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Thread: Oak as a tonewood?

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    Question Oak as a tonewood?

    Hello,

    Thanks for the replies to my "can anyone direct me to a good sawmill in the UK?".

    I googled all the sawmills in Wales and have started phoning around for quarter sawn timber.

    Most so far are saying no they don't. Another is saying that they might have a small amount, as they have some left over from cutting through and through - I thought that wasnt possible and true quarter sawn, had to be quarter sawn in the first place.

    My main question here is what is oak like as a tonewood? - as I might be able to get some quarter sawn off cuts, enough to make my octave mandolin.

    Any information about sound/tone etc would be great.

    Thanks

    Nick
    Last edited by rustick; Mar-11-2010 at 5:04am. Reason: spelling

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    Registered User 8ch(pl)'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    if you find the slab cut board that was in the center of the log it will have wood that has grain the same as Quarter-sawn. The thing you need to look for is grain pattern on the end of the plank running straight from one side to the other. You can look through lumber to find these pieces.

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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    Have a look at www.fyldeguitars.com. Roger Bucknall makes a Single Malt Touchstone Mandolin. The back and sides are oak.
    Paul Haley

  4. #4

    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    I'll let you know.





    Here's a 20's Supertone parlor...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQJni...rom=PL&index=2

    Sounds really thuddy on the bass and clear (red spruce?) trebles. Very bluesy sounding and if it were a mandolin, I bet it would be very Loar like.

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    Mike Parks woodwizard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    Looks nice Hans
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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    At one time, Al Carruth described building two guitars which were as nearly identical as possible except for the back & side woods. For one guitar, he used Brazilian rosewood for the back & sides; for the other guitar, he used oak for back & sides. He described the guitar w/ the oak back & sides as 'good', though he liked the guitar w/ Brazilian rw back & sides better. What you can take from that is that oak will certainly _work_ as a back & sides wood.

    What you may want to consider, though, is why luthiers have shunned oak more often than not. As a ring-porous wood, oak has giant pores. Rosewoods, walnut, and some other woods have large pores, but the pores in oak are still larger. Large pores make getting a smooth film finish difficult - not impossible, but difficult. It is an aggravation that can be avoided by simply choosing a different available wood. If you haven't built many (or any) instruments, you might want to consider a wood w/ smaller pores. There are lots of 'em. Peruse LMII's online catalog for some possibilities.

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    Registered User 300win's Avatar
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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    I played only one guitar before made out of oak, it was red oak....... heavy....... not a good sound, poor tone. poor volume, course that was only one, but it was built by a very good guitar luthier, and he said he would never try another .
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  8. #8

    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    It's a poor workman that blames his materials or his tools...
    Thicknesses, bracing, lots of factors involved here...this new parlor of mine has a thump like a hollow log.
    Lots of different kinds of wood pore filler.
    The reason oak is not popular is it looks like "yer granny's furniture". It's a snobbish thing...

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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    Quote Originally Posted by rustick View Post

    I googled all the sawmills in Wales and have started phoning around for quarter sawn timber.

    Most so far are saying no they don't. Another is saying that they might have a small amount, as they have some left over from cutting through and through - I thought that wasnt possible and true quarter sawn, had to be quarter sawn in the first place.
    You are placing waaay too much emphasis on the material needing to be quartersawn...

    A majority of the Loars are cut on the slab, as are countless fine old violins....

    I love the look of a nicely figured piece of English sycamore (AKA "German Maple") cut on the slab, with that nice rolling figure...

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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    A lot of old Stella guitars had Oak backs...they have the same thuddy bass that Hans is describing, only maybe not as refined .

    THey were initially generally considered pieces of junk, became famous in the hands of early bluesmen, and now are collectors items (not in the Loar price range, of course).

    For the record, I like the look of my granny's furniture . We had a huge old red oak die in our backyard, and had there not been too many ant/insect bore holes, I'd have tried to make both a guitar and a mando out of that thing.

    I don't know that it's the next Brazilian rosewood, and Dave's concerns/suggestions are certainly valid, but there's no reason you couldn't try it!!
    Chuck

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    Registered User David Newton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    If a builder makes a heavy Oak guitar, I'd hate to weigh his Rosewood guitar.

    I have some Oak sets aging just now, so I'm clueless on how successful they will sound.
    I want them to look like granny's Roycroft furniture.

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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    Try this chap andy.fellows1@ntlworld.com

    I have had several lots of very nice wood from him. Tell him what you are looking for and he will tell you what he has got.

