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Is a '59 Les Paul really any better than a modern one?
Old 21st August 2019
  #271
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuri Kogan View Post
Apparently swamp ash from different climate areas have drastically different average weight. I presume the same would apply to mahogany? Or any other tone wood?
I dont think we can generalise by weight alone here. Plus gibson was using all sorts of wood lately (like 30 years) which were passed as "mahogany"
I don’t know, man. I’ve heard all kinds of stories and opinions about this stuff. People saying lighter is better, heavier is better. ........... neverendingness.
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Old 21st August 2019
  #272
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kingofspain's Avatar
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Originally Posted by Pindrive View Post
The Less Paul has a cap of Dense wood glued to a slab of lighter wood, with a neck glued into that, which has a fingerboard glued onto it. A multiplication of possible inconsistencies that really should be addressed by hand/ear. Not a production line setting.
I've often wondered what effect all that glue has on the propagation of soundwaves; in instruments in general but specifically in Les Pauls, and other guitars with a cap. Did Gibson use hide glue, back in the day? Presumably they use titebond, or similar nowadays?

Don't want to get into the debate of which is 'better' right here, but they certainly are different.

KoS.
Old 21st August 2019
  #273
Quote:
Originally Posted by kingofspain View Post
I've often wondered what effect all that glue has on the propagation of soundwaves; in instruments in general but specifically in Les Pauls, and other guitars with a cap. Did Gibson use hide glue, back in the day? Presumably they use titebond, or similar nowadays?

Don't want to get into the debate of which is 'better' right here, but they certainly are different.

KoS.
Hide glue back in the day, and currently in the Custom Shop only for the past few years at least. Titebond is still used in the 'USA' factory I believe.
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Old 21st August 2019
  #274
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuri Kogan View Post
Apparently swamp ash from different climate areas have drastically different average weight. I presume the same would apply to mahogany? Or any other tone wood?
I dont think we can generalise by weight alone here. Plus gibson was using all sorts of wood lately (like 30 years) which were passed as "mahogany"
It's my experience that mahogany varies just as much in weight, density and stiffness as ash, walnut, rosewood, etc. That applies equally to Honduran mahogany, and the various derivatives that pass for mahogany nowadays.
Not all of it is suitable for making guitars, and unless old growth trees made a special effort to grow in a guitar friendly fashion, I think we can assume it applied to the old growth timbers Gibson had access to in the '50's.

I know little about Gibsons manufacturing processes - current or past - but if we take Mr Eppsteins assessment of the differences at face value (and I see no reason not to), they spend less time sorting the suitable timber from the unsuitable nowadays. I suppose that's an inevitable side effect of mass production, and certainly doesn't just apply to guitars!

I wonder if the difference in how well selected the timber was in the '50's mightn't outweigh the old growth 'myth'?

A decade and more ago, when I was learning my trade, I handled literally tons of Honduran mahogany, mostly in quarter sawn boards (or perhaps more likely, the central boards from a slab sawn log). Whilst it wasn't old growth, the quality was excellent, and we used it to make some beautiful sounding instruments. I've never since worked with mahogany which was so consistently light, straight grained, rigid and authentically orange as then, (probably because most 'mahogany' nowadays is sapele, which is better suited to firedoors and window frames ). It certainly rivalled the grain structure I've seen on any vintage mahogany guitars, Gibson or otherwise.

As a final aside, for many years I built my instruments from African mahogany, from a trusted supplier. The trees it came from are the same species as Honduran (Swietenia macrophylla), and grown in the same latitudes. It was every bit as light, stright-grained and strong, worked and bent like Honduran, but sadly it lacked the deep orange hue of the real thing.
More recently, my 'trusted' supplier have started passing off an inferior product, so I'm off mahogany altogether now.

KoS.

Edit: For illustrative purposes, a ukulele I'm working on. The body is Honduran mahogany, the neck African.
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Last edited by kingofspain; 21st August 2019 at 12:58 PM..
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Old 21st August 2019
  #275
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Quote:
Originally Posted by audioforce View Post
I don’t know, man. I’ve heard all kinds of stories and opinions about this stuff. People saying lighter is better, heavier is better. ........... neverendingness.
Yeah. I personally prefer lighter. But opinions are like A**eh**es.....
I remember Keith Richards toting heavy guitars. Then years later he changed his mind (I guess he didn't part-take on the day)
I like guitars that resonate well
Old 21st August 2019
  #276
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kingofspain View Post
It's my experience that mahogany varies just as much in weight, density and stiffness as ash, walnut, rosewood, etc. That applies equally to Honduran mahogany, and the various derivatives that pass for mahogany nowadays.
Not all of it is suitable for making guitars, and unless old growth trees made a special effort to grow in a guitar friendly fashion, I think we can assume it applied to the old growth timbers Gibson had access to in the '50's.

