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One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

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One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

Postby Eric Knapp » Tue Jun 07, 2016 4:20 pm

Hello, I'm still working on my archtop rebuild but I'm also planning for the next thing. I have this slab of spruce that I got a long time ago, I don't remember where.

image.jpeg

It is over 16 inches wide, 25 inches long, and 2 3/4 inches thick. It has about 18 rings per inch and is over 30 years old. That's a 24" rule for comparison.

It's nicely quartersawn, too.

image.jpeg

If I could figure out a way to resaw the thing could I make one-piece tops with it for flattop guitars? Do they pose any challenges or issues? Is this a thing?

Thanks,

-Eric
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Re: One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

Postby Bryan Bear » Tue Jun 07, 2016 4:48 pm

Far from an expert opinion here (and kind of thinking out loud) so take this with a grain of salt:

I'm not sure how you would resaw that. You would have to find someone with a big resaw capacity to do it for you. You never know what you'll find until you open it up, there may be a lot of waste. The board is quarter sawn but not perfectly; the tops you get would be usable but certainly not premium boards, so the cost of sawing it up should be measured against that. Perfectly quartered tops can be had for not much money if you are willing to work around spots or accept color variations.

It really depends on what your goals and resources are. What should be done with it would differ for all of us. I kind of like the feeling of using found or rescued woods so I would try to find a use for it. I would be willing to use some of it for off quarter tops on some projects but I certainly wouldn't need a whole bunch of those tops and especially not one piece tops. I would probably split it (roughly in half) and resaw some bookmatched tops for small bodied or parlor guitars. Maybe ukes or something experimental. Depending on how it splits, the other half could have a ton of bracewood in it. Or better yet, a carved top mandolin.

It will be fun seeing what others say.
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Re: One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

Postby Eric Knapp » Tue Jun 07, 2016 7:41 pm

Bryan Bear wrote:Far from an expert opinion here (and kind of thinking out loud) so take this with a grain of salt:

I'm not sure how you would resaw that. You would have to find someone with a big resaw capacity to do it for you. You never know what you'll find until you open it up, there may be a lot of waste. The board is quarter sawn but not perfectly; the tops you get would be usable but certainly not premium boards, so the cost of sawing it up should be measured against that. Perfectly quartered tops can be had for not much money if you are willing to work around spots or accept color variations.

It really depends on what your goals and resources are. What should be done with it would differ for all of us. I kind of like the feeling of using found or rescued woods so I would try to find a use for it. I would be willing to use some of it for off quarter tops on some projects but I certainly wouldn't need a whole bunch of those tops and especially not one piece tops. I would probably split it (roughly in half) and resaw some bookmatched tops for small bodied or parlor guitars. Maybe ukes or something experimental. Depending on how it splits, the other half could have a ton of bracewood in it. Or better yet, a carved top mandolin.

It will be fun seeing what others say.

Thanks, that's all good info. One of my goals is to use as much of my existing wood as possible. I probably have enough maple to last for my duration, but not much spruce. I have that slab, which I think I bought mainly for braces, and one long board. I think I'll probably have to make a few bad to mediocre guitars before I can see using top quality wood.

I am am certainly willing to use wood that others would reject. I'm not doing this to sell, I want to make guitars that I want to play, and to use my great, long dormant shop.

-Eric
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Re: One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Tue Jun 07, 2016 8:26 pm

If you ripped it into two 8 inch wide pieces, and then sawed them down the middle to give you 1 3/8 inch thick slabs you could have two book matched arch top guitar tops. Or you could resaw one of the halves to make several book matched flat top guitar tops.
Book matching of soundboards seems to be the preferred method for guitars these days.
If the wood goes off quarter too much, you could select the best section of vertical grain, cut tops from it, and split brace stock from the rest.
Half the fun of resawing is figuring out what will give the the highest quality wood with the least waste.
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Re: One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

Postby Markus Schmid » Tue Jun 07, 2016 9:36 pm

This is what I do with such pieces:

