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Thread: What is this wood figuring called?

  1. #1
    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default What is this wood figuring called?

    Hey all,

    Just wondering if there is a name for this kind of wood figuring (see Photo)?
    Im talking about the wavey grain pattern, radiating out from the bridge base.
    It continues around the F hole.
    I kinda like it.
    Does that effect have a term?

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
    Fiddles: 1920s Strad copy, 1930s Strad copy, Liu Xi T20, Liu Xi T19+ Dark.
    Guitars: Taylor 514c (1995), Gibson Southern Jumbo (1940s), Gibson L-48 (1940s), Les Paul Custom (1978), Fender Strat (Black/RWFB) (1984), Fender Strat (Candy Apple Red/MFB) (1985).
    Sitars: Hiren Roy KP (1980s), Naskar (1970s), Naskar (1960s).
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  2. #2
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    I think that would qualify as bear claw.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    A better photo, maybe shot from the same perspective as above, would be helpful. It could just be silking.
    Play it like you mean it.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    A past thread with some well known luthiers discussing both silking and bear claw can be found here. I don't recall hearing the silking term. That one is new to me.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    “Spruce, cedar, and redwood guitar tops are riftsawn, with the familiar annular grain pattern running parallel to the strings and the perpendicular end grain visible on the edge of the soundhole. On the face, cross-grain, medullary rays, or “silk,” run perpendicular to the annular rings, though only when the top is perfectly oriented relative to the radius of the log. Backs and sides are usually either quartersawn or flatsawn, but rarely riftsawn.”. From Bourgeois Guitars.

    Can’t find a good picture but it’s typically seen on part of the arch where the curve and the grain line up to produce the perfect cut on the quarter.’ There are really good pictures in the thread Mike posted above, along with an excellent discussion of the differences between bear claw and silking, including a post from Charlie Derrington.
    Last edited by Bill McCall; Oct-09-2019 at 3:54pm.
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    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    The top also has it in the Scroll, where it is easier to see.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  10. #7

    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    Quote Originally Posted by CWRoyds View Post
    Hey all,

    Just wondering if there is a name for this kind of wood figuring (see Photo)?
    Im talking about the wavey grain pattern, radiating out from the bridge base.
    It continues around the F hole.
    I kinda like it.
    Does that effect have a term?

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Those are called "medullary rays". They are rays which are arranged like spokes of a wheel in the tree, and are important to transfer water and nutrients between inner and outer areas of the trunk.
    You'll see this in quartersawn wood, or any time you cut through a medullary ray. But mostly on quartersawn wood. Maple and other woods have them too, but many, like poplar, are nearly invisible.

    Oak has particularly large medullary rays, responsible for the classic "quartersawn oak" look:
    Click image for larger version. 

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  12. #8

    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    Here are pictures of silking on a Breedlove guitar.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  14. #9

    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    In German, some of those wood figures are called "Haselficht", and can be indicative of good quality tone wood. In this country, we often call it bear claw, in other cases, it can be considered radial lines or silking, which is different.

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    Registered User Hendrik Ahrend's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    Quote Originally Posted by illinoisfiddler View Post
    In German, some of those wood figures are called "Haselficht", and can be indicative of good quality tone wood. In this country, we often call it bear claw, in other cases, it can be considered radial lines or silking, which is different.
    Fiddler, IMHO Haselfichte ("Fichte" is German for "spruce") does not refer to the pattern of the medullary rays, responsible for the silking, but rather to the wavy grain structure. Here's a view of a Haselfichte end grain:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    and a drawn illustration:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    A cello with Haselfichte:

    Click image for larger version. 

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  16. #11

    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    Isn’t silking beautiful?
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  18. #12

    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    I once owned a Heiden A that had that same gorgeous figuring across the entire top (the same swirly figuring in the OP’s photos, not the figuring shown in the bear-claw & the silking photos). As I recall, there were not any areas on the Heiden’s top that were less-figured than any other area—i.e. simply amazing to look at.

    So, I asked Michael how on earth that came about. His answer, again as I recall, was that when the cut on a quarter-sawn slab was made nearly-perfectly, within a certain degree/s of angle (cut within a degree or two, I think he said), then that particular figuring just happens.

    I cannot remember whether or not Michael explained the related physiology of the tree to me, but I do clearly remember him indicating that the phenomenon had happened so frequently with him over the years, that he hardly noticed it any more. My thought at the time was “HOW COULD YOU ‘NOT NOTICE’ THE MOST MAGNIFICENT MANDOLIN TOP THAT I HAVE EVER SEEN?!!!”

    This Heiden-A mandolin had/has an Engelmann top, for what that might be worth.

    If you look at a typical “lathe-turned” kitchen rolling pin, you likely will see two thin bands of similar figuring along opposite long sides of the rolling pin. If you then look at the end of that rolling pin (showing the grain of the wood), you might get a clue as to how the angle of the cut manifests itself in the figuring. I am still trying to get my head around that, but am not trying too hard.