I know little about Gibsons manufacturing processes - current or past - but if we take Mr Eppsteins assessment of the differences at face value (and I see no reason not to), they spend less time sorting the suitable timber from the unsuitable nowadays. I suppose that's an inevitable side effect of mass production, and certainly doesn't just apply to guitars!

I wonder if the difference in how well selected the timber was in the '50's mightn't outweigh the old growth 'myth'?

A decade and more ago, when I was learning my trade, I handled literally tons of Honduran mahogany, mostly in quarter sawn boards (or perhaps more likely, the central boards from a slab sawn log). Whilst it wasn't old growth, the quality was excellent, and we used it to make some beautiful sounding instruments. I've never since worked with mahogany which was so consistently light, straight grained, rigid and authentically orange as then, (probably because most 'mahogany' nowadays is sapele, which is better suited to firedoors and window frames ). It certainly rivalled the grain structure I've seen on any vintage mahogany guitars, Gibson or otherwise.

As a final aside, for many years I built my instruments from African mahogany, from a trusted supplier. The trees it came from are the same species as Honduran (Swietenia macrophylla), and grown in the same latitudes. It was every bit as light, stright-grained and strong, worked and bent like Honduran, but sadly it lacked the deep orange hue of the real thing.
More recently, my 'trusted' supplier have started passing off an inferior product, so I'm off mahogany altogether now.

KoS.
My first experience with African mahogany (a tele body with maple cap, maple neck with brazilian rosewood fingerboard) resulted in a guitar which sounded decent and was a good multipurpose instrument - it could double greatly as a musical instrument and a boat anchor.
Subsequent attempts resulted in lighter guitars which looked amazing and sounded pretty good. I will probably restart my experimentation with AMahogany later this year - will see. I think I have better slabs this time
Old 21st August 2019
  #277
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuri Kogan View Post
My first experience with African mahogany (a tele body with maple cap, maple neck with brazilian rosewood fingerboard) resulted in a guitar which sounded decent and was a good multipurpose instrument - it could double greatly as a musical instrument and a boat anchor.
Subsequent attempts resulted in lighter guitars which looked amazing and sounded pretty good. I will probably restart my experimentation with AMahogany later this year - will see. I think I have better slabs this time
Are you using a genuine mahogany? Maybe it's a different case in Oz, but here in the UK african mahogany is almost always sapele, which is completely different species, and - aside from a vague similarity in appearence - has little to do physically or tonally with any of the true mahoganies.

Not that sapele necesarily makes a terrible guitar, it just isn't mahogany. Plus it looks drab, and smells of burned sausages when you bend it
Old 21st August 2019
  #278
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Originally Posted by Whitecat View Post
I basically agree with John in that 95% of what anyone needs in a guitar is available in a low-end inexpensive import. If you replace a few bits and know how to set it up, it should play as good as anything out there, and that's what's important, right? This goes especially for Fenderesque stuff, it was always designed to be modular, cheap, and easy.
So true, in my experience. Maybe posted this already in this thread... but needed a cheap guitar, so I went to Stars Music in Paris and grabbed a Squire Bullet Strat for €110. I was just going to leave it there, but I started loving it and brought it home. Tuners changed, and now it's one of my go to guitars for so many things. It's always the backup guitar I bring to gig, and I often just end up playing a few sets, or a whole night with it. Original electronics and pickups.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Whitecat View Post
But, I love guitars. I love the craftsmanship behind them, the woods, the stories, the legends, the people, the songs. It's something that transcends the mechanics of the basics, it's a humanity, rather than a technical pursuit.
And... right there with you on that too! Fine guitars are art. And there is something that I feel in a nice vintage instrument that I don't get from a new guitar. It's not so much how it plays or sounds, but in what it is, and me knowing what it is. It's an awareness that I am using an instrument that has been around for decades and been used by many people to perform thousands of songs. It's something about its place in the world, where it's been, who's held it, who's heard it... all of that. It might now sound or play any better than some new one, but the new one isn't it... if that makes any sense.
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Old 21st August 2019
  #279
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Originally Posted by kingofspain View Post
Are you using a genuine mahogany? Maybe it's a different case in Oz, but here in the UK african mahogany is almost always sapele, which is completely different species, and - aside from a vague similarity in appearence - has little to do physically or tonally with any of the true mahoganies.

