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Loki
05-19-2011, 02:34 PM
I am working on the build spec for an instrument in the mando family by a well known UK luthier.

He has a small supply of very old, well seasoned and stable Douglas Fir.

This has been used on a few select instruments including a rather lovely custom build guitar.

The wood in question has very tight grain and beautiful cream and pink colouration which would complement the flamed maple body.

I like the idea of having 'local' wood incorporated in the build, aesthetically, emotionally and environmentally; but I can't help wondering if the great well of experience here has any knowledge on the use of Douglas Fir.

If anyone does I'd love to hear! :)

Larry Pattis
05-19-2011, 02:56 PM
I've played a few Doug Fir topped guitars built by A.J. Lucas (http://www.lucasguitars.co.uk/) of the UK, and they were each very, very nice guitars.

I wouldn't hesitate to commission an instrument from a builder that has some experience with this wood.

SteveS
05-19-2011, 02:58 PM
I have not used it but I want to try it sometime. I have only heard good things about it. Assuming that it has been properly seasoned, I can't think of a reason not to use it if that's what you want.

Clifton
05-19-2011, 03:06 PM
Can you only play Christmas music on that guitar?

JCave
05-19-2011, 03:07 PM
I live in the land of Douglas Fir trees. They're all around and are used for all types of work including furniture. The old growth tight ring material is gorgeous stuff. If it sounds like it looks, you'll really enjoy it.


For comparison: Doug Fir Tone Wood (http://cgi.ebay.com/Douglas-Fir-Violin-Mandolin-Tone-Wood-AAAA-566-5-/270748830878?_trksid=p4340.m263&_trkparms=algo%3DSIC%26its%3DI%252BC%26itu%3DUCI%2 52BIA%252BUA%252BFICS%252BUFI%26otn%3D10%26pmod%3D 290561203275%26ps%3D63%26clkid%3D44705280982819499 )



Jerry

Michael Watts
05-19-2011, 03:22 PM
If it's Stefan Sobell then go for it! I played a New World model with a Douglas fir top that was great. But that was, as always, due more to the maker than the materials...

Loki
05-19-2011, 03:49 PM
The wood in question comes from a very old driftwood tree washed up on Fair Isle, so I suppose it has a bit of innate romance imbued in it.

The builder in question is Scottish luthier Jimmy Moon, who himself was originally from Arran, and the instrument in question is (approximately) a bozouki scale length cittern which will be deployed for both traddy and general use.

I am leaning towards the Douglas Fir.

If anyone knows of any just impediment speak now, or forever... :)

Also any more info opinions welcome! Thanks good people.

StringFive
05-19-2011, 06:03 PM
Hey JCave. A shout out from another Oregonian here. In Portland, but love Zig Zag. God's Country brother. Give a shout if you wish.

BBWW
05-19-2011, 06:19 PM
There has been a couple of threads on some of the builder forums lately, mostly very positive. If your builder has built with it and suggests it to you...and you think it's cool as well, I'd say go for it.

I love the idea of using saltwater drifted woods in a guitar myself.

JRB
05-19-2011, 11:37 PM
Yup, folks on luthier forums seem to like the stuff.

patticake
05-19-2011, 11:46 PM
:lol: :lol: :lol:

Can you only play Christmas music on that guitar?

JohnM
05-19-2011, 11:50 PM
We built a couple at McPherson. They sounded like spruce topped McPherson guitars. They weren't the prettiest to look at if you like wood that looks like poundcake though.

Howard Klepper
05-20-2011, 12:01 AM
.............

SteveS
05-29-2011, 05:21 PM
The wood in question comes from a very old driftwood tree washed up on Fair Isle, so I suppose it has a bit of innate romance imbued in it..........Driftwood fir does not sound like a great choice for a top. If it was exposed to only salt water than it could be OK, but if it was exposed to fresh water, stay away. How could anyone know what drift wood was exposed to?
Why use something like that when there are so many other great choices?

sachi
05-29-2011, 06:07 PM
If it was exposed to only salt water than it could be OK, but if it was exposed to fresh water, stay away.
Why? How would that be different from sinker redwood taken from a river?