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  20. #13
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    Potosimando: My Heiden A looks pretty close to your description. Mine is Sitka according to Michael. Looks almost like whirlpools or swirls over lots of the top, depending on where the carving enters that layer of wood.
    Phil

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  21. #14
    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    From the fact that the wavy sinking radiates from under the bridge foot, I assume they did that on purpose.
    I think if I had that piece of wood with that radiating pattern, I would try to get it right under the foot of the bridge, just for fun.
    Whether that effects the sound or not, is another issue.
    Probably not much, but it looks very cool.
    A sort of visual representation of the sound radiating into the soundboard.
    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
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    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    Quote Originally Posted by CWRoyds View Post
    From the fact that the wavy sinking radiates from under the bridge foot, I assume they did that on purpose.
    I think if I had that piece of wood with that radiating pattern, I would try to get it right under the foot of the bridge, just for fun.
    Whether that effects the sound or not, is another issue.
    Probably not much, but it looks very cool.
    A sort of visual representation of the sound radiating into the soundboard.
    I agree, it looks very cool and adds a lot of character.

    Rob

  23. #16

    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    My two Tacoma guitars have heavy silk. As stated above you see this in perfectly quarter-sawn wood. Tacoma's master luthier told me that they didn't saw but split the wood along the medullary rays.

    In either case I'm confused about how silk can be maintained to this extent in a carved top. It is common in perfectly flat high end tops, but not in carved high end tops as far as I have seen.
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  24. #17

    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    Big trees can expose a large amount of silking due to the ability to have a wide board that could be right on the quarter. Carving will change the surface geometry to off the quarter and lose the silking figure.
    Last edited by Bill McCall; Oct-13-2019 at 1:13pm.
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  25. #18
    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    I got a shot from a different angle and upped the contrast for a better view of the grain.
    The question has been answered, so this is just for reference for future viewers.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
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    Guitars: Taylor 514c (1995), Gibson Southern Jumbo (1940s), Gibson L-48 (1940s), Les Paul Custom (1978), Fender Strat (Black/RWFB) (1984), Fender Strat (Candy Apple Red/MFB) (1985).
    Sitars: Hiren Roy KP (1980s), Naskar (1970s), Naskar (1960s).
    Misc: 8 Course Lute (L.K.Brown)

  26. #19

    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    I had an Engelmann Heiden that had that figure in spades. Michael said it was perfectly quartered. Figured top, back, and sides.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  28. #20
    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Grieser View Post
    I had an Engelmann Heiden that had that figure in spades. Michael said it was perfectly quartered. Figured top, back, and sides.
    Nice figuring.
    The mando in question is Engelmann topped too.
    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
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    Registered User Jesse Kinman's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    Here’s a picture I found awhile back of a Northfield Artist mandolin when I was trying to find ideas for my Tyler White build. This one has some really nice silking here!Click image for larger version. 

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  31. #22
    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jesse Kinman View Post
    Here’s a picture I found awhile back of a Northfield Artist mandolin when I was trying to find ideas for my Tyler White build. This one has some really nice silking here!Click image for larger version. 

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    The mando in my question is also a Northfield Artist, so could be from the same wood stock.
    That one in your picture is a 5 bar Artist model, and mine is too.
    Very cool.
    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
    Fiddles: 1920s Strad copy, 1930s Strad copy, Liu Xi T20, Liu Xi T19+ Dark.
    Guitars: Taylor 514c (1995), Gibson Southern Jumbo (1940s), Gibson L-48 (1940s), Les Paul Custom (1978), Fender Strat (Black/RWFB) (1984), Fender Strat (Candy Apple Red/MFB) (1985).
    Sitars: Hiren Roy KP (1980s), Naskar (1970s), Naskar (1960s).
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  33. #23
    Registered User Jesse Kinman's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    Quote Originally Posted by CWRoyds View Post
    The mando in my question is also a Northfield Artist, so could be from the same wood stock.
    That one in your picture is a 5 bar Artist model, and mine is too.
    Very cool.
    I wonder if it’s a more prominent like this in Engelmann specifically, cause my Tyler White F5 has the same style of figuring and it’s an Engelmann too as well. Not that other spruces don’t have the silking, they obviously do on the perfect quarter, but this particular look of the silking seems to be a trademark of Engelmann to me.
    I will try to get a good picture of the silking on my White tomorrow afternoon and post it.
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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    I asked this same question when I got my Oldwave. I don't know that I did a great job getting a good picture and I tried blowing one up but the silking is really cool on this top in person.

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    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

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  35. #25
    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is this wood figuring called?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jesse Kinman View Post
    I wonder if it’s a more prominent like this in Engelmann specifically, cause my Tyler White F5 has the same style of figuring and it’s an Engelmann too as well. Not that other spruces don’t have the silking, they obviously do on the perfect quarter, but this particular look of the silking seems to be a trademark of Engelmann to me.
    I will try to get a good picture of the silking on my White tomorrow afternoon and post it.

    Since posting this I have been reading a bit about it elsewhere.
    Apparently engelmann spruce has particularly long medullary rays, which are what makes this pattern figuring.
    They show up in guitar tops when the cut is just right, but I guess mandolin tops start out thick, so as you carve down you are more likely to hit them.
    It is really interesting stuff.
    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
    Fiddles: 1920s Strad copy, 1930s Strad copy, Liu Xi T20, Liu Xi T19+ Dark.
    Guitars: Taylor 514c (1995), Gibson Southern Jumbo (1940s), Gibson L-48 (1940s), Les Paul Custom (1978), Fender Strat (Black/RWFB) (1984), Fender Strat (Candy Apple Red/MFB) (1985).
    Sitars: Hiren Roy KP (1980s), Naskar (1970s), Naskar (1960s).
    Misc: 8 Course Lute (L.K.Brown)

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