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is this maple usable?

Posted: Mon Jul 08, 2013 10:12 am
by John DeMarce
Hi all, long-time reader and first-time poster here.

I'm looking at cleaning up a hard maple Strat-style electric guitar body blank that a friend started work on many years ago, then stored in a shed since. The wood moved a bit and the glue joints failed while in storage, so it's essentially back to square one.

I just did a light sanding to clean off the accumulated dust and grime and found mostly clean stock, but also some intermittent light gray areas that appear to start at the surface and run deep into the blank, following the grain. The wood in the discolored areas appears sound otherwise. Is there a way to tell if this is fungus-related or just cosmetic?

Re: is this maple usable?

Posted: Mon Jul 08, 2013 10:34 am
by Barry Daniels
Welcome John!
John DeMarce wrote:Is there a way to tell if this is fungus-related or just cosmetic?
Fungus spalting can be "just cosmetic" or if extended too long will involve real rot that weakens the wood. Push your thumbnail into the darkened area and then try an unaffected area. If the stained area is no softer then you should be fine. If it is really soft then you may have a problem.

My concern with the body would probably focus more on the joints. They will have to be taken apart, re-jointed, and then reglued. It will be difficult to do this without making the body smaller and making it necessary to reshape the body outline. I would make a planter out of this and start over with new wood.

Re: is this maple usable?

Posted: Mon Jul 08, 2013 11:14 am
by Rodger Knox
In answer to your question, Yes, it is usable. Barry's probably correct about starting over, because although you can use what you have, it will probably be easier to start with a new blank. Maple is not that expensive, so if the piece you have isn't anything that special, get another.
If you have to ask if it's useable, you probably don't have the skills necessary to use it. Learning those skills would need to come first, so put that aside until you know how to fix it.

Re: is this maple usable?

Posted: Mon Jul 08, 2013 5:07 pm
by Clay Schaeffer
Hi John,
Maple will often take on a grey stain that discolors the wood but doesn't hurt it structurally. If the wood seems reasonably sound and the glue joints can be redone without too much trouble then why not use it? You may need to go with a dark stain or opaque finish to hide any discoloration in the wood.
Some of the most interesting guitars have been built from less than perfect materials, and by people who don't have years of woodworking experience.

Re: is this maple usable?

Posted: Mon Jul 08, 2013 8:31 pm
by John DeMarce
Thanks, all. I can't detect any difference in hardness between the clean and gray areas. Just wanted make sure this isn't something that will continue to worsen under indoor humidity once the piece is finished.

I have some years of woodworking experience, and I'm well aware that I've let myself in for a bit more work than starting with new stock. The blank was never cut to shape so reshaping isn't an issue. There's plenty of waste margin to cover rejointing too. I wouldn't have chosen stock in this state for any project though, so the situation is new to me.

Re: is this maple usable?

Posted: Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:26 am
by Rodger Knox
If the blank was never cut to shape almost all of the difficulties of rejoining go away. It's much easier to join (& clamp!) rectangular blocks, and they don't have to line up as perfectly as a finished shape would. That's what would take some skill, getting curved shapes all lined up and clamped.

Re: is this maple usable?

Posted: Tue Jul 09, 2013 12:14 pm
by John DeMarce
If you can find a place that carries it and sells to individuals, Quick-Carve is a handy shortcut for making custom cauls to clamp curves. Wrap the curved work in cling wrap to protect it, mold QC to the curve and set a flat piece of scrap into the QC to give the clamp purchase, and let it set up.