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Ash Vs. Oak


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I´m almost sure I´ve seen threads where oak has been used. Unfortunately, I can´t come up with them with the search function...could it be it hasn´t??

EDIT: This is a quick search I did with "oak". Haven´t had the time to read through, though. Hope you find something interesting.

Edited by MexNoob
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red special is probably the most famous oak guitar around... not sure what type of oak though

That certainly gives credibility to the thought. An ounce of research says it was made from an old fireplace hearth or something along those lines.

BTW: Did y'all know that Brian May has a PhD in astrophysics? That's right, he's a frikin ROCKET SCIENTIST! Just exactly how cool is that!

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Well, first off, oak and ash are not in the same family. Oak belongs to the Fagaceae, or beech family, while ash is in the oleaceae, or olive family.

They are fairly similar in many ways, however.

Oak is quite a bit heavier than the "swamp ash" that is usually used for guitar bodies, that is probably the main issue.

It is also a lot harder, as well.

I have a guitar I made with a 3/4" oak top on a 1" beech back. It is quite heavy and has a sharp bite to the tone. I usually keep the tone control halfway down on this one, whereas I usually leave it all the way up on most guitars.

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red special is probably the most famous oak guitar around... not sure what type of oak though

That certainly gives credibility to the thought. An ounce of research says it was made from an old fireplace hearth or something along those lines.

BTW: Did y'all know that Brian May has a PhD in astrophysics? That's right, he's a frikin ROCKET SCIENTIST! Just exactly how cool is that!

um....astrophysics and rocket science aren't really the same thing.

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BTW: Did y'all know that Brian May has a PhD in astrophysics? That's right, he's a frikin ROCKET SCIENTIST! Just exactly how cool is that!

Yes, of course, anyone with the last name May is one smart chap. :D

An average piece of oak is usually more like "Northern" Ash (almost always a heavier wood than the *swamp* ash that's more sought after).

Next time you see an old stuffed couch sitting out for trash pickup, good chance it's loaded underneath with dense, heavy Oak framing. But I've gotten Northern Ash and Alder out of the suckers too.

Wait, maybe that means people with the last name May have a special talent for taking a piece of wood from one thing and then using it to build something completely different. One of us should win the ' No Bell Piece Prize'.

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ive been wanting to start a topic talking about using yellow pine and other '' junk '' woods.... when really there not, u just half to have an imagination when using them... With pine, its cant sustain on it own, it needs support, so i was thinking... why not make a hollow-body out of all the yellow pine i have laying around but then use a denser harder wood for the top... Now im just getting started in this, so what do u guys think... Talking with Jack ( A nabor of mine, he ranks one of the top 10 native american flute makers in the US of A, and an expert on wood ), he has said time and time again, all wood can be put to use, you just half to have an imagination...

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...but not necessarily any wood can be put to any use. The issue of pine has been talked over in the past and there´s an interesting build with plywood as material. You should check it out!

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Variations in wood species has some effect on tone and sustain, but structural parameters provide the basis for what we hear in the wood. A well crafted solid body guitar made of pine and poplar will have more sustain than a badly made one of oak or maple. Mass is only a tonal consideration to the extent that lack of structural stiffness allows it to interact in a given system. As a structure is made more flexible, mass interacts audibly by rolling off highs. This is part of the reason ultra light and stiff solid body guitars sound so bright. Remember, the mass of a wood species says nothing about it's resistance to bending or it's internal damping, both of which have more influence on sustain.

Also, the properties of wood vary a lot within a species. If you go to the lumber store and try to bend some different poplar boards, you'll see that some are light and stiff, some are heavy and stiff, some are light and flexible, some are heavy and flexible. Part of this has to do with how the board is sawn. You could probably find a piece of heavy slab sawn maple that was less stiff than a piece of light, quarter sawn poplar. Oak is stiff and springy. Springy is another way of saying low internal damping, which means less loss of energy. Some energy is always robbed by mass, but only to the degree that flexibility and internal damping allow the mass to interact. So, stiff low internal damping woods have sustain and sound bright whether they're high in mass or not.

In the last few years I used some bamboo flooring in various places of solid body guitars. A friend made a whole neck through out of bamboo in my shop. It's hard to tell what effect the bamboo had on mine and my friends builds, because they were built from scratch, not modified. More recently I modified a strat I have by moving the neck and bridge coil side by side and mounting the whole 'slantbucker' closer to the bridge. Chopping out the extra alder to mount the pickups closer to the bridge left very little wood in front of the six trem screws, and at the same time it occurred to me that a solid body guitar's grain direction is not optimum for supporting the screws. So, I mortised in a block of bamboo under the bridge with the grain running crosswise for better screw support. The difference was obvious. Much better sustain and broader tone. Not just brighter, but generally more clarity and lows too. This is the second cross grained bridge block I've used, but the first was put in at construction time, so I had no before and after.

