Using wood from antiques?

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Eli Mas
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Dec 13, 2013 8:11 am

Using wood from antiques?

Post by Eli Mas »

Hello everyone,

I'll introduce my self first as I am new and this is my first topic, so I hope I am not that newbie asking questions that have been answered before :)
I recently put my self on a waiting list to be educated as a instrument maker in Puurs in Belgium (I am from the Netherlands and here you can't study this). I have played the violin and cello since age 5 and switched to guitar age 14 and still play guitar daily. My father has always had a thing for wood and antique and collected antique woodworking tools and also made his own cabinets and had some really nice power tools. Sadly he passed away about a year and a half ago, and now at my mothers house I have a huge attick with piles of old wood, power tools and woodworking tools. I have tried sculpting in wood before, but never really tried building an instrument, but this is something I have been fascinated with ever since I got my first violin from a luthier and saw her work in her workshop. I am a bit of a theoretical person as well (I am now finishing my Ma. Philosophy) so before I start doing things I always read around a lot first, so this is why I joined the forum, but I guess at some point I have to take the plunge and just start building!
Anyway, I have a friend who is a furniture designer who studied with the father of an other friend who is a respected furniture restaurateur and we often end up talking about wood, especially old wood and it's qualities. In the Netherlands the antique market has pretty much plummeted, which means you can buy old wood closets for almost nothing, sometimes even pick them up for free from old farmers. So, I was wondering if there are people who make instruments from antique wood? Is this doable? I have a lot of storage place, so if I run into things, I can always put them in the attick and save up on material.
I hope it's no to much of a silly question and greetings from Holland!

Chuck Tweedy
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Re: Using wood from antiques?

Post by Chuck Tweedy »

Welcome Eli.
Yes you can certainly make instruments from old salvaged wood. You have to take into consideration that you will have to carefully de-construct the old object (be it a desk or table or architectural piece).
Also you need to consider that it can be difficult to find large pieces of wood in existing assemblies that are free of nails/screws/pegs or other holes.
Old wood is good wood, so if you can find it and get to it, then certainly do it.
Likes to drink Rosewood Juice

Clay Schaeffer
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Re: Using wood from antiques?

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

If the items are truly "antiques" it would be a shame to bust them up for the wood. Markets fluctuate and what is worth nothing today may be priceless tomorrow. Even in the guitar trade what have been at one time "cheap " instruments now command top dollar. Aside from the monetary considerations is is a unfortunate to lose the item itself. If you can find antiques for next to nothing and have space to store them by all means pick them up and wait for the market to change.
If you build instruments with the piles of wood that your father left you, you will gain experience in woodworking and an understanding of what qualities the wood needs to have. Properly dried wood is necessary, but most will say there is no great virtue in building with "antique" wood.
Instrument building doesn't require large volumes of material - you may have a lifetime supply already at hand. More likely you will discover the wood your father left has better uses for other things and it may be better to trade it for wood that is more appropriate to your needs.
While you are waiting for your training, you could try building some simple instruments to get some experience with wood and tools.

Alan Carruth
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Re: Using wood from antiques?

Post by Alan Carruth »

You'll need to learn what makes 'good' instrument wood. Working with such thin pieces, stability is paramount; any tendency to warp can ruin an instrument. This, as much as anything else, dictates a strong preference for vertical grain wood, in which the annual ring lines are perpendicular to the face of the board. In addition, vertical grain makes softwoods stiffer in the cross grain direction, which may be a help structurally or acoustically. It's not common to find vertical grain in wood; it requires special care in sawing the logs, and reduces the yield. Some 'frame and panel' pieces will use vertical grained wood in the panels, for both stability and appearance, and piano lids, which are broad and need to stay flat, are also often vertical grained. There are other considerations, but this gives an idea of the sort of details you will need to pay attention to.

Sometimes it's possible to obtain good, old wood from the demolition of a building. I've got some old spruce that came from a local covered bridge that was built in 1869, and needed extensive re-building about twenty-five years ago. You may have to pick through a lot of stuff to get good material, but it can be worthwhile.

Sometimes it's just better to leave it where it is, though. I spoke with one fellow who got his start when he was a teenager making guitars from wood that he obtained by cutting slices off the roof beams of the building he lived in. He got away with it until the rainy season hit. He'd reduced the strength of the structure upholding the tile roof to the point where it needed quite a lot of repair. I told that tale to my father-in-law, who afterwards refused to allow me into his attic...

Warren May
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Re: Using wood from antiques?

Post by Warren May »

You mention that he left some wood in addition to the tools. Wonderful legacy. I have an old Stanley plane that was my fathers and it always makes me smile to watch it make the same curls it did for him when I was a boy. Treasure them but a lot of old tools were meant to be used. Go through the wood and separate it based on its quality, size and species if you can identify it. See what you have there first before tearing apart old furniture pieces. I got some really nice rosewood from an estate sale that was 4/4 unfinished and good dimensions. I was told it was 50 years old but no way of confirming that.