Not that sapele necesarily makes a terrible guitar, it just isn't mahogany. Plus it looks drab, and smells of burned sausages when you bend it
Really? I’m in the UK - usually when I see African mahogany described on a prebuilt guitar it is specified as Khaya. Sapele is a different wood entirely of course which I’m sure you know. Taylor basically uses it as a cheaper substitute for mahogany on their entry-level acoustics. Knaggs has used it for visual effect on their electrics.

But I don’t buy wood wholesale...
Old 21st August 2019
  #280
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Whitecat View Post
Really? I’m in the UK - usually when I see African mahogany described on a prebuilt guitar it is specified as Khaya. Sapele is a different wood entirely of course which I’m sure you know. Taylor basically uses it as a cheaper substitute for mahogany on their entry-level acoustics. Knaggs has used it for visual effect on their electrics.

But I don’t buy wood wholesale...
Perhaps I'm just out of date. I haven't bought any new mahogany for a number of years. When I was still using it frequently, I bought it by the board from a local timber merchant, untill they went bust. Then in smaller quantities from the aforementioned 'trusted' supplier, who ended up switching to sapele, but wouldn't admit it.

Around the time, I encountered numerous retailers - both wholesale and specialist - attempting to pass off sapele as mahogany. Perhaps everyone has wised up to the scam, or parhaps this Khaya (not a timber I've come across before, I'm using more indiginous timbers nowadays) is simply a better substitute.

As you say, sapele is a different wood entirely, which is why I found it so galling to be so frequently offered it as mahogany.

That said, sapele can be very highly figured. A luthier friend of mine bought a couple of boards from the local junkyard - it was chaep and he needed a new kitchen window frame. When he sliced it open, it revealed the most exquisite silking. The jammy b*gger. Things like that never happen to me. Suffice to say, his kitchen window went unfixed

KoS.
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Old 21st August 2019
  #281
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Yuri Kogan's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kingofspain View Post
Are you using a genuine mahogany? Maybe it's a different case in Oz, but here in the UK african mahogany is almost always sapele, which is completely different species, and - aside from a vague similarity in appearence - has little to do physically or tonally with any of the true mahoganies.

Not that sapele necesarily makes a terrible guitar, it just isn't mahogany. Plus it looks drab, and smells of burned sausages when you bend it
My luthier got it from a reputable source in the US. Its Its good looking, the guitar looks awesome, just very heavy. Same a a decent LP, probably about 8-9lb. I'll take some pics tomorrow when I am in the studio and post it. The guitar smelled like nitro paint (when dry)
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Old 21st August 2019
  #282
Quote:
Originally Posted by kingofspain View Post
Perhaps I'm just out of date. I haven't bought any new mahogany for a number of years. When I was still using it frequently, I bought it by the board from a local timber merchant, untill they went bust. Then in smaller quantities from the aforementioned 'trusted' supplier, who ended up switching to sapele, but wouldn't admit it.

Around the time, I encountered numerous retailers - both wholesale and specialist - attempting to pass off sapele as mahogany. Perhaps everyone has wised up to the scam, or parhaps this Khaya (not a timber I've come across before, I'm using more indiginous timbers nowadays) is simply a better substitute.

As you say, sapele is a different wood entirely, which is why I found it so galling to be so frequently offered it as mahogany.

That said, sapele can be very highly figured. A luthier friend of mine bought a couple of boards from the local junkyard - it was chaep and he needed a new kitchen window frame. When he sliced it open, it revealed the most exquisite silking. The jammy b*gger. Things like that never happen to me. Suffice to say, his kitchen window went unfixed

KoS.
Haha! Yes indeed, I have seen some beautiful sapele... it's funny, it either tends to show up on low-end builds, or if it's pretty, very high-end expensive stuff... rarely is it a 'middle ground' wood (unless it's being passed off as something else, of course!)
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Old 21st August 2019
  #283
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Originally Posted by Whitecat View Post
Haha! Yes indeed, I have seen some beautiful sapele... it's funny, it either tends to show up on low-end builds, or if it's pretty, very high-end expensive stuff... rarely is it a 'middle ground' wood (unless it's being passed off as something else, of course!)
Very true. I won't tell you the guys name, as he's got a reputation to protect, but he passed it off as 'quilted mahogany'. Talk about insult to injury
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Old 21st August 2019
  #284
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuri Kogan View Post
Apparently swamp ash from different climate areas have drastically different average weight. I presume the same would apply to mahogany? Or any other tone wood?
I dont think we can generalise by weight alone here. Plus gibson was using all sorts of wood lately (like 30 years) which were passed as "mahogany"
I don't know, man. I think the point of the guy's post was that its likely that Gibson did not necessarily use the "old growth" portion of the "old growth" trees, and that makes sense.