As an afterthought, has anyone seen Alex Csikys' guitars? Very interesting luthier. Some people think he's arrogant because he proclaims himself to be the best solid body luthier in the world, but his construction methods bear out his claims, and owners rave about his axes. He has a solid body made of knotty pine that he made from an Ikea table.

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Alex from Zachary Guitars? I´ve seen them, but I don´t think much of his philosophy. I especially don´t like his bashing, reminds me of ER. Have you had opportunity to play one of his guitars? They make me curious whether they would sound good or not.

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we are not starting this pine debate again are we!!

here are 3 examples from good sources which say pine is suitable

leo fender made his early guitars from pine. Some still survive and they are making pine squiers at the moment:

http://www.samash.com/catalog/showitem.asp?itemid=70361

Bob benedetto made an archtop with knotty pine, apparently it sounded just as good as his others

Most acoustic instruments in the world have a softwood top as fry pointed out in another thread

Like fry says in the plywood thread, it comes down to material selection and 'the numbers' that fry quotes quite often. Just because pine can be used it doesnt mean every piece of pine could be a guitar!!!!

personally if i was going to build from pine i would be looking for an old bit, just because i would want to ensure it was well seasoned... but old pine isnt hard to find even if you have to rip a bit of furniture apart to get it... even then i would be looking for a particularly nice old bit

The term 'junk wood' makes me laugh - wasnt that how swamp ash was considered ... not that long ago!!!

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i responded on the oak issue, but the 3 posts before my last one had talked about pine so i responded to that too - might have been better placed in the ply thread but i posted it here instead :D

i wasnt trying to be arsey but it seems lots of people think they are reinventing the wheel by building out of pine or ply and somehow trying to prove a point about tone... its all been done before and has precedent so there is no reason you cant use what you want

again with the oak, its not used often but has already been shown to be usable so i pointed to one famous example i know of.

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i responded on the oak issue, but the 3 posts before my last one had talked about pine so i responded to that too - might have been better placed in the ply thread but i posted it here instead :D

i wasnt trying to be arsey but it seems lots of people think they are reinventing the wheel by building out of pine or ply and somehow trying to prove a point about tone... its all been done before and has precedent so there is no reason you cant use what you want

again with the oak, its not used often but has already been shown to be usable so i pointed to one famous example i know of.

I get what you were trying to say, and I did see your original post on the topic. Thanks for the input.

On the "prove a point" issue - there will never be an end to it. It's sad to a point because the whole thing is so subjective that it renders a debate completely pointless.

My viewpoint is along these lines: Certain woods aren't used, neither by the big manufacturers, the small luthiers, nor the hobbyists. It seems that there should be a legitimate reason for this, and I'm hungry to know what that reason is.

In solid (not ply) woods, it seems the generic answer for why a wood isn't used is either structural or cost. A secondary reason would seem to be the stigma attached. Everyone knows that pine is dirt cheap and isn't used, therefore it must not be worth using, therefore any ax made from it would be crap.

On a tonal note, why would a metal player CARE about the delicate tonal qualities of a piece of wood? They generally process the signal to the point that tone from the wood is completely absent. But in the end, it all comes down to the players subjective viewpoint, so that point is useless as well.

In the end, it's all pointless. "So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?" I guess I'm in kind of a mood today.

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I know people like to copy what the big factories do, so Mahogany, Swamp Ash, Alder = Good. Pine, Oak, mystery wood that still has a nice ring when tapped = bad.

Big factory : What can we get in huge quantities on a regular basis and tends to be fairly consistent from piece to piece.

The hobbiest builder can use whatever the hell he wants. Doesn't matter if he had to look in grandmas attic, or cut a poplar pallet into pieces. Chances are, it will sound at least decent, and quite likely sound as good as anything else.

Even with guitars made of "choice woods", guitarist are constently looking for ways to improve their sound.

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i responded on the oak issue, but the 3 posts before my last one had talked about pine so i responded to that too - might have been better placed in the ply thread but i posted it here instead :D

i wasnt trying to be arsey but it seems lots of people think they are reinventing the wheel by building out of pine or ply and somehow trying to prove a point about tone... its all been done before and has precedent so there is no reason you cant use what you want

again with the oak, its not used often but has already been shown to be usable so i pointed to one famous example i know of.

I get what you were trying to say, and I did see your original post on the topic. Thanks for the input.

On the "prove a point" issue - there will never be an end to it. It's sad to a point because the whole thing is so subjective that it renders a debate completely pointless.