Michael Lewis
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Re: Using wood from antiques?

Post by Michael Lewis »

Welcome to the forum, and feel free to ask your questions.

Get a book of guitar making and make a guitar. You will have more appreciation for the lessons you will be taught at the hand of a master if you have already tired to make a guitar.

Eli Mas
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Joined: Fri Dec 13, 2013 8:11 am

Re: Using wood from antiques?

Post by Eli Mas »

Hi everyone,

Thanks for the good informative answers. I guess I do have some sorting work to do first. The thing about piano lid is interesting. I think there are some panels in the pile from old pianos that are already taken apart. I will defintely start with a good book and then dive in and start building. :D
I agree that wood is a great legacy to be left.

Ken Franklin
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Re: Using wood from antiques?

Post by Ken Franklin »

While I don't usually use antiques to build my guitars, I did make one from this old oak dresser that had been left out in the weather. It sounded very good and I'd do it again if the situation was right. One of the challenges is finding wood that is wide enough for the back. This is a smaller guitar so it wasn't as hard.
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Matthew Lau
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Re: Using wood from antiques?

Post by Matthew Lau »

If it's not of historic value, I'd encourage you to use whatever nice wood that you can!

If nothing else, it's traditional.
During the World Wars, there was a shortage of good material in Spain.
My understanding is that several prominent builders would use furniture or antiques for wood.
If I'm not mistaken (and I often am), there was the famous "church door" guitars from Jose Ramirez.

-Matt

Simon Magennis
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Re: Using wood from antiques?

Post by Simon Magennis »

Ken, that looks fantastic. Looking the weathered surface I for one would never have guessed what was underneath. Beautiful.

Dave Higham
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Re: Using wood from antiques?

Post by Dave Higham »

I know you’re talking about acoustic instruments, but this (my first) bass used to be a very plain antique chest of drawers. Two drawers were missing, one was badly broken and my ex-boss had put it out to be burnt. I rescued it, dismantled it and found it was all solid mahogany. The nicest wood was the drawer bottoms. A timber merchant told me that carpenters don’t like curly grained wood; it’s a nuisance to work. I used it for the front.
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John E Giarrizzo
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Re: Using wood from antiques?

Post by John E Giarrizzo »

Nearly all the violins I make are from "antique" wood. I've made them from old table tops and legs, an old piano top and soundboard, bed slats, a fence post, and one of my favorites --- I found a 2X10 in the parking lot where I was working at the time. They used it outdoors for supporting a tow motor and other equipment. It was perfectly quartered.

In addition to just a few pictures here, (all of which have backs, fronts, and necks from the mentioned wood). Several more of these are described at

http://www.mimf.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=1467

http://www.mimf.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=1119 (at post No 13)
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John E Giarrizzo
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Re: Using wood from antiques?

Post by John E Giarrizzo »

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John E Giarrizzo
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Re: Using wood from antiques?

Post by John E Giarrizzo »

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Jim Kirby
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Re: Using wood from antiques?

Post by Jim Kirby »

Matthew Lau wrote:If it's not of historic value, I'd encourage you to use whatever nice wood that you can!

If nothing else, it's traditional.
During the World Wars, there was a shortage of good material in Spain.
My understanding is that several prominent builders would use furniture or antiques for wood.
If I'm not mistaken (and I often am), there was the famous "church door" guitars from Jose Ramirez.

-Matt
The "church door" guitars are from Miguel Rodriguez, from Cordoba. I'm not sure of the actual story of those guitars. Rodriguez became well known by virtue of building guitars for the Romero family, among others.

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Martin Taylor
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Re: Using wood from antiques?

Post by Martin Taylor »

Hi, this is a build I completed recently where the back and sides came from an old broken Silky Oak dressing table. The top is Celery Top Pine that was given to me, the neck is recycled cedar (from an old fence) and the fretboard and bridge are mulga wood. It was really an experiment and I am really happy with the results. I am also using some of the Silky Oak as bindings on a Tenor guitar that is almost finished.

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Martin
Martin Taylor
http://martintaylorguitars.com.au
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Tyko Runesson
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Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2012 6:31 pm

Re: Using wood from antiques?

Post by Tyko Runesson »

Here is one I made with the back made out of salvaged wood from an old table. The leg was made in solid Brazilian RW so I thought I have to use it for something nice. No problem with the size of the pieces, just some more glue joints to do.
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Dave Sayers
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Re: Using wood from antiques?

Post by Dave Sayers »

I bought an old mahogany nik nak (small items) shelf and got 5 pieces of dark wood from it, all suitable for inserting into laminate necks, two from each shelf. Antique it might have been, nice it wasn't and it is serving the world much better. Price from boot sale £2

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