Sourcing Old Maple

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Paranoia, Mar 5, 2018.

  1. Paranoia

    Paranoia Member

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    Howdy all,

    I've been toying with the idea of building my own LP for a little while now. It'll take me a while to find the time, not to mention get my hands on all the tools I'll need, but it's something that I'd really like to do one of these days.

    I've gone online and found a few places that sell some (deep breath) 150-year-old-slow-grown-Belizean Mahogany that a company's gone and fished up from the bottom of a river. The idea is that this stuff is 'better' than your regular mahogany - the log was dense enough to sink to the bottom, where the water over time washed away the sap and such and replaced it with good ol' sturdy minerals.

    http://www.hearnehardwoods.com/featured_wood_products/sinker_mahogany/reclaimed_mahogany.html

    All this is meant to be good for tone - or so the story goes. Will it make a difference in the slightest? Who can say! If I'm reading that site right, the price isn't too bad compared to regular mahogany, so I can afford to experiment with it... Assuming they ship to Australia, and I won't need a mortgage for shipping.

    Now, I'd like to pair it with some equally old maple. This is far from strictly necessary for the same reason as the mahogany (i.e. who knows if it'll make a difference? I have a regular old 2012 Trad that sounds great with regular wood), particularly if I find the price is not right, but it'd just feel more right and less Frankensteiny, y'know? But I've been having an awful lot of trouble finding the stuff! I know it's out there, though, I've seen old Facebook posts from small luthiers about it, Suhr have a guitar range made with the stuff, and so on, so forth...

    So, quick shot in the dark here - has anyone ever gotten their hands on real old, slow-growth maple? Preferrably rock maple- If so, where'd you get it from?
     
  2. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    There's lots here in Canada. I just got a few hundred board feet from a family friend, the old man cut down some maple trees that were old growth in a bush on his land. I've worked it....frankly there's not much difference between that and rock maple I get elsewhere. I think old growth makes a bigger difference in tropical woods.
     
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  3. pshupe

    pshupe Senior Member

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    Totally agree with Freddy. I haven't done any comparisons with old vs new hard maple but I have been cutting hardwood most of my life. I think the maple trees are so abundant here in Canada that no one started maple plantations. There are managed forests but that just means they look at keeping the bush healthy. The maple trees grown in the last 20 years probably grow in the same environment that the old growth trees had. The tropical woods especially mahogany would have been clear cut and when the old growth got too far away they would plant, probably rows, of new trees that would grow much faster because they didn't have to compete for light with a tropical forest. This is pretty much all speculation on my part.

    I see a lot of pine trees and other softwood conifers planted in rows in open fields. I have never seen maple trees planted that way, other than a dozen or so small trees at a garden center / plant and landscape business.

    Cheers Peter.
     
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  4. stiff fingers

    stiff fingers Premium Member

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    My back yard might be an example of old and "new" growth. One very large sugar maple along the old fence line, big trunk and large crown. But 100 feet away is a 2nd growth wood that was field, the trees were too close together, and grew tall and thin with little crown. They have weak trunks, many fell in the wind, others snapped off in the wind, and many are leaning against other trees. In the end there will be large trees but none that will yield lumber with as dense a grain as "old growth"

    If you are growing seedlings for your garden, it is the same deal as keeping a fan blowing on them so they form strong stems rather than tall seedlings that flop over.
     
  5. Brewdude

    Brewdude Senior Member

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    Sounds like you have a good mindset on this all and wanting to experiment with it mostly for fun and because you can. I agree with what has been said above about Maple, I don't think there is quite the benefit with that as it is so plentiful up here.

    Anyway, the only thing I can comment on is the price of the stuff at Hearne as I stopped by once and chatted with them about it. From memory it was ~$220USD for a body blank compared with probably half that for 'regular' Genuine Mahogany. In the grand scheme of costs for building your own from scratch its not outrageous, but know that the stuff is super super heavy and unless you are chambering it you will probably have a 10+lb LP on your hands.