My viewpoint is along these lines: Certain woods aren't used, neither by the big manufacturers, the small luthiers, nor the hobbyists. It seems that there should be a legitimate reason for this, and I'm hungry to know what that reason is.

In solid (not ply) woods, it seems the generic answer for why a wood isn't used is either structural or cost. A secondary reason would seem to be the stigma attached. Everyone knows that pine is dirt cheap and isn't used, therefore it must not be worth using, therefore any ax made from it would be crap.

On a tonal note, why would a metal player CARE about the delicate tonal qualities of a piece of wood? They generally process the signal to the point that tone from the wood is completely absent. But in the end, it all comes down to the players subjective viewpoint, so that point is useless as well.

In the end, it's all pointless. "So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?" I guess I'm in kind of a mood today.

Very sensable, good questions(that I think we all are trying to answer). I think it is really frustrating because the subject of how woods will effect timbre are usually totally generic. I think you have to put the type of wood proposed to be used in the context of the build. Things like weight, well how thick is the body? Is it hollow or hollowed to some extent? That will certainly change things up a bit. Is the wood used for a neck? What will the back profile be like, how long is the exposed shaft(will it be attached to the body at the 16th fret or ???), what is the headstock shape(certainly will effect the mass at the end of the neck), what about the tuners you can have a huge difference in hardware weight. All these things would certainly effect how a given wood will perform. I think that is what makes these things pretty confusing. When guys talk about Spruce soundboards they are discussing differences that are very small, and you have to discuss thickness and overall dimensions as it relates to density and stiffness(not to mention volume of the box and so forth). Even trying to be very specific and pay close attension to every detail, the variance from piece to piece(same species) can blur the lines between these woods. Moral of the story... there are few absolutes, and a ton of variables to consider or play with in design. I guess that is what makes building so interesting(at least for me because I doubt I will ever figure all this stuff out).

Oak, has been used and is viable. It is heavier than some woods commonly used, and very close to others occasionally used. Most importantly would be the piece of oak you have in your hands. When you evaluate it does it feel too heavy for your build, does it sound resonant, is it dry and stable? Does it look good to you, does it look like finishing will be acceptable(fill and what not) for your application? If it seems good to you then it may very well be great, we all have to trust what we have learned and percieve(that is why instrument builders have to have a great amount of insite into the material they use, and is something we are constantly trying to understand more clearly).

Dugg,

Remember, the mass of a wood species says nothing about it's resistance to bending or it's internal damping, both of which have more influence on sustain.

In the case of softwoods at least(and hardwods for the most part). Stiffness follows density at least along the grain, across the grain is more variable. Of course stiffness does not always increase in a linear fasion with regards to volume, and varies with orientation. Moisture content and temperature vary stiffness, density, and damping also so there are plenty of considerations all of which cetrtainly could influence sustain and timbre. Lots of stuff interacting, that is what makes the simple answers so hard to come by.

Rich

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Most importantly would be the piece of oak you have in your hands. When you evaluate it does it feel too heavy for your build, does it sound resonant, is it dry and stable? Does it look good to you, does it look like finishing will be acceptable(fill and what not) for your application? If it seems good to you then it may very well be great, we all have to trust what we have learned and percieve(that is why instrument builders have to have a great amount of insite into the material they use, and is something we are constantly trying to understand more clearly).

i hope people are reading this because really its the answer to every 'would ........ be suitable' question we get on the forums. I feel confident i can pick up a piece of wood and tell if it would make a reasonable instrument...i still have to rely on generic ideas about the precise sound but i think i can at least tell if it will work or not - even if that wood happened to be a sheet of ply

the execption i have found so far is swamp ash... i have had some which had the tap tone of wet cardboard but still sounded great once made into an instrument... i guess i just wasnt tapping it right!! the point is that there are still exceptions to the taptone rule i normally follow but occasionally you have to take a chance all by your self and see if it works

Pine, Oak, mystery wood that still has a nice ring when tapped = bad.

so still nobody seems to pick up on the squire i linked to... these are some of the most exciting squires in years... not the best quality guitars and the pine thing may be a budget choice but we probably have the first guitars made like an early 50's fender for a long time

i , will stop before i start a rant about zachary guitars for him to post on his website.... ahh bugger it, i cant resist... i was reading this page the other day

http://www.zacharyguitars.com/241006pics.htm

pretty nice guitar, i have no problem with his work as it does look neat to me and he obviously makes nice guitars even if some features seem strange to me

I spent a whole day calculating the bridge placement. If you care to look and measure the bridge location on the reissue Gibson Special/Junior and I am sure on the vintage specimens as well, the bridge is in the wrong spot and the two intonation screws really need to be used to place the bridge in the right spot. To intonate these guitars properly sometimes means that the bridge is moved way back on the anchor bolts. I don't like that at all.

