Osage Orange questions, and where to buy guitar back.side sets - created 04-19-2011

Lewis, Brenden - 04/19/2011.11:22:32

After reading about Joe Harmon and his famous "Splinter" wooden car, I was quite further intriqued by the use of Osage Orange.


If you look into Joe Harmon's site, you will see that he obtained a large quantity of Osage Orange logs and used the Osage Orange for the leaf springs on his wooden car.

I am wondering about using Osage Orange for guitar making, and I know that several of you here have used Osage Orange for your guitars. I am looking for a source of back and side material - who sells this stuff?

Gramann, Bob - 04/19/2011.12:53:52

I bought some sets from Larry Davis at Gallery Hardwoods a few years ago. It's used for making bows and there are many suppliers of small diameter pieces for bowmakers. You might call those suppliers and see if they have any pieces large enough that they can quartersaw some sets for you (or at least some planks). Resawing Osage is another adventure. Be careful of getting reaction wood. Osage doesn't always grow straight up.

Rodgers, Jason - 04/19/2011.14:53:46

Google "osage bow staves." I've emailed some of the guys that pop up in the search and if they don't have what you need on hand they can probably get it. Haven't done business with them, but it's on my to-do list.

Bear, Bryan - 04/19/2011.16:12:02
Take care of your feet, and your feet will take care of you. Subscriber, renew March first.

I picked up a 4/4 board about 9 inches wide several weeks ago. I am not the best re-sawyer and I am afraid to ruin it. How bad is it to re-saw? I should be able to get a back/side set, fretboard, bridge, plate and neck lam even with goof ups in my operation. I would love to be able to squeeze out another back and side set. . .

Gramann, Bob - 04/19/2011.17:27:19

I used to saw OO with a 1 hp 14" bandsaw which was as perfectly tuned as I could get it. To do it required an extremely sharp Woodslicer blade (from Highland Hardware) which dulled after 4 feet of sawing. I learned to resharpen the blades pretty quickly--they are expensive. When the blade dulled (and it did it quickly), it would start to wander and thus waste a bit of wood. Now, I use an 18" 2.5 hp bandsaw with a Lenox Trimaster (carbide) blade. That works a lot better--it cuts fast and straight--and I get to work with the wood rather than work on the saw. I'm still on the first blade after many sets of Osage Orange. The first carbide blade I bought had too much hook angle (is that rake?) on the teeth and did not work well with such a hard wood. I warn that trying to cut too thin is likely to end up wasting wood rather than saving it. I put off upgrading my saw for far too long. I kept thinking that just another tweak would finally get everything right. i was cutting enough wood to make the good saw worth it. I have not regretted the new saw one bit in the year+ that I've had it.

Lewis, Brenden - 04/19/2011.18:08:47

Bob - do you know where any OO trees are in the Northern VA area? I am also interested in getting some of the fruits for my house. If you know anyone who would be interested in giving away some hedge apples let me know.

Gramann, Bob - 04/19/2011.19:20:41

You'll have to learn what they look like and keep a watch for them. They seem to be everywhere once you can see them.

Roberts, Randy - 04/19/2011.20:17:41
May your life's music always come from your heart.

I obtained a really nice board from a fellow in Missouri a couple years ago. I have his name and phone number if that is ok to post. He's a one man operation and was not familiar with the needs of guitar builders and so we spent quite a bit of time on the phone. But once he understood I would need it as perfectly quartersawn as possible, and at least 8 " wide and 36" plus long he said he'd have no problem supplying plenty of that with size of trees he routinely came across in his area. He ended up sending me a beautiful straight grained 2 x 8 1/2 x 48 inch plank still green and wet.

His advice to me was if I didn't want to go through a bunch of blades and learn lots of new swear words, then I should resaw it to final dimensions (allowing for shrinkage) while it was green and then dry the slices.

Green and wet, it resaws like cutting butter with a hot knife, and was probably the easiest cutting wood I've tried yet. If it's already dried then my advice would be to ask everyone present to leave before you attempt resawing it. Or better yet pay someone else to resaw it for you and let it be their learning experience If you're getting some, by all means get it green if you can.

Once resawn and dried, I think it scrapes, sands, glues, etc. fine.

Steve Senseney has processed a fair amount of it for his own use in guitars and hand planes, maybe he would be kind enough to join in the discussion.

sysop - 04/20/2011.07:59:25
Deb Suran

I have his name and phone number if that is ok to post.

Only his name and city/state location unless you're *certain* that the number you have is a *business* number and not his home phone number.

Bear, Bryan - 04/20/2011.09:19:10
Take care of your feet, and your feet will take care of you. Subscriber, renew March first.

Rats! My stuff is already dry and my saw is not the greatest. I'll put this off until I have more experience. If anyone is in the St. Louis, MO area and thinks they can do this, email me. I'd be happy to donate a set or two to the forum for auction. Also, I should be able to get more pretty easily. . .

Senseney, Steve - 04/20/2011.09:49:25

I had some smaller pieces which I have cut from trees that were green and some which were dry.

The osage has no sticky resin, and is very compact. It does not have little fibers which rub against the saw blade. It cuts much better than resinous woods. I really had no more difficulty resawing dry or wet.