  1. Cut off the parts I colored green in the picture. This will be brace wood.
  2. Then resaw. The blue colored parts will also be brace wood, the red center part will be to a great extent perfectly quartered tops (these will have nice or even spectacular medullary rays)

smartresaw.jpg


The green part at the left is sap wood, the green part at the right would be off-quarter compared to the part in the red top yielding zone, which is mainly an aesthetic issue (no visible medullary rays), and to a much lesser extent it also can bean acoustical disadvantage).
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Re: One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

Postby Chuck Tweedy » Tue Jun 07, 2016 10:44 pm

that is one hell of a piece of wood ... that's all i got
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Re: One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

Postby Ryan Mazzocco » Wed Jun 08, 2016 1:32 am

Maybe I missed it, but do we even know that it's surfaced on a split face? If not there could likely be runout making is unusable for a flat top. you might want to try bisecting perfectly perpendicular to the grain to see if you even have enough material to make a top.
COULD you make a one piece top out of this? yeah maybe. Should you? I don't know, but I probably wouldn't try.
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Re: One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

Postby Bryan Bear » Wed Jun 08, 2016 10:43 am

Eric, I don't mean to say that it would make bad or mediocre guitars per se, just that it is not ideal and better quartered tops can be had for not much money. I was saying that you should consider this when deciding if it is worth the cost of having someone resaw one-piece tops. I think resawing two piece tops yourself would be the better option. There are good guitars out there with off quarter tops, so this is not a guarantee of mediocrity. As I said, I would use them for certain projects. Some people will say to make the first few guitars with whatever you have and learn from the process pointing out that, at worst, it will still sound like a guitar. Others say to use the best possible materials right from the get go. Both have good points, in the end, it is for you to decide.

I meant to say this before but forgot. I know you have a lot of woodworking experience so you may have a good handle on splitting wood and runnout, so feel free to ignore this. If you haven't, watch some videos on splitting bracewood and then go out and split a bunch of soft wood scraps (2x4 scraps and stuff) before you cut this up.

Ryan, I'm sure that this is not from a spit face and likely has some runnout. How much is hard to say. He could cut off a small section and split it to find out. I doubt that it would have enough runnout to make it unusable for tops (braces are another matter). Unless the runnout is severe, it is mostly a cosmetic issue. I know my instincts are not developed enough to know how I would alter my bracing to account for reasanable runnout in a top but real luthiers might. People use curly redwood tops that are nothing but runnout. Martin used sawn planks or red spruce back in the day and the two toned top is commonly seen.

I think if he tried to split a top width board across the grain to eliminate runnout, he would likely ruin all of the wood when he could have had several usable tops.

Marcus, that is a good rendering of how to get some nice tops and bracewood. There are a lot of ways to cut this up; it seems like quality vs. quantity is a decision Eric will have to make.
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Re: One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

Postby Eric Knapp » Wed Jun 08, 2016 11:06 am

Markus Schmid wrote:This is what I do with such pieces:

  1. Cut off the parts I colored green in the picture. This will be brace wood.
  2. Then resaw. The blue colored parts will also be brace wood, the red center part will be to a great extent perfectly quartered tops (these will have nice or even spectacular medullary rays)

smartresaw.jpg


The green part at the left is sap wood, the green part at the right would be off-quarter compared to the part in the red top yielding zone, which is mainly an aesthetic issue (no visible medullary rays), and to a much lesser extent it also can bean acoustical disadvantage).

This is great! I hadn't thought of this option and I think it has the potential of working out great. I'll check on the runout. It seems like the purple parts might make a great practice set for a carved top on a smaller instrument.

-Eric
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Re: One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

Postby Eric Knapp » Wed Jun 08, 2016 11:08 am

Ryan Mazzocco wrote:Maybe I missed it, but do we even know that it's surfaced on a split face? If not there could likely be runout making is unusable for a flat top. you might want to try bisecting perfectly perpendicular to the grain to see if you even have enough material to make a top.
COULD you make a one piece top out of this? yeah maybe. Should you? I don't know, but I probably wouldn't try.

