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Layered Bodies


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We make multi-piece bodies all the time. We also make them with laminate tops of varying thickness. This tells me that gluing for thickness is perfectly acceptable.

With this in mind, why do we insist on using 2" thick wood if we know we'll be painting it? The structure will be more stable due to the extra layers, and the glue lines will be hidden by the paint.

Granted, this wouldn't be much of a consideration with cheaper woods like poplar. The difference from 4/4 poplar to 8/4 is about $0.50/BF. Where it would be worth doing is with more expensive woods. Walnut, maple, and ash have about $2/BF difference.

Any thoughts?

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I don't think there's any problem with doing that, however when you are talking about more expensive woods you're generally talking about more attractive woods. And quite often these types of woods are finished clear rather than a solid color. This is probably the biggest reason that people don't tend to do do that.

Now, that said, my first guitar build was 5 pieces of walnut that I got from my father-in-law for free. 2 piece, non-bookmatched top, and 3 piece back. And it turned out great!

p-nutnearlyfinished4.jpg

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...quite often these types of woods are finished clear rather than a solid color. This is probably the biggest reason that people don't tend to do do that.

Well, that's what we'd do. Note that a LP is mahogany and is often painted. I've seen walnut guitars from major manufacturers that were painted. Even some folks here don't care about non-figured woods.

I'm only suggesting that if it's going to be painted... that the wood choice is for tone rather than looks... what's the issue with using thinner, less expensive pieces? I have the feeling that we immediately run to 8/4 pieces out of habit rather than necessity.

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So glue doesn't matter. I was under the impression that it alters the vibrations. Any vibration would be more consistent when it is going through one piece of material-in any case. When you add another piece of wood (i.e. mahogany back and maple top) the vibrations then go through the maple, altering the tone. When a substance like glue is added it, once again, changes the sound of the instrument. This is because of the density of dried glue-it is different then wood (obviously).

You don't need to even finish a guitar before testing this, just knock on the wood and you'll hear.

If all your doing is making a guitar look its best then, by all means do what you need to do.

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The straighter and clear the grain in the piece of wood,the better the guitar will sound,in my opinion.

When using plywood(which is what you are essentially talking about),the vibration of the wood is dampened quite a bit.

Why do you think every experience builder here spends so much time searching out wood?

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I can't see any problem with laminating pieces of top of each other in addition to making them multi-piece. If it's done well then why not? Warwick basses such as this one are an examble of a multi-piece, laminated bass which is great. Many major manufacturers make 3-4 (or more) piece bodies out of course. Laminating top and bottom is a no brainer when you consider instruments with tops, pinstripe reveals, core woods, more pinstripe reveals and back woods.

Essentially, it'll be nice plywood. If it's good stable material and well jointed then I don't see a problem as the voodoo is in your head. You might have more problems with the grain going in all different directions when you come to planing, routing and scraping then with fewer pieces I guess. Just make sure you're buying cheap but *good* wood that is seasoned otherwise you'll end up losing most of it to the jointer and thicknesser when it does so itself :-D

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The straighter and clear the grain in the piece of wood,the better the guitar will sound,in my opinion.

When using plywood(which is what you are essentially talking about),the vibration of the wood is dampened quite a bit.

Why do you think every experience builder here spends so much time searching out wood?

I think that's confusing two issues....using "many" well selected woods to make your "ply" is far better than cludging together lots of pieces out of economy. Let's drop the dampening issue on the basis that it's now a major reason for people using the search function for dusty old closed threads instead :D

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...quite often these types of woods are finished clear rather than a solid color. This is probably the biggest reason that people don't tend to do do that.

Well, that's what we'd do. Note that a LP is mahogany and is often painted. I've seen walnut guitars from major manufacturers that were painted. Even some folks here don't care about non-figured woods.

I'm only suggesting that if it's going to be painted... that the wood choice is for tone rather than looks... what's the issue with using thinner, less expensive pieces? I have the feeling that we immediately run to 8/4 pieces out of habit rather than necessity.

I totally agree with you.

And when I wrote my post, I was actually thinking about Mahogany being a major exception. Although can still be quite nice to look at. :D

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Let's drop the dampening issue on the basis that it's now a major reason for people using the search function for dusty old closed threads instead

I have no idea what this sentence means.

I think that's confusing two issues....using "many" well selected woods to make your "ply" is far better than cludging together lots of pieces out of economy.

The "cludging" is what I am talking about.Obviously nobody here has an issue with using a few high quality woods for a specific look...sandwhiching two pieces of alder,for example,together to save a few bucks is not cool,in my view.

As far as confusing,maybe you are confused,I am not :D

although that grammatically faulty sentence of yours is making my brain hurt...or did you just forget a word?

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I agree in most cases,SB...but I do also believe that you can combine two woods in a body to give a guitar a distinctive sound...

The LP for example,is a perfect situation in which a thick maple top combines with a mahogany back and neck to provide a distinct sound...some would say the perfect sound for some types of music...

I love the sound of a good LP..but of course there is more to it than that...Woods alone won't do it.

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when first started i quite often did layered bodies becasei was no good at thicknessing wood and it allowed me to buy readily available sizes. I quite often combined a 1" peice of wood with two 3/8" tops to get an appropriate thickness

i.e i did one with lacewood centres and walnut caps front and back - looked great, sounded pretty good too

i also did one which was 1" of maple with 3/8" purpleheart and 1/4" lacewood top. it ended up with a solid finish wbut was a nicely balanced sound that worked really well - almost quite hi-fi

now i tend to focus on thicker centre sections that do most of the work in my layered bodies, the tone is more predictable and largely based on the centre wood if you get the ratio right

but i do feel that basses and baritones can benifit from the composite body sound - like alembics really, clear and balanced

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I say do it, and do it with Gusto. Do it Full Out. Do it and burn your bridges behind you, so the only way out is Straight Ahead to the Finish Line. Leave No Room for Surrender or Compromise.

The only way to become a good, experienced, Crafty-Assed MF'ing guitar builder is to Follow your Ideas.

Your Ideas are the only thing that make you different than the rest of us here, as is the case for all of us.

Humbly ask the Spirit Guides of the Eternal Forest for direction and assistance (I am -not- kidding B) ), and quietly listen in meditation to what they tell you. Be respectful of them. Be calm. Be steady. Be of Purpose.

Follow your hunches, your hunches are their responses to your asking of them.

Then, you are Plowing your Own Roads, and that, my friend, is a Texas Truckload of Fun.

:DBuild Your Ideas, Dammit, That's What You're Here To Do. :D

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Umm yeah, but it was like 9:00pm here. Nothing like running a household and kicking it back at 9:00pm Sat.

He says at 0:35am Sun. Bleh.

Do what Drak says, anyway. Apart from the naked forest running bit, which I feel is perhaps a little pointless despite being funtastic.

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Is buying thinner wood really that much cheaper? It's not really saving that much money where I'm buying my lumber, unless I'm looking at some of the fancy exotics - but I'm probably not going to paint those.

And then you've got to surface the two show faces, and at least two more faces to prep for gluing, and then you've got another glue-up.

I suppose that's not really as much of an issue if you have nice machine setup to do the surface work; but I surface my boards with a jack plane by hand. And a glue up adds another however long you've got to wait until the glue is dry before you start working things, and your clamps and cauls are out of commision while the glue dries.

I try and use as few boards as possible unless I'm going for a certain look or sound, it makes my life easier. I'm not adverse to laminate a bunch of stuff if it's the look I want. (God knows I stuck enough veneer accent lines between layers on my recent bass build) But it seems like added work for little return if I'm hiding that work!

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