Hand Tools Archive

Response To:
Tone wood and aesthetics ()

David Weaver
woods are picked for all of the items you mentioned.

honduran mahogany spoils people just like it does cabinetmakers. aside from tearout on ribboning, it's really tolerant of machines and doesn't suffer large failures.

Gibson tried a whole bunch of things when they decided what would be in a les paul, from lighter wood all the way to attaching strings to a piece of railroad track or an i beam. They tried all maple, but didn't like the way it sounded. They tried all mahogany but thought it was a little bit dark sounding, and tried an in-between, which is mahogany neck and body with a maple cap on top, and thus we have the les paul.

They spent a great deal of uncompensated time doing all of this, paying professional designers and getting the opinions of professional players (other than les paul).

I don't know how leo fender picked what he did. I think alder and maple were inexpensive and tolerable, and cost was more of an issue as he considered parts to be interchangeable and disposable on his guitars. That way, if you wore out the frets on a guitar, you could, in theory, just get another neck rather than pay the expensive cost of someone refretting a guitar by hand. This is sacrilege now, of course. Alder is a pretty good middle-of-the-road wood, as is mid-density ash, so I'm sure that it wasn't just cheapness.

Alder also has little in pores, is tolerant to working with a heavy hand, and takes an automotive paint job well (which is something leo figured people would like - the ability to pick bright colors with automotive paint style finishes - he was right, people liked it).

In the numbers of guitars that gibson was making in the 1950s (like just a couple of hundred burst les pauls, and all the way up to 1968 where gibson was making a les paul custom (actually a production guitar), I read earlier that the last of those "real" ones only numbered 433 that year.

Many fakes and converted guitars are out there! Often being sold or oversold by supposed reputable dealers.

Workability would've been a concern early on with Gibson as they were using power carving machines for tops long before the les paul was ever around, thus hard maple was a good choice because it works well with machines and they liked the sound of it.

I have a feeling they don't like khaya or limba because it's not as tolerant of fast working, and even when they were making guitars as people operating machines (now, it's mostly someone putting guitars in forms to be run over with a CNC), the guy running the carving machine or routing the sides/edges won't like it if he has to change his mindless repetitive task or slow down.

That carries on now. When I made a solid spruce telecaster last year, I was told two things:
* you'll never plane it (it planes wonderfully)
* you'll have problems with splintering and you'll never do it again

It does splinter a little bit more. I don't have a set routine, so it wasn't that hard to work with. Most of the boutique makers now are very precise router and sander users.

you can get kicked off of guitar forums pretty easily if you insist that the dogma doesn't have to be followed and show process in opposition ("that's misleading to people, you're making it out like that's easy and it's a bad message that will lead new builders to failure and you'll be banned if you continue".)

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