    Personally I'd start off with some cheap mahogany for your first time building the body and neck just to get used to the tools and process and then splurge on nice stuff once you've got a hang of it. We're not all @Skyjerk and most of our first builds don't come out perfect haha
     
  6. Skyjerk

    Skyjerk Meatbomb Silver Supporter

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    I can state unequivocally that all my builds haven't turned out perfect.

    I only post pics of the perfect ones ;)

    I'm not sure what "cheap" mahogany is. I'm not familiar with that species ;)

    I've always used "genuine" mahogany for all guitars that have mahogany. This is not an indictment of African mahogany or any other kind of wood. Its just what I've done.

    I also buy all my mahogany at Hearne Hardwoods. I'm fortunate to live only 30 minutes from there. I also get my ebony, wenge, and all my hard maple there.

    Be that as it may, while there are arguments to be made for both sides, I always buy the best parts and materials I can afford for every build. Is that the way to do it? I dont know. I dont suggest this should be how othjers go about it. Its certainly not always cost effective, but I'm not trying to build econo-buy guitars. I'm not made of money by any means and have had to sell stuff on occasion to keep things going, I prefer to use the highest quality I can afford at any given time starting with my very first build.

    Some argue (and I agree) that when building with more expensive materials you tend to be a lot less willing to screw up, and therefore take more time and care and wind up with a better outcome.

    Again, this is just my own perspective. I dont suggest what others should do.

    Have I made firewood from high quality, expensive wood? Yep.

    Will that change my approach? Nope.

    i gotta be me :)
     
  7. JMT Guitars

    JMT Guitars Senior Member

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    Ya lucky sod! I had to phone 5 different timber yards across the South Coast of England to find somewhere that would even get maple in... No real Mahogany, No Ebony and No Wenge here unless you drive 7 hours to a really special specialist lol And yet somehow they have the demand for American Black Walnut...
     
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  8. tabascom16

    tabascom16 Member

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    If looking for old maple, the best thing would be to scour for sale ads from private sellers in the north eastern states (Facebook marketplace and Craigslist). Finding very old flamed maple is going to be very unlikely. A lot of younger people are selling a deceased parent or grandparent's stash. They will likely not know what kind of maple (hard or soft), etc. Put a want ad out here and someone may be able to help you out.

    I have found all my wood for my guitars on private for sale ads. 2000 board feet of mahogany later I have a lifetime supply for guitars and I have a decent amount of Honduran rosewood for fret boards and fingers crossed a few large Brazilian rosewood boards in a few days (still on a truck somewhere out in the middle of the USA.
     
  9. Greco

    Greco Senior Member

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    I get that you want the best of the best for your build. The thing to remember is your first ever guitar probably won't be that great. If you have the mechanics down - angles, scales, and fretwork, etc - then I'd still say (from experience) that there is not much difference between genuine 1950's mahogany used by Gibson compared to any good quality blank you might find today. Sure you can search the wilderness, dredge rivers, and pay over the odds for some piece of unobtainium, but that's still no guarantee of a good guitar and certainly not what Gibson were doing back in the day. They just used what they had to hand. Maple is maple pretty much in my book. The only thing I get a bit crazy over is Braz, but it really doesn't contribute that much to the guitar overall. I think you'll have enough trouble anywhere outside North or South America getting the right species, let alone being so picky. I guess lots of us do it - buy all the right wood at silly prices and have just enough for 1 build, so you can't make any mistakes. It's pretty foolhardy. But it can be fun. There's pretty much no other way to build a replica anyway, unless you can buy half a ton of each type of wood.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2018
  10. Paranoia

    Paranoia Member

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    Thank you all the the words of wisdom! I've learned a lot, and have much to consider...
     