I could have really messed the bridge placement up and I had no idea I would get it so dead on. I did many calculations and basically predictions as to where the bridge will sit on the finished intonated guitar. When it came to intonate this guitar with my strobe tuner I was shocked to find that I did not have to move that bridge at all. I was amazed. So the ugly intonation screws are not needed and I removed them. This way the bridge also sits all the way forward on the anchor bolts, giving it the most surface area and stability

wow, a whole paragraph telling us he knows how to use a fraking ruler!!!

and this

I hope there are enough pictures for you. I hope you have a high speed connection. And for all the budding guitar makers around the world, if you are a real no talent losers, I have again provided super close-ups in order to help you make your own Zachary guitars. Just remember that if you cannot come up with your own ****, you simply don't have it and never will. Anything you steal, you will never enjoy and will simply end up more miserable than you already are.

i'm about to start an early 50's LP junior style guitar (including plenty of early 50's LPJ parts) so i guess i am another budding guitar builder... another real no talent loser that cannot come up with his own **** and feels the need to copy zach... but at least i will never enjoy it, and i am obviously already quite miserable :D

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QUOTE

I spent a whole day calculating the bridge placement. If you care to look and measure the bridge location on the reissue Gibson Special/Junior and I am sure on the vintage specimens as well, the bridge is in the wrong spot and the two intonation screws really need to be used to place the bridge in the right spot. To intonate these guitars properly sometimes means that the bridge is moved way back on the anchor bolts. I don't like that at all.

I could have really messed the bridge placement up and I had no idea I would get it so dead on. I did many calculations and basically predictions as to where the bridge will sit on the finished intonated guitar. When it came to intonate this guitar with my strobe tuner I was shocked to find that I did not have to move that bridge at all. I was amazed. So the ugly intonation screws are not needed and I removed them. This way the bridge also sits all the way forward on the anchor bolts, giving it the most surface area and stability

wow, a whole paragraph telling us he knows how to use a fraking ruler!!!

and this

QUOTE

I hope there are enough pictures for you. I hope you have a high speed connection. And for all the budding guitar makers around the world, if you are a real no talent losers, I have again provided super close-ups in order to help you make your own Zachary guitars. Just remember that if you cannot come up with your own ****, you simply don't have it and never will. Anything you steal, you will never enjoy and will simply end up more miserable than you already are.

i'm about to start an early 50's LP junior style guitar (including plenty of early 50's LPJ parts) so i guess i am another budding guitar builder... another real no talent loser that cannot come up with his own **** and feels the need to copy zach... but at least i will never enjoy it, and i am obviously already quite miserable

Wow, it is a good thing that we use adjustable screws on our acoustic saddles. I am sure it would be way beyond our ability to actually place a bridge correctly as he has appearantly finally figured out.

I suppose I will also remain a no talent loser also, and not follow his well beaten path. I just couldn't bring myself to click on that link and visit that site.

Rich

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Ah Wez...

Well in case you have not noticed or you don't know your guitar history, the pickups are not correct for this model. If you thought these were P90s then hit yourself over the head right now. These are not P90s, even though they look like them and are the same size and shape. They are historic however. Its a new pickups that I developed based on the vintage Gibson Alnico pickups found on the 1954 Les Paul Custom actually, before they went to those muddy humbuckers.

And he takes offense that Fender Custom Shop pickups are labeled "Made In Mexico". I take offense... :D :D

BTW Wez...just kidding!

Edited by MexNoob
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hmm.. completely off topic now i am afraid

but if he wanted to do an gibson alnico pickup he would have used the rectangular magnets attached to a spring and screw mechanism for height adjustment. possible the pickup with the most moving parts and as such is liable to microphonics but does sound great. All he has done is add magnetic polepieces to a P-90.. something i quite approve off but its in no way 'historic' - - - although isnt too far removed from a jazzmaster pickup - different wind though

sorry fellas... i will repeat... i quite like the guitars... the only thing i dont like is the fact the E strings go the wrong way round the tuner post and the minmal headtsock shape which needs 3 string trees. so one for practicality and one for taste!!

as always with zach its the BS that gets me riled rather than the guitars

the LPJ i will be building soon will hopefully feature an original scratchplate, tuners, wiring loom, bridge and P-90 by jason lollar - 50/60's stuff ( the pickup may be a lollar (not vintage)or it may be a vintage gibson P-90 rewound by lollar - havnt got it yet but either way i know it will sound good).

I am happy to copy gibson rather than zachery for this guitar!!!

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