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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    What Hans and Bruce/Spruce and David Newton just said. Old Stellas—in fact just about all the old oak guitars from the 20s—were ladder braced, small, and being oak, were at the lower end of the then-current price range. Oak was the poor folks furniture wood then. I'd never judge a material by how those guitars sounded: look at what they were and how they were made.

    I would, however, heed what the new oak Martins sound like, which is terrific. What's especially helpful is that we have all played hundreds of Martin 12-fret 000s, so we have a good basis for understanding what that design sounds like. Compare that to experiencing that same guitar made of oak and you've got some valuable information.



    I just had a few minutes with one of these today, a very lush and inviting guitar. Not crazy about all the fru-fru, but what a sound.

    I'd never base an evaluation of a tonewood on a pair of guitars, one in oak and one in BRW - it's just not a big enough sampling to say much (though it's a start).

    I should also say I've also met a few other recent gourmet-grade oak guitars and loved their sound, but that's largely due to the intelligence and skill of the makers.
    Last edited by Paul Hostetter; Mar-11-2010 at 8:02pm.
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    Registered User David Newton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    Here is some of my flamed White Oak.
    Oh yes that is a pretty little chunk of Texas Walnut, don't let Brother Pete know.
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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    The Taylor oak pallet guitar comes to mind:
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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    Here is my oak Norman Blake Special, built in 1994. I believe it is one of my best guitars, and there have been plenty who agree. Loud, clear trebles seems to be a characteristic of the 'oak sound', along with the warm bass. I have yet to make another 12-fret dread that suits my finger style as much.









    Though I filled the pores two or three times, I still have some dimples from lacquer shrinkage. I like to keep the lacquer film below 3 mils for sonic reasons, and I am willing to accept some texture. Personally, I think the texture goes well with oak.
    This guitar is QS white oak, cut locally. I use slab-cut woods on occasion, but I would recommend QS in oak, both for the tiger figure and for stability.
    John

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    Registered User Rob Grant's Avatar
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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    I'm led to believe that it absorbs cannonballs quite well!<G>
    Rob Grant
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    Café habitué Paul Hostetter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    That is one gorgeous guitar!
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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    Nice axe, John, thanks for posting;
    Does old Blake have one of them? He has a number he wrote entitled "White Oak Swamp".
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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    Hello,

    Thanks everyone for your comments, I get the impression that Oak as a tonewood is a bit like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. Some excellent information and pictures, I had no idea of the history - thanks all.

    I think I'l make one mandolin in oak and another in sycamore.

    Spruce is right, I am thinking too much about getting quarter sawn timber and not considering through and through.

    I think it's probably another thread in it's self. Im working from a book, that's telling me "must be quarter sawn", Im not confident to choose different cuts/ grains of timber yet - Any tips on choosing through and through would be great.

    Because it's my first time at building, I know the build quality may be questionable, so by choosing the best materials, like quarter sawn(from a saw mill, cost, just incase I mess it up), Im hoping that may be half the battle solved.

    Thanks all.

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    Registered User tree's Avatar
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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    John,

    The Norman Blake Special is beautiful. My first thought (I'm sure it's the rays that scream OAK) was that Keith Richard could have used this instead of his Tele to club rowdy drunks off the stage. That's not to say that it doesn't look like a fine, lightly built guitar - it's the look of the oak wood that suggests solidity and sturdiness. It's an interesting combination with the sexy lines and large size of the 12-fret slothead DS. I love it!
    Clark Beavans

  22. #22

    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    Here's the parlor with one coat of lacquer. Really pops the oak.




  23. #23
    Registered User 300win's Avatar
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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    Those are pretty guitars. In my post the luthier I was talking about was Dave Sturgis of Sparta, North Carolina. He buikt guitars back in the late 60's early to mid 70's. He was fairly well known back then for making some prety dang good guitars. Doc Watson got one from him once and I think played it in public apperances a few times, so he was not a "poor workman", he knew what he was doing as far as building.
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    wood butcher Spruce's Avatar
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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    Quote Originally Posted by rustick View Post
    Any tips on choosing through and through would be great.
    Well, in the UK, this is the norm....
    Here's a shot of some through-and-through milled logs at a mill in Yorkshire:



    So, when choosing sycamore, any of those cuts are usable (and authentic if you care about such things) for an F5 build...

    Slab cut wood on the top and bottom cuts, quartered in the middle, and skew in between...
    All fine and dandy if the log is well-figured....

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    Registered User ISU Trout Bum's Avatar
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    Default Re: Oak as a tonewood?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Grant View Post
    I'm led to believe that it absorbs cannonballs quite well!<G>
    Hahaha - great quote Rob!

    Beautiful guitar John!
    Eric Northway

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