Question about matching top wood

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Eric Knapp
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Question about matching top wood

Post by Eric Knapp »

Hello,

Here's a question that's been bugging me for a long time. I have a long Sitka spruce board that's 10 inches wide and almost 1 inch thick. It could be resawn for an acoustic top but I want to use it for an archtop. I would not be able to bookmatch the wood so is it still possible to use? This would be for an early build, not a master instrument. What would be the best approach to using this wood for an archtop if possible?

Thanks,

-Eric

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Bob Gramann
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Re: Question about matching top wood

Post by Bob Gramann »

I had a nice, quartersawn piece like that that became a mandolin top. The grain was so uniform that turning a piece around and jointing and gluing it did not betray that it wasn't bookmatched. The wood was just too nice not to use that way.

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Eric Knapp
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Re: Question about matching top wood

Post by Eric Knapp »

Bob Gramann wrote:I had a nice, quartersawn piece like that that became a mandolin top. The grain was so uniform that turning a piece around and jointing and gluing it did not betray that it wasn't bookmatched. The wood was just too nice not to use that way.
Thanks, how did you turn it around? I can see 2 or 3 ways. Did you flip it over or rotate it? Or did you just move the next piece down and join it so the grain was in the same direction? This board is perfectly quartersawn too, with very even grain. It's been sitting in my shop for a long time waiting for me to get my act together and use it.

-Eric

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Bob Gramann
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Re: Question about matching top wood

Post by Bob Gramann »

I don't remember how I turned it. I just made sure it looked good.

Brian Evans
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Re: Question about matching top wood

Post by Brian Evans »

I do this, being too cheap to buy "official" book-matched archtop sets. Pay a lot of attention to grain direction with an archtop, it really sucks to be fighting tear-out all along the center seam. I use 1" thick rough sawn stock.

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Eric Knapp
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Re: Question about matching top wood

Post by Eric Knapp »

Brian Evans wrote:I do this, being too cheap to buy "official" book-matched archtop sets. Pay a lot of attention to grain direction with an archtop, it really sucks to be fighting tear-out all along the center seam. I use 1" thick rough sawn stock.
Thanks, It sounds like the procedure is to first cut some pieces to length. Then try hand planing along where the top joint might be. Find a compromise between looks and grain tear-out. Sounds doable. I'm looking forward to trying.

-Eric

Joel Nowland
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Re: Question about matching top wood

Post by Joel Nowland »

If the non book match is a bit too obvious you could consider doing a sunburst finish slightly darker than the average sunburst.

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Eric Knapp
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Re: Question about matching top wood

Post by Eric Knapp »

Joel Nowland wrote:If the non book match is a bit too obvious you could consider doing a sunburst finish slightly darker than the average sunburst.
Thanks, doing a sunburst is another thing I need to learn anyway. I don't have a spraying rig yet so I'll have to figure that out when the time comes. A lot to learn!

-Eric

Thomas Yerkey
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Re: Question about matching top wood

Post by Thomas Yerkey »

Ignorant newbie question.

Why can't you bookmatch it? My guess is you want more than a 1/2 inch arch.

Excuse me please...

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Eric Knapp
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Re: Question about matching top wood

Post by Eric Knapp »

Thomas Yerkey wrote:Ignorant newbie question.

Why can't you bookmatch it? My guess is you want more than a 1/2 inch arch.

Excuse me please...
Yes, from what I'm seeing in the literature and online, an archtop blank starts out at 1 inch or more. I have not encountered a 1/2 inch archtop. I think that would be too shallow. I've not made an archtop so I could be wrong though.

-Eric

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Barry Daniels
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Re: Question about matching top wood

Post by Barry Daniels »

You're not wrong. In order to get a one inch rise in an arched plate, you actually need to start with at least 1-1/4" thick stock.
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Eric Knapp
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Re: Question about matching top wood

Post by Eric Knapp »

Barry Daniels wrote:You're not wrong. In order to get a one inch rise in an arched plate, you actually need to start with at least 1-1/4" thick stock.
Thanks for the verification. I hope a full 1" board will be good enough for a first build.

-Eric

David King
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Re: Question about matching top wood

Post by David King »

There's a lot of spruce out there but sometimes having an immovable limitation gets you to a higher plane in a project like this.

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Jim McConkey
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Re: Question about matching top wood

Post by Jim McConkey »

Also, plates for arched instruments are usually not cut flat. A 1" piece thick slab would be split diagonally so that one side is 3/4" and the other side and the other is 1/4". You cannot simply open a set cut like this like a book. You have to turn one piece around 180 degrees so that fat sides can be joined. You have to leave at least 1/4" on one edge, which is why Barry says you need a 1 1/4" board to get a 1" arch.
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Brian Evans
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Re: Question about matching top wood

Post by Brian Evans »

My plates start with 4/4 rough stock, which is 1" plus a hair thick. Benedetto starts with 1" thick stock as well. In his book, he uses boards, not wedges. FWIW.

Brian

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Eric Knapp
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Re: Question about matching top wood

Post by Eric Knapp »

Brian Evans wrote:My plates start with 4/4 rough stock, which is 1" plus a hair thick. Benedetto starts with 1" thick stock as well. In his book, he uses boards, not wedges. FWIW.

Brian
That's great to know, thanks. I don't have the Benedetto book yet and it sounds like I need to get it soon.
David King wrote:There's a lot of spruce out there but sometimes having an immovable limitation gets you to a higher plane in a project like this.
Very true and I think I've said that to my students on more than one occasion. It was in a completely different context but the principle still holds up.

It's also good to hear there is a lot of spruce out there. One of the local lumberyards here specializes in supplying boat and iceboat builders. They have a large supply of very long Sitka boards. Some are 20 feet and more. The last time I looked they had a bunch that were 4/4 rough sawn and at least 10" wide. The grain looked great, too.

-Eric

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Re: Question about matching top wood

Post by Simon Magennis »

Archtops/violins/celli and the like are where splitting logs really works better than sawing. The very nature of splitting ensures that you get appropriate wedges. I see quite a lot of wedges for sale on the German ebay. One particular seller. I probably won't buy from that source but the stuff is available at fairly ok prices. Given how much work and arch top is, I would get wedges.

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Eric Knapp
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Re: Question about matching top wood

Post by Eric Knapp »

Simon Magennis wrote:Archtops/violins/celli and the like are where splitting logs really works better than sawing. The very nature of splitting ensures that you get appropriate wedges. I see quite a lot of wedges for sale on the German ebay. One particular seller. I probably won't buy from that source but the stuff is available at fairly ok prices. Given how much work and arch top is, I would get wedges.
That sounds right for a serious build. The board I have will probably work well for my first few archtops, should I get that far. (I'm hopeful, as are many, I know.)

-Eric

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