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Thread: Using pine, other "non-spruce" woods...

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    Default Using pine, other "non-spruce" woods...

    I've made one mandolin. I'm looking forward to making my next one, one after that, one after that...

    My dad has some nice long, wide board of pine with no knots. For my last project I used spruce, but not "fancy" spruce.

    I'm wondering what your thoughts are about using this pine for my next few projects. It has some tight, parallel grain. It's straight, no blemishes. Is this a good idea? What precautions or different approaches would you recommend versus spruce?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Using pine, other "non-spruce" woods...

    There are many different species of pine, so just calling it pine is not sufficient information. They vary quite a bit in properties, especially their hardness. If it is the most common, Eastern white pine, then the properties are in the same ballpark with spruce, although spruce is stronger and has a better strength to weight ratio, which enables it to be carved thinner without giving up structural integrity.. so a pine top might be possible, but I have to wonder if there’s a good reason it’s not used more.
    Don

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  3. #3

    Default Re: Using pine, other "non-spruce" woods...

    The mandolin (my first) I’m building has a top made from Douglas fir. At least that’s what it was identified as at Menards.
    I was wandering through my local store last year and noticed a 2x6 with exceptionally perfect tight quarter sawn grain, so I bought it not knowing what I would use it for. The sides, band and neck all come from a piece of rough sawn Cherry I bought from a local small sawmill for almost nothing.
    I think it’s going to turn out real nice.

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    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using pine, other "non-spruce" woods...

    If it's wood, it's light, and stiff, and has few defects or run-out, you can use it.

    Pine doesn't know it's pine. Sometimes pine thinks it the world's best spruce.

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  6. #5

    Default Re: Using pine, other "non-spruce" woods...

    Redwood! It's my favorite top wood. Tapping and flexing will give you a sense of it's properties. More rigorous/quantitative tests will give you more confidence.
    A big problem with lumber store pine, and why most luthiers are not going to use it, is that it's very young and kiln dried. It's been held onto a pallet it's whole life. Then you come along and take it home. Who knows what shape it will be once it's relieved the internal stresses. Might be fine, might be a bow tie.

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    Kelley Mandolins Skip Kelley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using pine, other "non-spruce" woods...

    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Jacobson View Post
    Redwood! It's my favorite top wood. Tapping and flexing will give you a sense of it's properties. More rigorous/quantitative tests will give you more confidence.
    A big problem with lumber store pine, and why most luthiers are not going to use it, is that it's very young and kiln dried. It's been held onto a pallet it's whole life. Then you come along and take it home. Who knows what shape it will be once it's relieved the internal stresses. Might be fine, might be a bow tie.
    This make me think of when I used to do maintenance work. I bought some treated 2x4's from the big hardware store. I bought a couple of the straightest boards that they had. Left them in my work van over the weekend and on Monday they were curled up like the runners on the bottom of a rocking chair. Things change a lot once their off the pallet!

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    Default Re: Using pine, other "non-spruce" woods...

    The last time I went to my favorite local mill, the two guys there could not with any certainty identify the species of wood I was asking about. Don't get me wrong, these guys are professionals. If you have a good looking bit of lumber, you can always saw it into a blank and see what it does over the next year. There are no rules and my favorite moto is "Tone Happens". Some of the most beautiful electric guitar necks I've made have come from Lowes when I discovered six planks of big leaf western maple with wonderful flame. Ten years later, they are all still wonderful. If you look up a certain species for its characteristics, what you'll read is only a generality.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using pine, other "non-spruce" woods...

    Quote Originally Posted by Levi S View Post
    The mandolin (my first) Iím building has a top made from Douglas fir. At least thatís what it was identified as at Menards.
    I was wandering through my local store last year and noticed a 2x6 with exceptionally perfect tight quarter sawn grain, so I bought it not knowing what I would use it for. The sides, band and neck all come from a piece of rough sawn Cherry I bought from a local small sawmill for almost nothing.
    I think itís going to turn out real nice.
    Every kid my age that grew up in Oregon was familiar with Douglas Fir. It's actually a pine. I've heard a few decent instruments with Douglas Fir tops.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_fir
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  11. #9

    Default Re: Using pine, other "non-spruce" woods...

    Whatever other cost saving measures I take, what with the labor intensive factor in mandolin building, wood is not something I'd skimp on. I'd defer to the tried and true. What a highly skilled luthier could do with pine I'm sure would work, but I'd end up with firewood I'm sure.

    On the other hand, I would not have considered redwood before I had my Silverangel.
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  12. #10
    Registered User tonydxn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using pine, other "non-spruce" woods...

    I'm pretty sure that the great Spanish guitar-maker Torres didn't always use spruce. Supplies of timber were unreliable in those days and makers had to use whatever was available at the time. His guitars were great, whatever woods he used.
    Mandolins: Bandolim by Antonio Pereira Cabral
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  13. #11

    Default Re: Using pine, other "non-spruce" woods...

    Entirely too much work involved to not use good materials, for sure the soundboard. There’s a reason all the luthiers use spruce. I buy my maple locally, but I make one piece backs using the arch in slab cut pieces for strength.

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