They probably did more so in the 70's, which is the time where a lot of people complain about how heavy the Les Pauls are.


Best,

audioforce
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Old 21st August 2019
  #285
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According to the folks at Gibson quoted in Tony Bacon's Guitar Encyclopedia Les Paul chapters, mahogany can have very different weights. They say that this is caused by the amount of minerals in the earth that the wood absorbs through the roots as the trees grow...the more the minerals, the heavier the wood.
Old 21st August 2019
  #286
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samuraisoundman View Post
According to the folks at Gibson quoted in Tony Bacon's Guitar Encyclopedia Les Paul chapters, mahogany can have very different weights. They say that this is caused by the amount of minerals in the earth that the wood absorbs through the roots as the trees grow...the more the minerals, the heavier the wood.
I've had mahogany that was light as nice swamp ash, and mahogany that was as heavy as oak. All Honduran species. Most of it is firmly in the middle weight class.

But you can pick up a bunch of different Les Pauls, and feel how the weight of mahogany varies.
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Old 21st August 2019
  #287
were the original 1950s LPs not made from cuban mahogany? supposedly sounds better, hoduran mahogany is a true mahogany but lighter in colour because it's plantation grown, the old guitars used actual old growth rainforest trees, correct me if I am wrong but that's my understanding. And also didn't the vintage ones use brazilian rosewood fretboards?
Old 21st August 2019
  #288
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I think some are kind of missing the guy’s point, which is that the wood used on those 50’s Les pauls was not as heavy / dense as that used in the 70’s, and was likely from newer growth toward the top of trees. He says the stuff at the top is lighter than the stuff at the bottom.
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Old 22nd August 2019
  #289
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pencilextremist View Post
were the original 1950s LPs not made from cuban mahogany? supposedly sounds better, hoduran mahogany is a true mahogany but lighter in colour because it's plantation grown, the old guitars used actual old growth rainforest trees, correct me if I am wrong but that's my understanding. And also didn't the vintage ones use brazilian rosewood fretboards?
Didn't Castro take over in '59? It would be funny, would it not, if Communism inadvertently killed the Les Paul . Talk about the death of the American Dream...

No idea if Gibson ever used Cuban mahogany, but I've had the pleasure to have worked with it on occasion. The timber I've seen rather knocks Honduran into the shade. No mean feat.
Old 22nd August 2019
  #290
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pencilextremist View Post
were the original 1950s LPs not made from cuban mahogany? supposedly sounds better, hoduran mahogany is a true mahogany but lighter in colour because it's plantation grown, the old guitars used actual old growth rainforest trees, correct me if I am wrong but that's my understanding. And also didn't the vintage ones use brazilian rosewood fretboards?
I’m not an expert (I know, hard to believe), but I kind of think people are not too sure what kind of wood was used. So people are kind of quoting something they heard somewhere.

I guess you could do some sort of analysis on a guitar by guitar basis to really know.

There’s a lot of mythology generated and perpetuated around stuff like vintage guitars. Some of them sound terrible and sell for lots of money. Some of them sound good and sell for lots of money.
Old 22nd August 2019
  #291
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Quote:
Originally Posted by audioforce View Post
I think some are kind of missing the guy’s point, which is that the wood used on those 50’s Les pauls was not as heavy / dense as that used in the 70’s, and was likely from newer growth toward the top of trees. He says the stuff at the top is lighter than the stuff at the bottom.
That's only half the story, though. Timber taken from any part of the tree can be denser/less dense. Trees are individuals. And remember, we're talking about density here, not weight. All Les Pauls are the same dimensions - the relative density makes them lighter or heavier.

Also, if Gibson were buying the top of the tree in the '50's, I suspect they'd be doing the same today. They're not using it becaue it makes 'better' guitars, they're using it because it's cheaper.

KoS.
Old 22nd August 2019
  #292
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kingofspain View Post
I've often wondered what effect all that glue has on the propagation of soundwaves; in instruments in general but specifically in Les Pauls, and other guitars with a cap. Did Gibson use hide glue, back in the day? Presumably they use titebond, or similar nowadays?

Don't want to get into the debate of which is 'better' right here, but they certainly are different.

