LMI wood

Spalted Poplar

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Spalted Poplar

Postby Thomas Yerkey » Thu Apr 14, 2016 11:45 am

Hi All,

I just acquired a bunch of beautifully spalted poplar. It is very firm and very consistently spalted. Does anyone have any experience working with poplar or spalted poplar in an acoustic guitar? I am currently building my first attempt at an acoustic guitar out of black walnut. I know it will be strong enough and stable enough. The idea of using the spalted poplar is very interesting to me. Please assault me with opinions and ideas...
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Re: Spalted Poplar

Postby Brian Evans » Thu Apr 14, 2016 12:45 pm

Are you looking at back and sides? How is it sawn? If it's really pretty it might make a nice solid-body blank, but it's considered dull and lifeless as an acoustic back and side wood, it's very soft and not all that strong so it is/was used only in cheapest of student guitars as neck wood back in the 1950's.

Brian
Last edited by Brian Evans on Thu Apr 14, 2016 12:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Spalted Poplar

Postby David King » Thu Apr 14, 2016 12:51 pm

It might work for a flamenco guitar or laminated to a tougher wood like sapele that's easily available in veneer sheets.
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Re: Spalted Poplar

Postby Thomas Yerkey » Thu Apr 14, 2016 12:58 pm

I will be building a solid body electric with some of it. It is the acoustic back and sides idea that I wanted feedback on.
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Re: Spalted Poplar

Postby Eric Baack » Thu Apr 14, 2016 2:12 pm

I would worry about how it would bend. I would probably laminate it onto something a lot nicer.
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Re: Spalted Poplar

Postby Brian Evans » Thu Apr 14, 2016 2:18 pm

Well, you can resaw some thin and see how it does. One thing is that poplar is a kind of soft hardwood, and spalting is basically fungus starting to rot the wood, so you may lose some strength and density.
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Re: Spalted Poplar

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Thu Apr 14, 2016 5:46 pm

Tulip Poplar (liriodendron tulipifera) can make a fine acoustic guitar. Oscar Schmidt used the wood for back and side material on some of their instruments. Todd Cambio of Fraulini guitars has built some instruments with it and you can find his thoughts on it on his website.
Tulip poplar doesn't work that much differently than walnut and is often stained to resemble it.
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Re: Spalted Poplar

Postby Bryan Bear » Thu Apr 14, 2016 7:37 pm

Wood for backs and sides should be perfectly quarter saw and ring like a bell when you tap it. This is a must, unless it it pretty. If it is pretty, it will make a good guitar even if it taps like wet cardboard.
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Re: Spalted Poplar

Postby Barry Daniels » Thu Apr 14, 2016 8:39 pm

Hey folks, he's building an electric. I think it should be fine for a solid body.
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Re: Spalted Poplar

Postby Jason Rodgers » Thu Apr 14, 2016 9:09 pm

Can you post a picture? I really like the green with purple streaks, but with spalting too sounds cool.
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.
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Re: Spalted Poplar

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Thu Apr 14, 2016 9:14 pm

" It is the acoustic back and sides idea that I wanted feedback on."

Yes, he is building an electric, but also this.

"If it is pretty, it will make a good guitar even if it taps like wet cardboard."

I am convinced wet cardboard tap tones can make a nice sounding guitar, if it's only the back and sides that tap like that.
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Re: Spalted Poplar

Postby Thomas Yerkey » Fri Apr 15, 2016 9:40 am

Thanks Everyone! It's good to know that purdy trumps tap tone. I will post pics when I can get the things off of my eye phone and onto my computer. I am only on my first acoustic. As I said earlier, I have quarter sawn black walnut for that project. I snagged trailer full of walnut that was cut 30 years ago and stored right. A certain proportion of it is quarter sawn. If I told you what I paid for it, you'd send assassins... The poplar idea comes out of snagging a bunch of it for 50 cents a board foot. I realize that there were a lot of cheap guitars built with poplar way-back. I have to wonder if the cheap extended to building techniques and overall construction quality. My guess is that it did. So, what I will probably do is re-saw some of this stuff, plane it to thickness, and see how it bends. If it stands up to the bending process, maybe I'll try a build with it. If I do a bolt on or pinned tenon neck joint, I could at least salvage some of my work if the thing sucks or fall apart. If it works, it would be a visually striking axe.
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Re: Spalted Poplar

Postby Bryan Bear » Fri Apr 15, 2016 11:52 am

Clay Schaeffer wrote:" It is the acoustic back and sides idea that I wanted feedback on."

Yes, he is building an electric, but also this.

"If it is pretty, it will make a good guitar even if it taps like wet cardboard."

I am convinced wet cardboard tap tones can make a nice sounding guitar, if it's only the back and sides that tap like that.


Oops, yes. My tongue-in-cheek comment was meant to apply to back and side woods not tops. Thanks for clarifying. While I'm sure that some back and side woods may be "better" (however an individual maker might define that), I have not made enough instruments to achieve those possible benefits. Focusing on good construction and getting the top and braces sorted out is much more important for me than starting with old growth Brazilian back and sides. . .

Robbie O'Brien recently posted a video of a classical he made using cardboard for the back and sides. Sounded better than any classical I would make.
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Re: Spalted Poplar

Postby David King » Fri Apr 15, 2016 2:20 pm

There are so many varieties of poplar that I would think the wide range of stiffness and strength would have an impact on any instrument. I know that European "Lombardi" poplar makes it's way into the backs of some larger violin family instruments. I don't know about the sides. I have cello sized Lombardi back that someone gave me long ago I could do a tap test on.
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