I obtained larger pieces from Steve Chapman in Neosha Missouri. Google and you will find a number for him.

He was easy to deal with. It took a while for him to specifically find a log or two which would have the proper size for resawing a back set however.

The osage is a little chippy to work with, but sands very well, without clogging the sand paper.

It is dense, and holds frets well. I have used it on fingerboards many times.

It takes finish well.

It will change from the yellow color to a brownish red when exposed to light. This takes several weeks to months.

Finishes, and keeping the wood (instrument) in a case will delay the change in color.

It bends as well as ash or oak or East India Rosewood.

Because it is hard to anticipate the color change, or how long it will take, it is tricky to figure out your binding designs.

It would work well as a neck wood, but does add some weight as compared to mahogany, but adds only a little weight compared to maple.

I find it very stable. Once is has been cut and dried, it does not move much.

I use it exclusively for a bridge plate.

I often add a couple strips to a laminated neck for color, and stability and strength.

Roberts, Randy - 04/20/2011.12:27:29
May your life's music always come from your heart.

I talked with Steve Chapman this morning and he currently has appropriate lumber that's been air drying about a year. He said it's when it's kiln dried that it's such a bear to resaw. His business number is 417-438-5507. very nice guy to deal with. (Tell him hi from Steve and Randy )

To accelerate changing the color, a session or two at the tanning salon might do the trick.

Carruth, Alan - 04/20/2011.12:29:30

I've made several guitars from it, and tested sets from a few different sources. Basically, it's just about a drop-in replacement for Brazilian rosewood in terms of mechanical and acoustic properties. It might tend to be a bit denser.

I've found it really helpful to scribe the sides before routing for the binding rabbets. It does tend to be chippy, and you can end up with some embarrassing divots in the sides.

Alan Carruth / Luthier

sysop - 04/20/2011.12:31:44
Deb Suran

To accelerate changing the color, a session or two at the tanning salon might do the trick.

Stick it in front of a window.

Thomson, Waddy - 04/20/2011.12:38:33

To accelerate changing the color, a session or two at the tanning salon might do the trick.

Deb's probably right, the tanning salon in my building is a spray tan salon! I call it a "Rattle Can Tan". I don't think the business owner appreciates my humor!

Bear, Bryan - 04/20/2011.13:10:37
Take care of your feet, and your feet will take care of you. Subscriber, renew March first.

Mine was dried in a solar kiln. I suppose that counts as kiln dried with respect to resaw difficulty? Randy, did he give any indication why the drying method made a difference?

Gramann, Bob - 04/20/2011.13:24:23

Mine was dried for 30 years laying intact after it fell in a farm field. It was then sliced into planks and dried for a year in my 42% humidity shop until it stopped losing weight. It was quite difficult to saw. No kilns were involved.

Roberts, Randy - 04/20/2011.13:55:29
May your life's music always come from your heart.

But Deb then you'll get a "farmer" tan


I'm assuming after a year it's still fairly green? I don't know that the method of drying is the problem so much as once it's dried out completely it's so hard? I know when I resawed (resawn? what on earth is the proper english?) mine to about a quarter inch, it took over a year and a half to dry out, half in the basement, and then when my wife's sensitivity kicked in, half in the attic.

sysop - 04/20/2011.14:34:23
Deb Suran

I know when I resawed (resawn? what on earth is the proper english?)

"When I resawed" is correct.

Allen, Tim - 04/22/2011.03:19:22

I'm not set up to resaw much of anything. I bought a couple of sets of OO on eBay. You see the same seller from time to time, usually with several sets, each sold "Buy it now." They ask around the price of decent EIR. They were supposed to be "quarter sawn," but the back on one of the two--however it was sawn--was about 35% off vertical. They sent me a replacement back for no charge. I will use the rift-grained one for bridgeplates, I think. I haven't built with either of the sets, but they seem to be OK, now that the back has been replaced.

Carruth, Alan - 04/22/2011.12:51:56

Although I can't support it with measurements as yet, it seems to me as though skew cut OO has about the same cross grain stiffness as well quartered stock. In any case, hardwoods have much higher cross grain stiffness in general than softwoods, so the grain angle is not nearly as much of an issue.

Alan Carruth / Luthier

Kirkham, Patrick - 04/23/2011.08:38:41

Here on the high plains desert (description via Rand McNally terrain map) of Kansas, you can't walk too far without getting bonked on the head by a Hedge Orange.(Another name for OO) There is very good information from you all in here. For resawing stable OO the best I can tell you is SLOOOOOW that blade down and feed her slow like a snail crawling. Sharp blade is a must unless you want to find yourself with a 1/4" more beard than you started with by the finish. Finding a balance of cutting without burning speed is essential.

I found some nice "keepers" amongst last years firewood( this stuff burns like Satan doused in gasoline, hot ,hot ,hot). One or two will be long and straight enough for fingerboards. The rest I play with jerking veneers off of. I got a lot of successful headstock veneers, a few pieces I could book and turn to pickguards. If you want to turn knobs, this would be nice. It seems to be popular for turning pen blanks. Tuner knobs, maybe bowed instrument tuners.

Archtop tailpieces, bridges etc. OO is good stuff for the patient.