  11. Lokkochaa

    Lokkochaa Senior Member

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    Feel your pain, trying to source quality guitar timbers is tricky in the UK. You can pay the stupid premiums for "luither" woods, but if you have the machinery to work planks like i do, thats the route id always go. I thought Maple was abundant over here. Ive scored some nice stuff on ebay and i'm sure the bigger hardwood merchants stock maple. I cant get much else near me, Korina/Limba if im lucky, poplar and a few others.
     
  12. Skyjerk

    Skyjerk Meatbomb Silver Supporter

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    Believe me, I know how fortunate I am to have Hearnes so close by :)
     
  13. cmjohnson

    cmjohnson Senior Member

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    Something to be careful about, based on a personal experience of mine from many years ago.

    I bought, sight unseen, an allegedly "heavily flamed" maple board (one or two) that I was going to use to make laminate 3 piece necks. The boards were six feet long. Well, when I got them, I got twice as many boards that were three feet long. They'd split them in half for easy shipping.

    I called them and asked them WHY they did that. I use TWO foot lengths for laminated necks, not three foot lengths. This wasted a THIRD of the material. And as for "heavily flamed"...no. It really didn't qualify as anything better than moderate flame on a good day.

    What they sent me was basically useless. It was not what I was assured I would get and it was cut in a way that wasted a lot of it.

    I sent it back. And won't do business with them again.

    Never buy wood sight unseen. Specify how you want it cut for shipping. DO THESE THINGS.
     
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  14. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    You should see the place near Peter Shupe and I. Exotic woods in Burlington. Been shopping there ever since I started this crazy guitar stuff.

    SOOOO lucky to have them locally....I can spend hours just pulling wood, tap testing, weighing...they don't mind a bit!
     
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  15. JMT Guitars

    JMT Guitars Senior Member

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    So did I as the lumber yards I phoned said they stocked it but apparently demand has just vanished and importing it is just too expensive. I tend to avoid ebay whenever possible- which is rarely but I'm old fashioned. Much like Freddy I like to see the wood I buy, examine it, tap test and such.
     
  16. Skyjerk

    Skyjerk Meatbomb Silver Supporter

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    Hearnes is very much like that. You can hang around all day going through the bins, pulling stuff out. Of course the larger boards I want are invariably at the bottom of the bin and i have to pull out a huge pile of stuff to get at it...They like me because I also put everything back once I find what I want. :)

    I guess they arent concerned with theft because theres nothing there you could stick under your coat and walk out with ;)
     
  17. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    Have you seen any of their Belize sinker mahogany? I was interested in it at one time but they were out of stock. But somebody mentioned it's extra heavy? I would not be interested in that at all!
     
  18. pshupe

    pshupe Senior Member

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    Exotic is good as it is probably the closest to me, but Freddy must be getting the good buddy discount because they are a bit pricey. Granted they are close to Toronto and aren't probably looking to keep a little guy like me happy. There is a place in Smithville with better prices and just as good stock and a little bit more planed figured wood. It's called The Wood Shed and then a little farther a field is A&M Wood Specialty, which is great as well. They consistently have the best birdseye maple I have seen and also deal in exotics including Geniune Mahogany.

    Here is a piece of birdseye I just picked up at the wood show from A&M -
    be01.jpg

    Cheers Peter.
     
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  19. Skyjerk

    Skyjerk Meatbomb Silver Supporter

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    I'm going to be at the Niagara Falls KOA in Ontario in June.

    I wonder how much wood I can fit in my RV....
     
  20. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    That's a beautiful chunk of birdseye!

    The Wood Shed huh? Every time I called them they never had what I want! A&M....I won't deal with. A long time go (25 years?) I ordered 36 hard maple quartersawn 6/4 neck blanks. They cut them to size and dressed them all nice...when I went to pick them up they were not sugar or hard maple at all. They were red maple. I argued with them but they didn't care....they had already processed my credit card. I still have all those useless blanks. That's why I don't buy wood sight unseen anymore....just like cmjohnson advised.
     

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