Hemlock tops

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Kerry Werry
Posts: 63
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2012 3:21 pm

Hemlock tops

Post by Kerry Werry »

This is sort of aimed at Alan Carruth but of course others with experience please chime in.

Alan I saw somewhere on the great wide internet that you had used Hemlock as a guitar top.. Care to comment on it.. I've acquired two book match well quartered top of Hemlock in a batch of tops I just got off someone clearing out wood.. Never thought of using it as a top wood.. Comments good and bad welcome

Thanks

Kerry

Alan Carruth
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Joined: Sun Jan 15, 2012 1:11 pm

Re: Hemlock tops

Post by Alan Carruth »

I got two Western hemlock tops some time back, I don't even remember where. They were dense, and hard, but made up into good guitars. Those two, at least, were more or less 'on the line', iirc; that is, the Young's modulus along the grain was where you'd expect it to be given the density.

If you test a lot of tops, as have, you'll find that they all tend to fall close to that same line, no matter what the species: about 2/3 of the ones I see are within 10% plus or minus. The ones that are 'below the line'; less stiff than expected for the density, are usually tops that have heavy late wood lines, which add stiffness but increase the density faster. Run out will also do that.

Tops that are denser, and especially those that fall below the line, will end up heavier for a given stiffness. This seems to be good for 'headroom', but bad for 'responsiveness', so which top you choose for a given project depends on what you're after. I tend to prefer lower density tops, or those that are well above the line, as they can produce more sound. It's usually easier to build some head room into a light top than it is to make a heavy one powerful and responsive.

The point is that it's all about the piece of wood, not the species. You can usefully generalize in ordering by using the average values for density and such, but there's so much variation within any species that you only know what you have when you've got it, and even then you have to test. Some people are really good at finding the stiffness by feel, and I still do a lot of flexing and tapping. But most people are not as good at that as they think they are, and, just in case, I like to do objective testing.

Brian Evans
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Location: Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia

Re: Hemlock tops

Post by Brian Evans »

I've used eastern, or Canadian, hemlock for construction. Makes very rot resistant siding, decking, piers, blocking for rigging in factories. Otherwise it's kind of a junky, fast-ish growing softwood that splits and splinters about as fast as you can look at it. Can't reasonably be shaped, sanded smooth (grain will not finish smooth) and likes to stab your hand when you pick up a piece off the pile. Somehow I think we are talking about different woods here... :)

Kerry Werry
Posts: 63
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2012 3:21 pm

Re: Hemlock tops

Post by Kerry Werry »

Al - Thanks guess it time to do some testing as I do like the look and feel of these two that I have.

Brian - yes Western Hemlock, I to have built with eastern...

Kerry

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Peter Wilcox
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Joined: Sun Jan 08, 2012 1:31 am
Location: Northeastern California

Re: Hemlock tops

Post by Peter Wilcox »

I built this bass with a hemlock 4 piece top from a quartersawn board I got at the lumber yard. I knew nothing about the sonic qualities of the wood (and still don't) - it was only my second build, but it was pretty tight grained and cheap. It sounds OK, but not enough volume to cut through an outside bluegrass jam (but may be overbraced).There's a sound clip and build link in the thread.

http://www.mimf.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1830
Maybe I can't fix it, but I can fix it so no one can fix it

Alan Carruth
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Joined: Sun Jan 15, 2012 1:11 pm

Re: Hemlock tops

Post by Alan Carruth »

I did test out one piece of Eastern hemlock once. It was dense, and not very stiff along the grain for it's density. I would not be surprised if it made a 'quiet' guitar.

Kerry Werry
Posts: 63
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2012 3:21 pm

Re: Hemlock tops

Post by Kerry Werry »

BTW when I said I've built with it I meant construction NOT Instruments.. Does not seem it would be easy to make a guitar out of.. The Western hemlock I have looks good..

Kerry

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