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sequoia
03-20-2016, 06:29 PM
Going to do a so called "bear claw" figured sitka spruce top on my newest project. Now I think there is a lot said about bear claw that is probably questionable.

First, I remember a friend of mine showing me his new "Bear Clawed" top on his guitar and he said that the store owner that sold it to him said the wood came from spruce trees where bears sharpened their claws on the tree thus "bear claw spruce". This gave the wood a special sound also. A bold sound like a bear I suppose. Gotta hand it to those guitar salesman, they don't miss a trick. Anything to move the product.

Second, I was trolling the web and came across a luthier that said that bear claw figured spruce was actually stronger than straight grained spruce. He has a lot of experience with the stuff, so I don't disbelieve the claim. I don't think it necessarily weakens the wood, but I'm not sure it contributes anything to integrity. Personally I suspect it doesn't mean much either way.

Third, that change in density makes a more complex sound. Not sure about that claim, but I will say having worked with it a little bit that there are definitely differences in wood density. A little scary to plane.

Finally, I don't know what to think. I think it probably doesn't make much difference either way, but it sure does look cool. Pictures below don't really show the "claw" too good at this stage. Will look better and more 3-D once finished out.

89571

89572

Allen
03-20-2016, 07:56 PM
All good stories for the unsuspecting and impressionable.

I've used lots of Bear Claw figure sitka and other timbers as well. It comes in all densities and stiffness, from some being so floppy that I ended up using them for sound hole reinforcements and other non critical tasks.

Clients that like a lot of Bling tend to appreciate highly figured Bear Claw. I like it to be a bit more subtle in most cases. I sold all my sets that were over the top. Way too busy for my style.

You'd have to have an amazing ear to hear any difference between that and straight grain. I sure can't on my instruments other than what you would expect from normal variations in two instruments.

spongeuke
03-20-2016, 09:48 PM
First, I remember a friend of mine showing me his new "Bear Clawed" top on his guitar and he said that the store owner that sold it to him said the wood came from spruce trees where bears sharpened their claws on the tree thus "bear claw spruce". This gave the wood a special sound also. A bold sound like a bear I suppose. Gotta hand it to those guitar salesman, they don't miss a trick. Anything to move the product.

Things happen in the woods. That is a lot of BS

Patrick Madsen
03-20-2016, 10:10 PM
Actually according to my Native American heritage the animals were born from the Mother Spruce tree. When the Grizzly bear was born he scratched the tree to signify this was sacred wood not to be touched. It was only used by the medicine men and the elders. When a Mother Spruce is found fallen, ceremony is always done before being carried out of the woods. It wasn't that long ago an ancient mother spruce was felled by a night time robber of the wood. It caused a lot of grief. Not sure if it was in Washington, British Columbia or Alaska. Course once the white man came and logged, it's just considered another tree.

Bear Claw spruce to many Native Americans is much like Milo is to the Hawaiians; sacred. When Chuck made my Moore Bettah we chose Milo and B/C to honor both heritages.

Michael N.
03-21-2016, 02:01 AM
I haven't used it a lot. I do have 4 or 5 soundboards currently in my stash that has bear claw. Someone told me that when the 'claw' runs along the grain (as in your example) it usually results in weak floppy wood. I don't know how true that is but the two samples that I have are on the weak/floppy side, the others (where the claw runs across the grain) are much stiffer.

mainger
03-21-2016, 03:55 AM
Things happen in the woods. That is a lot of BS

How dare you question the simple truth that bears have a major impact on trees at night? HOW DARE YOU?! Here's proof.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlMwX-DqvVM

spongeuke
03-21-2016, 06:52 AM
I stand corrected, where's the Charmin

BlackBearUkes
03-21-2016, 02:52 PM
Many years ago, Bear Claw spruce use to be considered inferior to build with. Marketing being what it is, it is now suppose to be better. Its spruce so of course it will produce a good sound most of the time, just as any spruce. I would never use it for bracing stock with the wild grain. I also wouldn't buy it on purpose when so much better stuff is available.

Kekani
03-21-2016, 08:51 PM
Many years ago, Bear Claw spruce use to be considered inferior to build with. Marketing being what it is, it is now suppose to be better. Its spruce so of course it will produce a good sound most of the time, just as any spruce. I would never use it for bracing stock with the wild grain. I also wouldn't buy it on purpose when so much better stuff is available.
This.

Bear Claw is actually blemishes in the grain, and if you look good, it is basically NOt straight grained Spruce.
And, like Duane said, marketing being what it is, and Spruce being what it is, it works. I have some "nice" Bear Claw that I honestly use mostly for Milo bodies, and have been doing that for a while. Why? Milo is usually very straight grained.

I like to work with highly figured Maple, which I tend to put the straightest Spruce (which is everything other than Bear Claw in my stock). Personally, Bear Claw can make for a "too much" instrument, and start to detract from the beauty of wood, as Allen had mentioned.

There's nothing like split Sitka, with cross silking across the board. This is the good stuff that will almost always make a good top. I've been fortunate that I can be picky with my Bear Claw, and simply 86 the stuff that comes out dead (which, honestly, for ukulele, is not that often in my stash).

chuck in ny
03-22-2016, 09:15 AM
figured woods are impressive and pretty, instruments, gun stocks, woodwork. i doubt any play better than a straight grained board. if you do highly ornamented work, inlay and so forth, your customer is going to be a bling person. nothing wrong with that either.
i have done a lot of stupid stuff in my life but have also had some measure of common sense and have never been attracted to knockout women preferring cute and appealing types. i take this as an allegory for other areas of endeavor. my woodwork is more shaker, pretty, but restrained. my cars and trucks are all basic grade. imagine the first dent on a BMW. you will be able to use my ukes and they will patinate and look better. a mar on a polyester finished highly figured koa ukulele, sickening. keeping a gorgeous woman happy and dedicated to you for 50 years, ho ho ho, for braver souls than chuck. i will accept some wood figure as long as it stays below acid trip status as for example evenly distributed fiddle in walnut, or small and even worm in red oak. it's a matter of taste and individual approach, to each his/her own, and it is a free country.

sequoia
03-22-2016, 10:39 AM
it's a matter of taste and individual approach, to each his/her own, and it is a free country.

Yup. To each his own and it is a free country although I do wonder at times...

Interesting allegory. To which I say: Life is too short to dance with ugly women... As for fancy, highly figured wood: I enjoy working with it, I like looking at the results and I enjoy playing them. I'm happy and that is what counts. But here is the thing: I only have one customer too keep happy: me.

tenor madness
03-29-2016, 02:21 PM
A little off topic, but I badly tried to learn to dance for awhile without much success. And in my experience the less attractive women were the best to dance with, they were generally better dancers, nicer, and more forgiving. Looks have nothing to do with how light on their feet they were (weight surprisingly was not so much a factor either), if you weren't actually dancing or were an excellent dancer maybe you would approach it differently.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
03-30-2016, 05:14 AM
Treat bearclaw like any other top wood- ie- assess each piece on its own merits in regard to stiffness etc.

chuck in ny
04-01-2016, 02:23 PM
tenor madness, sequoia, please do not set me up with any such ladies. trim looks and appeal can get you a very long way. you guys are going places others do not dare tread.