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Old 09-25-2013, 03:10 PM
Guitarwonda Guitarwonda is offline
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Default Flawed woods for sunburst tops?

Hi I've always liked the look of a nice Sunburst top acoustic. My friend asked me why would a luthier cover up a tightly grained perfect piece of wood with a sunburst paint job? He said Luthiers want to show off a nice piece of Sitka, adirondack or bearclaw, not cover it with paint, possibly damping it's sound potential. Is this a way for guitar company's to maximize profits by up charging for bursts using lower grade woods? Any insight or knowledge would be appreciated on this topic.
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Old 09-25-2013, 03:18 PM
GibbyPrague GibbyPrague is offline
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Have you considered the possibility that some people might actually prefer the look of a sunburst finish, while a tight grained plain Adi top might be considered to some dull and boring ... ?
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Old 09-25-2013, 03:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Guitarwonda View Post
Hi I've always liked the look of a nice Sunburst top acoustic. My friend asked me why would a luthier cover up a tightly grained perfect piece of wood with a sunburst paint job? He said Luthiers want to show off a nice piece of Sitka, adirondack or bearclaw, not cover it with paint, possibly damping it's sound potential. Is this a way for guitar company's to maximize profits by up charging for bursts using lower grade woods? Any insight or knowledge would be appreciated on this topic.
Hi Gw...

Have you considered that if the wood is only cosmetically flawed and is acoustically sound it might be preferable to use it for burst or shaded tops?


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Old 09-25-2013, 03:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Guitarwonda View Post
Hi I've always liked the look of a nice Sunburst top acoustic. My friend asked me why would a luthier cover up a tightly grained perfect piece of wood with a sunburst paint job? He said Luthiers want to show off a nice piece of Sitka, adirondack or bearclaw, not cover it with paint, possibly damping it's sound potential. Is this a way for guitar company's to maximize profits by up charging for bursts using lower grade woods? Any insight or knowledge would be appreciated on this topic.
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Old 09-25-2013, 03:25 PM
billgennaro billgennaro is offline
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Originally Posted by ljguitar View Post
Hi Gw...

Have you considered that if the wood is only cosmetically flawed and is acoustically sound it might be preferable to use it for burst or shaded tops?


that's what i was thinking. if a piece of spruce has the right stiffness and everything else that a luthier is looking for in a good top, but might have some visual weirdness that could be covered by a burst, they might just figure its best to use that top for a sunburst model. no luthier worth his/her salt would try to pass off an inferior piece of wood (sound-wise). what would be the sense of making bad sounding guitars? of course, the really cheap acoustics out there might do this regularly. i don't know.
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Old 09-25-2013, 03:33 PM
saxonblue saxonblue is offline
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Probably less so an issue with sunburst as solid colour schemes.

I saw a thread recently about a Gibson J-45 that was gloss black with retro looking tan plastics (p/g, tuner knobs etc.) & although I thought it was a pretty cool looking guitar the sceptic in me had me wondering the same thing about a top you can't see.

That said LJ makes a perfectly legitimate point that although the wood may be cosmetically challenged it may well be acoustically & structurally up to the task.
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Old 09-25-2013, 03:36 PM
sfden1 sfden1 is offline
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I've heard this one before and believe it's mostly myth. The charge is usually made about Gibson, but consider that Gibson has been using a sunburst finish since at least the introduction of it's archtop L-0 and L-3 models in 1902. The idea was to evoke the look of high end European stringed instruments (think violin or cello), not to hide any wood flaws.

Gibson has been making sunburst finish guitars ever since and they are much more common among Gibson models than clear finishes. As an aside, Gibson also made some guitars in the 30's with black finishes (as did some other makers such as Stella).

I don't believe it has ever been shown that a sunburst finish (which is not "paint" by the way) has a marked effect on tone, but if anyone has some definitive information otherwise, I'd like to see it.

D.

Last edited by sfden1; 09-25-2013 at 03:38 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 09-25-2013, 03:37 PM
Opa John Opa John is offline
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I've had a tobacco burst FG730S Yamaha for about four years and if there's any flawed wood in it, you'd never guess it by the sound it has.
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Old 09-25-2013, 03:42 PM
J Patrick J Patrick is offline
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.....for the record...sunburst finishes are not "painted" on...usually a stain is added to the lacquer and is applied no thicker than a clear lacquer finish....some stain finishes are applied with an evaporating medium like alcohol prior to the application of lacquer.....many sunburst finishes do allow a lot of the natural figure of the wood to show through....
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Old 09-25-2013, 03:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Guitarwonda View Post
... not cover it with paint, possibly damping it's sound potential...
The weight and thickness of a burst finish is not going to be much different, if at all, than a "natural" finish.


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Old 09-25-2013, 03:48 PM
sfden1 sfden1 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J Patrick View Post
.....for the record...sunburst finishes are not "painted" on...usually a stain is added to the lacquer and is applied no thicker than a clear lacquer finish....some stain finishes are applied with an evaporating medium like alcohol prior to the application of lacquer.....many sunburst finishes do allow a lot of the natural figure of the wood to show through....
Exactly, to which I might add that it's the thickness of the finish that matters as far as tone is concerned, not whether it has been stained or not.
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Old 09-25-2013, 04:23 PM
Guitarwonda Guitarwonda is offline
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Thanks for the informative responses. It makes sense to use a top that may have some visual defects as long as it holds up sound wise. That's my main concern with sunburst tops. As long as the sound isn't negatively affected through the sunburst process then I'm a fan. I love the look of a nicely done sunburst!
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Old 09-25-2013, 04:35 PM
zabdart zabdart is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sfden1 View Post
I've heard this one before and believe it's mostly myth. The charge is usually made about Gibson, but consider that Gibson has been using a sunburst finish since at least the introduction of it's archtop L-0 and L-3 models in 1902. The idea was to evoke the look of high end European stringed instruments (think violin or cello), not to hide any wood flaws.

Gibson has been making sunburst finish guitars ever since and they are much more common among Gibson models than clear finishes. As an aside, Gibson also made some guitars in the 30's with black finishes (as did some other makers such as Stella).

I don't believe it has ever been shown that a sunburst finish (which is not "paint" by the way) has a marked effect on tone, but if anyone has some definitive information otherwise, I'd like to see it.

D.
The story I've heard is that in its early days Gibson was using red spruce exclusively for its tops and often experienced "grain run-out" in these tops when finished. The sunburst was developed as a method of covering up this "grain run-out" so only the best parts of the grain were visible.
Like everything else regarding Gibson's early days, there's a large element of legend to this story, but it seems to make sense.
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Old 09-25-2013, 04:45 PM
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In a lot of the small shops, it is the guy with his name on the door that actually applies the sunburst. Dana Bourgeois himself does the sunburst design and applies the color, he changes them based on the natural figure of the wood. So, no, it's not to cover up blemished wood.
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Old 09-25-2013, 04:59 PM
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Sunburst tops have been extremely popular for the past two years. We don't keep records but safe to say that last year was a record for us in terms of sunburst. Doubtful any of the builders would used a flawed piece of wood and try to mask it a burst. We do a Martin with Bear Claw top and amberburst. Spectacular !!
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