanted to hear about at the moment. I went to glue on my fingerboard last night and clamped it down with a couple radius blocks and a neck support caul from stewmac and just after adding the final clamp and just as the epoxy was starting to set the damn neck support caul which was made of poplar, snapped right down the middle length wise, throwing most of my clamps all over the place. Very irritating. It was some ugly poplar too, big green streaks. At least now I know I need to make my own neck support cauls, which I should have in the first place. Oh well.

As said above, I have heard and seen of numerous guitars made from poplar, usually done to save money, though not always. Its quite a bit softer than most woods and dents easier, just so you know. Can have green mineral streaks, like my neck support caul had.

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Seriously,Phoenix...if you are going to EVER build an instrument you will want to play,you should become more of a student of guitar...

Jackson has always and still does use poplar as a body wood on high end instruments,and even a remote interest in research would have already found that out for you.Google is your friend.You could have also found many,many topics on this forum with a search.

Having said that,I don't like the one dimensional sound poplar offers.Alder is a better alternative.

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Also, let's be clear on what we are calling poplar. The "poplar" that is used in guitar manufacture, and what is typically marketed as "poplar" is tulip poplar, also called yellow poplar, Liriodendron Tulipfera. Not in the poplar family at all, yet that is what is generally meant when we refer to poplar, at least in the US. It gets a little less clear the further north you go, as you get into the growing range of the true poplars, like aspen, balsam poplar, etc. The top of the guitar linked to earlier, is of the latter variety, and is much more likely to exhibit figure than yellow poplar. Yellow poplar is a bit denser, and finer grained. Here is a bass I built out of it:

popbass.jpg

This is from a really nice piece, and all heartwood. Most of the stuff on the market is paler, with lots of white sapwood.

I happen to like yellow poplar quite well.

But again, if you are in Michigan, it is quite possible that aspen will be sold as poplar.

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I believe that Jackson even marketed many of their models as having Alder bodies while in reality the bodies were made out of Poplar.

There are many kinds of poplar.

Some of them show fantastic burl / flame / quilt effects - pretty awesome looking.

Ibanez have a whole model that is especially topped by polar burl. It is a rather high-end guitar that sells in the $1300 - $1700 range.

It sure looks killer, check it out here: http://www.guitar-village.co.uk/product-de...ew%2C+Inc.+Case

For me Poplar burl is one of the coolest looking effects in wood, if not the coolest looking.

Yes, you can use Poplar as your body material.

Edited by DrummerDude
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As said Jackson has used poplar as well as Charvel. Even some of Charvel's higher end guitars were made of poplar in the 80's. It works very easily, is easy on your tools. It can be a little more finicky with getting the right pickups, but will produce a good sound with the right ones. It can have pretty ugly green mineral streaks. But I also am using a piece right now that I am dying slate gray and then coating with a deep red toner, which ends up pretty nice looking. But I was even considering leaving it natural because this piece has a lot more gray and purple mineral streaks that looked interesting. Some of the streaks looked like purple heart, they were colored that well. Depending on what you get some poplar can look very bland and boring, and some can be pretty nice looking.

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This is some fresh cut yellow poplar:

poplar.jpg

The green is the normal color of the heartwood in yellow poplar. The purple, blue, and black are what is referred to as "mineral streaking" and usually turns up in trees that have sustained some sort of damage.

I forgot to mention that in Europe, and the UK, poplar is either white or black poplar, those species being native to south/east Europe and central Asia. They are also widely cultivated throughout Europe, Africa, and Australia, so I would bet that they are what is sold as poplar in Australia. Also, I believe they are the species that most poplar burl comes from. I don't think I have ever seen any real burl in yellow poplar, but I sometimes run into patches of dormant bud cluster.

The true poplars in North America do produce some burl, as well.

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..... the damn neck support caul which was made of poplar, snapped right down the middle length wise, ........

Sounds like there was a gap between the center of the neck and the center of the caul, which will usually cause this to happen. happens to me too, sometimes. My cauls are oak. I glue 'em back together. Would happen with any wood, with enough clamp pressure.

You need a neck caul with less of a radius, so the middle part touches. Heck, some guys use a telephone book for a neck caul.

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..... the damn neck support caul which was made of poplar, snapped right down the middle length wise, ........

Sounds like there was a gap between the center of the neck and the center of the caul, which will usually cause this to happen. happens to me too, sometimes. My cauls are oak. I glue 'em back together. Would happen with any wood, with enough clamp pressure.

You need a neck caul with less of a radius, so the middle part touches. Heck, some guys use a telephone book for a neck caul.

I believe you're right on that one. Though I might have barely skimmed by if it was made of different wood, because it only broke just after tightening the final clamp, though whose to say a harder wood wouldn't have snapped sometime within the following 24 hours. A telephone book doesn't sound like a half bad idea, though I do need to make a decent neck caul anyway for pressing and other processes. I should have made one to begin with as I had planned, but when ordering a few things I needed, I decided to take the easy route and just buy one.

What I did since it was already almost setting, was took a couple of bar clamps and used them to pull it back together. It worked out alright, though not ideal by any means. Do you prefer cork for the padding or do you have any better preferences? Anyhow, thanks for the insight and info on this, I'm pretty sure that is exactly what happened. J

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Thin cork might be my favorite. I haven't done this yet, but I noticed one guy who really knows his stuff, makes cauls out of softer wood, glued to a piece of harder wood. The softer wood goes on the guitar side, the harder wood on the clamp side. I assume the softer wood is 2x4 scrap standard stuff, cut down to size . Imagine how fast you could change the curved profile in a softer wood, with coarse sandpaper over various pipe sizes ( In the past I've used steel tube from a car jackstand and large fence post with abrasive over it, to shape the curve into the neck cauls). I'd never buy stuff like that, when I can make it with my eyes closed. I do come across a lot of poplar scrap wood, from pallets people throw away. Some of the really thin pieces do split easily, but that's after I've gone nuts with a crow-bar on the pallet.

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Seriously,Phoenix...if you are going to EVER build an instrument you will want to play,you should become more of a student of guitar...

Jackson has always and still does use poplar as a body wood on high end instruments,and even a remote interest in research would have already found that out for you.Google is your friend.You could have also found many,many topics on this forum with a search.

Having said that,I don't like the one dimensional sound poplar offers.Alder is a better alternative.

I'm working on it. I figured the best source of info would be this site. Google presents a lot of info but some of it is not credible, at least here you can correct someone's mistake. I do know a bit about guitars since I have played a lot longer than I have built them. Unfortunately I usually focus on the usuals... Fender, Gibson, Ibanez, PRS, Martin, Taylor... and have not reasearched a lot about Charvel or Jackson since I figured they were really Fender companies. I am doing some major research right now into vintge Electras and Gretsch. But I will keep up the vigilance. Thanks for the tips guys!

P.S. Where can I get some decent sized Alder? My local woodcraft has Alder but it is too thin, only 4/4 unless I want to glue two pieces together I suppose.

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