I'm going to joint the side of the board to check on the runout as soon as I can today. That's a good point. I'll let you know.

-Eric
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Re: One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

Postby Alan Carruth » Wed Jun 08, 2016 12:35 pm

That piece might actually work out better if you ripped it up the middle, and flipped one side end for end before joining it for an archtop. This would get the ring lines on the end going \\\\\\|//////, with the 'pipe' symbol being the join line, and top of the ASCII art being the outside of the plate. As you carve the arch you end up with the annual ring lines more or less perpendicular to the plate surface over a fair extent of the top. A lot depends on the runout, of course.
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Re: One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

Postby Barry Daniels » Wed Jun 08, 2016 1:45 pm

What Alan said. I couldn't find the thumbs' up button fast enough.
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Re: One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

Postby Eric Knapp » Wed Jun 08, 2016 2:39 pm

Alan Carruth wrote:That piece might actually work out better if you ripped it up the middle, and flipped one side end for end before joining it for an archtop. This would get the ring lines on the end going \\\\\\|//////, with the 'pipe' symbol being the join line, and top of the ASCII art being the outside of the plate. As you carve the arch you end up with the annual ring lines more or less perpendicular to the plate surface over a fair extent of the top. A lot depends on the runout, of course.

Now that's an idea. Even if there was moderate runout I suspect I could get one good archtop and lots of braces from this piece. I do want to make archtops but maybe not as my first build. I have cleaned up one side of this on the jointer and there is some runout but it doesn't seem super bad to me. I'm not sure if the runout on the edge is the same as in the middle. I think I'll cut off the sap wood on the other side and see what it's like there. The piece is so thick I think if I follow the runout angle on the side I'll still have a fine archtop blank. I can resaw up to 10", I'm hoping this is usable. At 30 years old it seems naturally torrefied.

Thanks,

-Eric
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Re: One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

Postby Eric Knapp » Wed Jun 08, 2016 2:40 pm

Barry Daniels wrote:What Alan said. I couldn't find the thumbs' up button fast enough.

That's two strong votes for this and the runout will determine if it's doable.

-Eric
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Re: One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

Postby Bryan Bear » Wed Jun 08, 2016 3:09 pm

Barry Daniels wrote:What Alan said. I couldn't find the thumbs' up button fast enough.


Wait! We have a thumbs up button!?!
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Re: One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

Postby Ryan Mazzocco » Wed Jun 08, 2016 4:18 pm

Bryan Bear wrote:
Barry Daniels wrote:What Alan said. I couldn't find the thumbs' up button fast enough.


Wait! We have a thumbs up button!?!

Yes Bryan. It's right next to the button that turns your chair around.
But don't press them at the same time, that initiates the self destruct.
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Re: One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

Postby Bryan Bear » Wed Jun 08, 2016 9:02 pm

No it doesn't that's silly, see watc
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Re: One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

Postby Ryan Mazzocco » Wed Jun 08, 2016 10:20 pm

Bryan Bear wrote:No it doesn't that's silly, see watc

:o :cry: Poor Bryan. Poor, poor Bryan...
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Re: One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

Postby Randolph Rhett » Thu Jun 09, 2016 1:26 am

As usual, I think Alan is spot on.
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Re: One piece tops? (Rookie Question du Jour)

Postby Alan Carruth » Thu Jun 09, 2016 1:01 pm

Keep in mind that it's not uncommon for runout to change from one side of a quartered piece to the other. Trees often seem to start out growing with the cells aligned with the axis of the tree, and then to develop more twist as they get bigger. Runout can also reverse itself as the tree grows: this is the 'stripe' figure you commonly see in tropical woods, and I've seen this several times in Red spruce, although not nearly as pronounced. I think it has to do with the stress levels on the trunk of the tree, but that's just a conjecture. Anyway; if you do decide to make an archtop from that piece rip it, and then resaw along the line of the runout on the joint side to the extent you're able, if the wood is thick enough. This will at least minimize the cosmetic problem.
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