An Archtop Using Australian Tonewoods

P.H.Fawcett

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Over the last few years traditional tonewoods from the Nth Hemisphere have become way out of my price range. The $AUD has lost much of it's value along with the cost of shipping becoming very expensive. This got me looking for alternatives available here of which there are many.

Here's an archtop build that I've been on for a bit over 12mths in between repairs and the start of a Les Paul style build. It uses silky oak for the back and sides along with bunya pine for the top. Silky oak has many of the properties of mahogany and I've used it successfully before. Bunya pine has a tap tone that sounds very mid-range. Obviously it's appearance is a bit funky but I'm not trying to knock Bob Bennedetto off his bench ;-)

Both the top and back shape have been formed with templates, router and orbital sander and the sides steam bent. So far I've got the body finished and the neck almost ready to be glued to the body.
I'll attempt to take updated photos as this build progresses, which between the rest of my commitments, could take a while. But there's always hope.



Archtop 1.jpg
Archtop 2.jpg
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Archtop 5.jpg
Archtop 6.jpg
Archtop 7.jpg
Archtop 8.jpg
Archtop 9.jpg
 

larryguitar

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Stunning-I especially like the back. Any pictures of the interior or bracing?


Larry
 

P.H.Fawcett

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Larry thanks for the boost. I'll attempt to drag out a couple of the body construction. I missed taking any of the bracing but it's typical Gibson ladder bracing. I used Australian red cedar for the braces which made the top quite firm.
 
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D'tar

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That is beautiful!!! Well done!

I love using local resources!!! Walnut and sugar maple are great combo here!
 

Barnaby

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Really beautiful work! I'm a big fan of local timbers, and you're making a stunning guitar there. One of the nicest I've seen.

Back when I lived in the Great Southern Land for a while, I had a lute made from Aussie woods. It was a really good instrument.
 

P.H.Fawcett

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Hello Barnaby, was it made in Victoria or Tasmania ? There's many skilled builders down there that have access to some beautiful timbers for acoustics. Blackwood is one species from those areas I'd like to get but it is relatively expensive. Builders of lutes would be rare on the ground I suppose.

 

Barnaby

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Hello Barnaby, was it made in Victoria or Tasmania ? There's many skilled builders down there that have access to some beautiful timbers for acoustics. Blackwood is one species from those areas I'd like to get but it is relatively expensive. Builders of lutes would be rare on the ground I suppose.

It was made in South Australia, back in the 1990s by a guy called Tim Guster. He's a lute and harp maker, a talented builder and a good friend.

As well as Blackwood and sassafras. some of his instruments have used Queensland maple, which sounded very good. Personally, I've always wanted to do an LP with figured redgum for a top. You're spot on about there not being that many lute makers (or, at least, there weren't when I was there). Tim, Peter Biffin and John (Ben) Hall were the main ones that I knew of. I had instruments from all three.

I'm a Brit, but lived in Adelaide and Brisbane. Where are you based?
 

ARandall

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Queensland Maple (ironically a mahogany substitute) has been a really popular wood, as has Elaeocarpus....both as body woods.
I've not yet come across any local woods for fretboards though.....which would be a great thing to find a source for.
 

Barnaby

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Queensland Maple (ironically a mahogany substitute) has been a really popular wood, as has Elaeocarpus....both as body woods.
I've not yet come across any local woods for fretboards though.....which would be a great thing to find a source for.
Jarrah?
 

ARandall

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Certainly its VERY hard.
I know some Eucalyptus species split in the drying process......redgum is like that for sure.

Maybe I could just swing by the garden centre and pick up some edging and dry it far a bit and see how it goes.
 

Barnaby

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Certainly its VERY hard.
I know some Eucalyptus species split in the drying process......redgum is like that for sure.

Maybe I could just swing by the garden centre and pick up some edging and dry it far a bit and see how it goes.
I know bass makers in particular seem fond of it for fingerboards.

Next time I come through Australia, I'll be trying to source some local guitarmaking woods for sure. This is such an inspiring thread.

You're definitely right that redgum is rather splitty, but I hope I can find some stable pieces. When I think of all the stuff I chopped up for firewood as a boy living in the Adelaide Hills...so much of it had wavy, interlocking grain, too. If only I'd known what I'd get up to years in the future.
 

P.H.Fawcett

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So Dave, what amazing wood selection have you used ? It looks it's from an Albert Namatjira painting !

Barnaby, I'm in rural NSW on the far Nth Coast, a village called Burringbar.

Talking about fretboard stock, I was sold what I thought to be Gidgee and I picked it up rough sawn and covered in dust. After I dressed it I realised I was sold a pup because it looks remarkably like Ebony.

Larry was asking about photos of making the rim. Here's a set of the process I used to bend the quarter sawn Silky Oak. I built this form to keep the 2.5mm bent sides in while they cooled. I use a combination of a heated stainless steel pipe and steam from an old coffee machine to get the shape I'm after. I apply steam to the timber first and then put it over the pipe. Then it's placed in the form over night. The middle photo gives an idea of what was happening with the form, the heated pipe in RH side and the old Sunbeam machine on the other side of the bench.



Archtop 11.jpg
Archtop 12.jpg


Archtop 10.jpg
 
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DaveR

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The body is African mahogany and the top is Ambrosia Maple, which is fairly common here in the states. The dark streaks are caused by a fungus carried into a maple tree by the ambrosia beetle, I think. Usually they tend to run straight inline with the grain of the wood. I just got really lucky and found an awesome piece with a lot of diagonal movement and some subtle flame. The black dots are holes where the beetle bores into the tree and I filled them with ebony Timbermate before finishing.

1590986191283.png
 

P.H.Fawcett

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Here's a previous build I did using Silky Oak for back, top and neck. It's a chambered body with a mash up of a Les Paul Jnr and Telecaster. The pickups are Kent Armstrong Noiseless P90's. The pickups rings are ebony and the fretboard is Indian Rosewood. The headstock has a scarf joint at 12 degrees and the neck is fixed to the body with "set bolts".

Silky Oak Guitar 1.jpg
Silky Oak Guitar 2.jpg
Silky Oak Neck Back.jpg

Silky Oak Guitar 3.jpg
 

ARandall

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Thats got some great figure there.

Where did you get this lumber from??
 

P.H.Fawcett

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ARandall,
Silky Oak grows in my part of NSW and can be sourced through a couple of suppliers here in Australia who specialize in guitar tonewoods. I came across the timber for this build at "Heath's Old Wares" which is the in the closest village to my place. The owner has an enormous collection of stuff he buys from farm sales all over the northern eastern part of NSW. I've got a Les Paul style build happening as well as the archtop using what I bought from him.

Here's a link Heath's shed. If you click on the link in the middle of this website you'll see the man himself, as well as the village of Burringbar.

 
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