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Wood Bending Over A Carved Top


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I've been thinking of playing around with topping a carve top guitar, however I've never attempted wood bending before.

How pliable is say 3-4mm thick rosewood (back and sides bookmatched) if I was to soak it in water over night and try bending it over a carved top superstrat?

Am I dreaming or is this a possibility?

I've seen it done over comfort curves, but I'm talking a full carve (like a Jackson soloist style carve)

Brings me to my next question, when/if people do this, how to approach the contact surfaces, as in if I'm joining timber I run it through a jointer, well the top piece I can drum sand, but the carved surface is still a mystery to me without cnc

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Over a true carved top... 3-4mm isn't going to be doable. I do carved tops with veneer thickness and that is. And that is still thick enough to go bind, sand, etc. if you are skilled (which I put you in the category of). I'm not going to explain how cause it's not my technique to teach... but I assure you, if you get a vacuum bag, some veneer, and a carved top and just play around... you'll figure it out fast enough.

This ended up being that blue hollowbody from GOTM awhile back; spruce with quilted maple veneer. This one is a little thicker than standard veneer (about .080" if I remember correctly). Made this veneer myself from a billet with my drum sander:

DSCN1316-1.jpg

Here's hard maple with birdseye maple veneer nearing completion. Standard veneer off ebay:

7225c398.jpg

Chris

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I'm very turned off by veneer for this use.

I've owned a guitar that had a vacuum bagged veneer that turned bad. It looked great for say the first four/five years, but after that the veneer started cracking and peeling.

Hense why I'm thinking something thicker to prevent this. I'd hate to sell a guitar that looked awesome and it fell apart after a decade.

EDIT: I should add that the veneer was vacuum glued by a professional luthier who's been in the business of building guitars for longer than I've been alive, so it wasn't a hack job like myself! It was done prefessionally with professional equiptment. So I question the longevity of veneer for this purpose, especially when the other guitar had a very slight curve and was basically flat..

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Have you ever thought that the issue wasn't the veneer, but the techniques and materials used? Look at all the Epiphones with veneered tops that survive much longer than a decade without cracking, peeling, etc. Heck, there are veneered furniture pieces that have lasted WELL beyond a decade. If veneer were a doomed art... it wouldn't have survived. That said, I know a lot of people are turned off by veneer because a ton of cheap companies use it for furniture that do fail. Materials, craftsmanship, those are the marks of longevity. Perhaps this guy, despite being a good luthier, was not a good veneer worker?

Chris

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Dont know, I really can't answer that. It was this guy: http://www.richardsguitars.com.au/

I just went through his site, he used to have a list of builds numbered from #1 through to several hundred, but theyve all gone. The site is completely condensed now. He's also got a,line of amps you can see on the site SWD amps.

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Looks to be a great builder. But just like all wood workers aren't great luthiers, and all luthiers can't build great furniture (me cough cough me); not all people are great at all aspects of woodworking when they're good at one. With the number of guitars coming out of factories with veneer (IMO not for the right reasons) I find it highly unlikely they all fall apart soon and have structural issues out the wazoo.

Side note: My comment on "not for the right reasons". I'm of the opinion that there are two times I'll use veneer on a carved top.

1- When I want the tone of one wood, and the look of another (ex: quilted maple over spruce for a hollowbody)

2- When you want a wood that just simply isn't viable as a carved top, or just simply can't be found in the right sizes (ex: ebony carved top)

Reasons to not do it?

1- "I can't afford a nice curly maple top, so I'll just veneer some nice curly maple to some hard maple."

a. And yes, I realize I showed a picture of high figure birdseye veneered over hard maple. But that fits point #2. Have you ever tried to find 8/4 (thick enough for bookmatched top) birdseye that didn't have a bunch of the heartwood color coming into it? Harder than you'd think.

Chris

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Where all this is coming from is I bought a pile of Indian rosewood back sets at a price I couldn't refuse and now I'm looking for uses for it all rather than just scarf joint art and headstock caps

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:O Ummm..... bound flat tops?! Also, you'd have NO issue doing a Brian Moore/Turner Model-1 style thing where it's not a "carved" top... but a parabolic top. That way the top wood is only curving parallel to the grain. You'd definitely get away with 3-4mm then.

Chris

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That thought had crossed my mind too - I've made a couple carved/radiused top guitars and really like the look/feel

I also considered the bound flat tops idea - I'd like to do that also. When I bought the pile which is 18 pieces he's had sitting around since 1983 and a coiple since the late 70's, he also threw in a Master grade bookmatched set of rosewood back which he'd already joined but then it split in a small part (which wont effect me as a supertrat is much smaller than a dreadnought) so I don't plan on risking messing up that one, it'll definitely be a flat top. Probably not even bound, maybe round the edge so it reveals the timber behind it like a framed binding look without binding.

So many options!

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I do carved tops with veneer thickness and that is. And that is still thick enough to go bind, sand, etc. if you are skilled (which I put you in the category of). I'm not going to explain how cause it's not my technique to teach... but I assure you, if you get a vacuum bag, some veneer, and a carved top and just play around... you'll figure it out fast enough.

Chris

I dunno Chris...I've seen your videos, and learned a lot. I'm thinking now your obligated to do a "carve top veneer vacuum bag" tutorial. :D

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I do carved tops with veneer thickness and that is. And that is still thick enough to go bind, sand, etc. if you are skilled (which I put you in the category of). I'm not going to explain how cause it's not my technique to teach... but I assure you, if you get a vacuum bag, some veneer, and a carved top and just play around... you'll figure it out fast enough.

Chris

I'm thinking now your obligated to do a "carve top veneer vacuum bag" tutorial. :D

I'd watch it!

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The whole "plywood" word is incorrectly implied as being a dirty one, whereas it is a fantastic technique. I think that using laminates to make the sides for an acoustic for example is an excellent use....the grain isn't compressed or stretched as far as it would be if it were made from one piece and the stiffness is higher. If I am thinking correctly that is. It just seems to most people that glueing pieces of wood together is inferior to using single pieces....done properly it is better than the one-piece approach and can achieve some things impossible otherwise, especially with respect to grain direction.

Talking of acoustic sides....if heat could be applied to veneers when vacuum forming them would it allow the (lignin?) between the fibres to loosen and allow them to slip the same as how acoustic sides are steam bent? I have a very preconceived notion on how vacuum forming veneers works and obviously there are issues to avoid, such as whatever happened to your instrument Allan. I may be more wrong in how I think about this process than I think I am. Bleh.

I'm interested in this because I would like to explore composites one day. I guess laminated tops could be considered a composite in some ways.

Excuse my vagueness here. I've toasted my brain working out this circuit diagram for a double-sided PCB I am making. I could stare holes in the walls right now.

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