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View Full Version : Crash course in tonewood identification



etkre
10-06-2009, 03:30 PM
Hey guys, tomorrow I will attempt to snag some tonewood from a large selection of seasoned lumber. The owner doesn't know what types of wood she has and is selling it as firewood, so I need a crash course in identifying lumber. Hopefully I'll be able to find some tonewood to quarter saw and bookmatch (she says there's some pretty large unsplit sections).

Anyone have some good links to help me identify wood felled in Southeastern Ohio?

Thanks. You guys rock.

thistle3585
10-06-2009, 04:04 PM
Here's a question for you. What makes it tonewood? How do you know its something more than firewood?

Milla
10-06-2009, 04:15 PM
I am a complete noob but if it was me. I would just look for quartersawn pieces that look cool.

Pete Howlett
10-06-2009, 04:17 PM
You can only really identify its 'cut' and follow some basic rules. Ron-S posted some good graphics on this. Pretty much any wood will work except I wouldn't go for butternut, or woods that are dense. A real simple test is to 'bounce' the wood by dropping it end first on a hard surface - if it rings like a bell then it'll do; a dull thud would disuade me from choosing it... I made some oAmerican red oak and spalted Adirondack spruce ladder braced guitars back in the late 90's. Sounded just like those old Lakeside guitars. Now my lecturer at college told me that oak wasn't good for guitar making: those guitars proved him very, very wrong. I have an oak and larch concert build in the pipeline so I'd say just try it, except butternut....

cornfedgroove
10-06-2009, 05:12 PM
You can only really identify its 'cut' and follow some basic rules. Ron-S posted some good graphics on this. Pretty much any wood will work except I wouldn't go for butternut, or woods that are dense. A real simple test is to 'bounce' the wood by dropping it end first on a hard surface - if it rings like a bell then it'll do; a dull thud would disuade me from choosing it... I made some oAmerican red oak and spalted Adirondack spruce ladder braced guitars back in the late 90's. Sounded just like those old Lakeside guitars. Now my lecturer at college told me that oak wasn't good for guitar making: those guitars proved him very, very wrong. I have an oak and larch concert build in the pipeline so I'd say just try it, except butternut....

soooooooooooo...red oak isnt bad? cuz thats all I use for the neck cuz its cheap and easily gotten. I always thought it vibrated pretty well for just 4 nylon strings

etkre
10-06-2009, 05:20 PM
None of the wood is sawn. Some of it is split, most of it not. I will be quarter sawing and bookmatching the wood myself (not worried about that). I'm looking for some sort of reference to help me identify the species of wood so that I don't spend money on a species that is unsuitable for instrument building. Perhaps "tonewood" was a poor choice of words.

Pete, your idea about striking the logs and choosing the ones that carry the most sound makes a lot of sense. Should I not even bother trying to identify the species?

Eric

luvzmocha
10-06-2009, 05:47 PM
http://www.forestry.umn.edu/extension/forest/firewoodID.html

Kekani
10-06-2009, 05:48 PM
LMI
Gilmer
Ko`olau

Matt Clara
10-07-2009, 02:17 AM
soooooooooooo...red oak isnt bad? cuz thats all I use for the neck cuz its cheap and easily gotten. I always thought it vibrated pretty well for just 4 nylon strings

Hope so! I'm using red oak as the back of my CBU, sanded down to 1.6mm (and it's still fairly stiff!). Paid $3.20 for it. Of course, it's not quarter sawn, but it will do just fine for this project, I think.

thistle3585
10-07-2009, 02:38 AM
I bought these two walnut logs last year for $40. Split one open and found that there was really bad staining in it along with a lot of twist so there was too much run out for it to be useable for an instrument. There isn't anyway I could saw it on the quarter. You might be better off going to a mill that has lumber already sawn. I'd been better of buying some from the sawmill.

Heres a great video on Taylor guitars sourcing wood. What I like about it is that it gives you an idea of what is involved in choosing wood and that not all wood is tonewood. Its amazing how much is cast aside as waste. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EpVIEyYiSs

RonS
10-07-2009, 02:46 AM
Oak (both red and white) was a popular wood to use in making guitars in the 30s. Yes it can be a good tone wood.

The most important thing to concern your self with when it comes to choosing wood for a neck is how stable is it and how it was cut.

To find out if the wood will be suitable as tonewood is to hold it up, tap it and listen.

dave g
10-07-2009, 03:16 AM
If you're getting seasoned stuff at firewood prices, just buy as much as you can carry and sort it out later (assuming you've got a wood stove :)). I buy by the dump truck load and sort into two piles - one with instrument potential, one for firewood. Everything gets used in one way or another.

etkre
10-07-2009, 04:29 AM
Thanks guys. Good info. I like Dave's way of looking at it: it's cheap, some it makes ukes, the rest keeps you warm.:D

UkuleleHill
10-07-2009, 03:12 PM
If you're getting seasoned stuff at firewood prices, just buy as much as you can carry and sort it out later (assuming you've got a wood stove :)). I buy by the dump truck load and sort into two piles - one with instrument potential, one for firewood. Everything gets used in one way or another.

And your ukuleles are always beautiful! I still need to save up to buy one from you someday... A uke made from Ohio wood by an Ohio maker is so cool!

cornfedgroove
10-07-2009, 04:01 PM
O-H-.............

UkuleleHill
10-07-2009, 04:20 PM
O-H-.............

I-O! You from Ohio?