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making a guitar from cracked/split wood

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i have access to large bits of wood that make great guitar blanks though the wood is cracked along its length. i have thought about cutting along these cracks, cutting flat edges and then gluing the wood back together. 

has anyone ever used cracked or split wood? this wood has a lot of cracks but i was thinking can a beginner use it to make something that may give a good result?

i dont have much money for this so i am keeping it to what ever i can find. i have found a lump of pine that i thought could make a body but may be a bit thin. i was thinking about trying to get a railway sleeper, cutting that up and gluing to get a body/ neck blank.

any thoughts or advice on this



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The risk with wood that has cracks or splits is that the wood has moved enough while drying to pull itself apart, and that it may continue to do so after it has been cut. Cutting timber usually releases stresses and tensions, so there is a chance that if you rip the timber along the line of the split and re-laminate it back together that new splits will re-open somewhere else along the length.

If it were me I'd try ripping the boards up to remove the splits and then let them sit for a couple of months to see if they continue to move. Re-laminate them back together after that time. Even then, I'd still be prepared for the wood to open up again, although this could be advantageous if you're aiming for a rustic look.

I'm not sure I'd trust a railway sleeper for anything where straightness and stability is a requirement. Sleepers are cut from timber that's grown cheaply and quickly, which is not conducive to good quality or fine appearances. I'd also be concerned about where the sleeper came from. A reclaimed one has probably been half buried in the ground for 20+ years, exposed to all sorts of weather and covered in god knows what kinds of chemical contaminants from passing trains

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  • 3 weeks later...

I have been making my BarnBusters from very old completely "gnarly" pine for years.... often replete with cracks, spike holes and loose knots, the initial impression gives one pause..

however with the use of modern products, restoring structural integrity has proven to be no problem.. and the resulting guitars sounds wonderful..

The appearence is an "accquired taste". But, for or those that want a very rustic and unique look, they are hard to beat.

When I began, I did so with great trepidation. fears of hearing one collapsed like a cheep lawn chair haunted mer..  So I built a "demo" and gave it the Pete Townsend treatment..  no issues... 

Now after more than a decade of making 'em, Teles, Strats, Jazzmasters, Basses, and on and on.. I have never had anyone suggest anything other than superlatives..

Further.. the very concept has compelled me to rethink my myopic opinion about wood integrity, glue joints, and other inclusions so oft argued as having adverse effects on the voice of the guitar.

I was like so many, feeling only a one piece solid hunk of wood could produce the best sound... nah.. not even close....

I gotta tell ya, I havre made some really skanky looking guitars out of horribly compromised lumber... where the results were simply stunning... 

So i'd say, go for it....  To darn much fun not to...

here;s a few photos

Ron Kirn










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Here's something I did years ago... someone suggested the obvious, old cracked, split wood wasn't suitable for a guitar simply due to structrual considerations... which is correct, IF ya do nothing to adress the issues..

No matter what ya do that's "off the wall",  someone will always show up and start flaming whatever ya did as resulting in an inferior whatever, or not capable of superior tone, or any one of a unlimited number of other disses...  That's a crock...

after, i don't know how many hundreds, if not thousands of these BarnBusters.. I have never had anyone send one back broken, cracked or otherwise showing signs of succumbing to the beauty marks picture framed in the character... and sound... same thing.... never one gripe... 

So I took the most rotten skanky bug eaten (actually this is the stuff the Termites wouldn't touch)... hunk I could find and conducted a test..

Using the slow cure CA ( that's the pedestrian name) the suppliers call it something else...)  I "secured" the obvious flaws, let it cure a day or so.. then went at it with a hammer... It did break.. but did so in areas that were sound lumber, not on the repaired faults... showing the repairs were now stronger, more secure, than the bug eaten rotten stuff..

Initially I was using the same "stuff" Museum Conservators use to preserve ancient artifacts.. but my friend that works in the field suggested commercially available CA glues... ( not the hobby grade or DIY) stuff available. They are available in very slow curing solutions so instead of hardening instantly, they can take hours, allowing time for the solution to soak into compromised areas, and once it hardens, it's more dense than a teenagers head.... 

SO .. yeah... you can get away with using some incredibly "unsuitable" trash and have a stunning guitar...


Ron Kirn









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  • 2 weeks later...

That Tele is just amazingly cool looking Ron.  Might I ask the name of the CA manufacturer?  I will be starting on a build soon wher I am using locally sourced pecan and while it has been aging the past few years, there are some cracks in a piece that is highly figured I was planning on using for the top I would like to attend to.

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  • 3 weeks later...

thanks for your replies. i have some wood available and want to use it now that i have seen the results in the above photos, very good work and inspiring!

is there a particular process for this or is it just a case of pour it on, all over the cracks?


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