KoS.
If clamped properly, glue should be very thin. Almost nonexistent. Ive always believed that the opposing forces of two pieces of wood, glued together, would be much more of a factor. especially if the grain patterns aren't aligned in a symbiotic way.
Old 22nd August 2019
  #293
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kingofspain View Post
They're not using it becaue it makes 'better' guitars, they're using it because it's cheaper.

KoS.
Bingo. Maybe. Looks like it’s the late 60’s- 70’s one that had the right wood. Ha ha.

Anyway I don’t know, but the people are saying that the old growth wood is the greatest thing because it’s denser or something. I mean is the wood good because it’s dense because it’s old? Everybody make up your mind. : )
Old 22nd August 2019
  #294
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pindrive View Post
If clamped properly, glue should be very thin. Almost nonexistent. Ive always believed that the opposing forces of two pieces of wood, glued together, would be much more of a factor. especially if the grain patterns aren't aligned in a symbiotic way.
True. I've arrived at more or less the same conclusion. Nevertheless, I can't get over the idea of that stiff layer of glue - no matter how thin - seperating the two layers of wood.
I suspect that too much glue in the wrong place may be one of the chief causes of random dud.

KoS.
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Old 22nd August 2019
  #295
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Tone- killing glue. That’s why strats rule.
Old 22nd August 2019
  #296
Quote:
Originally Posted by audioforce View Post
Tone- killing glue. That’s why strats rule.
not with hide glue, especially hand made hide glue made with a double boiler.
Old 22nd August 2019
  #297
Quote:
Originally Posted by audioforce View Post
Bingo. Maybe. Looks like it’s the late 60’s- 70’s one that had the right wood. Ha ha.

Anyway I don’t know, but the people are saying that the old growth wood is the greatest thing because it’s denser or something. I mean is the wood good because it’s dense because it’s old? Everybody make up your mind. : )
old growth simply means it was grown in natural untouched often pristine woodland, sometimes untouched for thousands of years (like the cuban and brazilian rainforests) so it's had a long time for the tree to mature, it's nothing to do with density, after those early trees were destroy, it became industrialised and plantations were set up, the old growth forest trees had the best quality wood, same thing with pine, fir and softwoods, you get a bigger yeald out one tree because it's literally bigger, thicker and more mature.
Old 22nd August 2019
  #298
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Originally Posted by pencilextremist View Post
the old growth forest trees had the best quality wood
Herein - I think - lies the myth.

Certainly, old growth forests had the luxury to grow and prosper at their own pace, but that doesn't in and of itself mean the trees it produced were more suitable for making guitars. No acorn looks up to the oak and says 'Ma, when I grow up, I wanna be a Les Paul' .

Conversely, 'force fed' wood is often comparatively inferior, but only on average.

Perhaps in old growth forests, 9 out of 10 trees produced timber ideal for guitar making, whilst modern - intensively farmed - woodland produces only 1 in 10 guitar worthy trees.
Yes, there's less good timber to go around, but the actual quality of the timber - from a guitar making perspective - may be the same.

Isn't it the time spent seperating the wheat from the chaff makes the real difference, not whether a board of timber is old or new growth?

KoS.
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Old 22nd August 2019
  #299
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pencilextremist View Post
old growth simply means it was grown in natural untouched often pristine woodland, sometimes untouched for thousands of years (like the cuban and brazilian rainforests) so it's had a long time for the tree to mature, it's nothing to do with density, after those early trees were destroy, it became industrialised and plantations were set up, the old growth forest trees had the best quality wood, same thing with pine, fir and softwoods, you get a bigger yeald out one tree because it's literally bigger, thicker and more mature.
Hmm, I think they say it DOES have to do with density, because the older, bigger trees were more dense toward the thicker bottom of the trunk [where the old growth is].
Old 22nd August 2019
  #300
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Originally Posted by audioforce View Post
Hmm, I think they say it DOES have to do with density, because the older, bigger trees were more dense toward the thicker bottom of the trunk [where the old growth is].
Right... density. It's about the width of the rings. Fast growth trees have wide rings. Old growth, tight, narrow rings.

Any acoustic builder knows that old growth, tight grain spruce makes a better sounding acoustic top than does fast-grown, wide-grain spruce. It looks better too

I've found that it cases fewer weird resonances in the finished acoustic guitar. More balanced volume across frequencies. Less sloppy bass end, and a sweeter sounding top end.

Electric SB guitars... who knows? Maybe a minor affect on tone. Maybe not. SB guitars are made from maple, ash, mahogany, oak, rosewood, pine, plexiglass, aluminum, masonite, plywood, steel, resin, etc... I've owned both aluminum and plexiglass Fender Strats that sounded and played amazing. As good as any wooden Strat.
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