Ash too heavy, maple too soft?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by strömsborg, Dec 24, 2017.

  1. strömsborg

    strömsborg Member

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    Two years ago I helped my father in law to cut some large ash trees, mainly to give a better view of the lake. I noticed the classic Fender grain and since I've always had an interest in the technical aspect of guitars I thought this was a good time to try and build one, specifically a blonde mid 50's Telecaster, whiteguard, with an all maple neck.
    I cut a few large ash blanks and some maple for two necks, sealed the ends and put them in an earth cellar for 6 months and then stacked them in the old mans work shop. Two years have passed and with the rule of thumb being one year drying time per inch thickness, and my Junior build drawing to a close, it's time to start thinking about that Telecaster.
    The problem is that the wood might not be up to task. Two years ago I knew nothing about swamp ash and hard rock maple. The ash I have is European ash, Fraxinus Excelsior, and it is way heavier than proper swamp ash. Maybe as much as 50%.
    The maple is Norway maple, Acer Platanoides, and is much lighter and softer than the Hard maple commonly used for guitar necks.
    What should I do? Is the wood I have usable or should I swallow my pride, use my home grown woos to heat the house and get proper wood on ebay?
     
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  2. NorlinBlackBeauty

    NorlinBlackBeauty Senior Member

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    Last edited: Dec 24, 2017
  3. jkes01

    jkes01 Senior Member

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    Chamber it to make it lighter?
     
  4. geoffstgermaine

    geoffstgermaine Senior Member

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    Any wood species can have a wide range of densities. Are you able to weigh the ash you've got to determine the weight by volume? That would at least tell you if you'd be looking at a really heavy body or not.

    Looking at the characteristics of Norway Maple at the Wood Database, it looks perfectly usable as a neck wood. In terms of physical characteristics it's in between what's marketed as hard and soft maple. Regardless, both hard and soft maple are suitable and used for guitar necks, so I'd really only be concerned about the characteristics of the piece you have - the grain structure and whether it's properly seasoned.
     
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  5. NorlinBlackBeauty

    NorlinBlackBeauty Senior Member

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    The designation hard and soft wood always trips me up. Norway is a go? Have at it. It will be supremely satisfying build a guitar quite literally from scratch. Let us know how it proceeds. Pics would be welcome.
     
  6. strömsborg

    strömsborg Member

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    The body weight can be worked around, but nobody wants a neck that dents easily and bows under string pressure.
     
  7. strömsborg

    strömsborg Member

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    Well, I have been thinking about a thinline tele but I have a few models I want to do before that. Are there any other models that are hollow? I know Rickenbackers are hollow but they are made from maple.
     
  8. ARandall

    ARandall Senior Member

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    Well, make a style you like but make yours hollow.....there is no need just to copy - making guitars is a creative hobby after all.
     
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  9. NorlinBlackBeauty

    NorlinBlackBeauty Senior Member

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    Absolutely.

    I will never know the satisfaction of building one from a tree like that. strömsborg - you sir are one lucky guy!
     
  10. Skyjerk

    Skyjerk Meatbomb Silver Supporter

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    You might check the moisture content rather than assume it's ready to go. Was the wood stickered? Those numbers (one year per inch) work if the place they are drying has decent air flow, is dry, and the wood is stickered so that air can flow around all sides equally.

    "An earth cellar" sound like it's probably deficient in 2 of those 3 key areas.
     
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  11. geoffstgermaine

    geoffstgermaine Senior Member

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    Absolutely, but Norway Maple has a Janka hardness of 4510 N and an elastic modulus 10.6 GPa. Comparing that to Honduran Mahogany at 4020N and 10.1 GPa and knowing that Honduran Mahogany clearly has what's needed in the durability and strength department to make guitar necks that will last certainly more than 100 years. I would make a conclusion that Norway Maple is certainly suitable. You're certainly not taking a risk with that species.

    Hard Maple beats them both at 6450N and 12.6 GPa but at the end of the day the thing to take away from this is that all of these species meet the physical requirements to be used as a suitable material for guitar necks.
     
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  12. WhiteEpiLP

    WhiteEpiLP Senior Member

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    ^^^^
    Exactly, maple even its softer varieties is still harder then mahogany.
     
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  13. strömsborg

    strömsborg Member

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    Weighing and measuring gives 750 kg/cubic meter for the ash and 640 for the maple.
    750 is not only 50% heavier than guitar grade swamp ash, it's also in the heavy end of the range for European ash. Not suitable for an unchambered body, but it struck me just now that since my slabs are not one piece I can hog out some material from the sides before gluing the pieces together.
    And if Norway maple is just as good as mahogany I think I could make a guitar using what I have. A bigger problem is perhaps that they are flat sawn.

    Ok:

    [​IMG]

    One two piece and one three piece body, chambered before gluing to save weight. The big neck blank will be an all maple neck with skunk stripe, the little one has a few black spots in the wood that will be covered by a rosewood fretboard.
    Actually I haven't yet decided what the rosewood necked guitar will be. Likely a Telecaster but maybe a Vox Phantom VI.
     
  14. Tweaker

    Tweaker Senior Member

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    Flat sawn maple is perfectly suitable for a guitar neck. I've seen and played plenty of flat sawn maple necks. Some people like the appearance of quarter sawn better and it might be a little more rigid/stable, but flat sawn is fine to use, assuming it's dry enough.

    My opinion regarding the ash...I'd build as is and have a heavy guitar! People always tell me I'm wrong, but I like a heavier guitar. Unless you have an aversion to heavy guitars, of course.
     
  15. strömsborg

    strömsborg Member

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    It has been stickered indoors the last year, temperature just below room temperature. Maybe I should give it six more months. I still have my Junior to finish and at my pace it will take several months to make the Telecaster templates and jigs.
     
  16. pshupe

    pshupe Senior Member

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    Indoor stickering doesn’t work very well unless there is very good ventilation and lower humidity. A basement without ventilation will not be good for drying wood.

    Get a moisture meter or sticker outside in a breezy area for 1 year per inch. Ideal stickers are around 1” thick. I cut a few sheets of 3/4” plywood into 1” strips. I dry 9/4 rough cut slabs. It seems to be more stable in that thickness. Then I can resaw as required.

    Good luck.

    Regards Peter.
     
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  17. WhiteEpiLP

    WhiteEpiLP Senior Member

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    Good advice right there ^^^
     
  18. pshupe

    pshupe Senior Member

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    As far as wood weight goes, here is an example of chambering that can result in the same weight guitar from pretty much any weight of wood.

    Capture.JPG

    < 3lbs /b.f. is the desired weight for mahogany for a LP replica.

    Regards Peter
     
  19. strömsborg

    strömsborg Member

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    What is the goal moisture content if I were to get a meter?
     
  20. ARandall

    ARandall Senior Member

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    I once got an Ash body blank initially for a Tele that was 14kg!!! It was obscenely heavy. Luckily there was a split or separation in the glue joint between the 2 pieces and I got refunded......but the supplier I think was happy to see that one gone permanently so I got to keep it.

    Much later when a 336 build was on the horizon I thought of my Ash body in the corner and chambered it severely. A great guitar with a nice full hollow type vibe.
    DSC00218.JPG DSC00219.JPG
     

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