SteveS
05-29-2011, 07:39 PM
Why? How would that be different from sinker redwood taken from a river?
Redwood does not rot in fresh water. Fir rots in fresh water.

zabdart
05-29-2011, 07:53 PM
There's a famous story about the great Spanish luthier Torrez building a guitar with a paper mache top, just to prove that the way you braced the top was more important than what you made it out of. The guitar he built, by all accounts, played and sounded just fine... and stayed together, too.
The skill and experience of the builder can overcome a lot of vagaries in the materials... but only up to an extent. The reason why most acoustics have spruce or cedar tops is because of their high stiffness to weight ratio and their acoustic properties. You can build a perfectly acceptable guitar out of non-traditional materials... if you know what you're doing. But you can only "push the envelope" so far before your results sound bad.

JohnM
05-29-2011, 08:37 PM
There's a famous story about the great Spanish luthier Torrez building a guitar with a paper mache top, just to prove that the way you braced the top was more important than what you made it out of. The guitar he built, by all accounts, played and sounded just fine... and stayed together, too.
The skill and experience of the builder can overcome a lot of vagaries in the materials... but only up to an extent. The reason why most acoustics have spruce or cedar tops is because of their high stiffness to weight ratio and their acoustic properties. You can build a perfectly acceptable guitar out of non-traditional materials... if you know what you're doing. But you can only "push the envelope" so far before your results sound bad.


The back and sides were from paper mâché meant to illustrate that the top was the most important aspect.

sachi
05-29-2011, 09:00 PM
Redwood does not rot in fresh water. Fir rots in fresh water.

Thanks, Steve. Makes sense.

zabdart
05-29-2011, 09:08 PM
The back and sides were from paper mâché meant to illustrate that the top was the most important aspect.
Thanks for correcting me. It's always good to get my facts straight, and since I'm remembering this story from over 30 years ago, you can understand how I got the details wrong.

Howard Klepper
05-29-2011, 09:25 PM
The back and sides were actually made of a hard cardboard, similar to what "chipboard" guitar cases are made from. The papier mache thing is an often repeated mistake.

And no one who has played that guitar ever thought it was great. Just that it was OK and sounded like a guitar. Kinda like Taylor's pallet guitar in that way.

I have heard of building with Douglas fir, but have never heard a guitar with a Doug fir top. It is heavier than the more usual top woods. And not native to the UK. And not really a fir.

Wade Hampton
05-29-2011, 09:28 PM
I've never knowingly played an instrument made with a Douglas fir top, but the times I was in Scandinavia and Russia I did play a few with tops made from pine, and quite a few with larch tops - the Russians in particular have a longstanding tradition of using larch on stringed instruments.

Even though this is usually little known outside their own countries, there's actually quite a history (in northern nations, at least) of using all sorts of conifer woods for musical instrument construction, not just the cedars and spruces.


whm

hermithollow
05-29-2011, 09:39 PM
I think a lot depends on the individual piece of fir and the sound you are looking for. Being "driftwood" might not be a problem if the wood is sound and properly cut. I would not use the top -because - it is driftwood, I might use it -despite- the fact that it was driftwood.
The douglas fir top I was given seems a bit heavier than the engelmann and sitka spruce I have used. I think it might work well for a bouzouki or cittern.

Acousticado
05-29-2011, 09:39 PM
I have 8 - 8x10" x 34' long douglas fir beams that came from British Columbia in my white pine log house that I built 28 years ago here in Quebec. I had applied a clear stain on them. They're beautiful. Never thought of douglas fir as a guitar tone wood. I could get a lot of guitar tops out of what I have. I better not tell my neighbour (Sergei de Jonge, lutheir). My house might fall down.

gmm55
05-29-2011, 10:48 PM
Indeed, Sergei's a pioneer, and he'd fearlessly give Douglas fir a go. Sergei has to be the only maker to have made a snakewood steel string, and an all spruce steel string (I mean everything, neck, sides, back, and top). Great maker. :)

Wade Hampton
05-29-2011, 11:56 PM
Indeed, Sergei's a pioneer, and he'd fearlessly give Douglas fir a go. Sergei has to be the only maker to have made a snakewood steel string, and an all spruce steel string (I mean everything, neck, sides, back, and top). Great maker. :)

A couple of issues back in Fretboard Journal (my favorite guitar porn magazine) there was an article about an electric guitar builder in New York City who uses old pine beams salvaged from building restorations for Telecaster-style guitars. I think he uses a harder wood for the fingerboard, but every other piece of wood on the instrument is this old clear pine, some of it a century or two old.

By all accounts, the guitars sound marvelous.


whm