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  #16  
Old 05-29-2019, 09:01 AM
redir redir is offline
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Some luthiers think that bear claw has desirable acoustic properties. I've not used it enough to know though I do now own a bear claw Dread which happens to be one of the best sounding Dreds I've ever played. I'm sure it has more to do with the builder then the bear claw but still.

Some people believe that the classical guitar masters of old days gone by have made superior guitars becasue they used only hand tools and hand tools impart a randomness in the construction of the guitar. Particularly the top. When planing and scraping the top it might not be perfectly even across the whole piece as you would get today using thickness sanders. Bear claw may mimic this randomness.

But that's a stretch

I personally think that anything mother nature imparts into a piece of wood is like staring into the eyes of perfection. We may not understand her reasoning but it's there with purpose. I like bear claw but to each their own.
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  #17  
Old 05-29-2019, 09:54 AM
charles Tauber charles Tauber is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ozarkpicker View Post
Everything is subjective when it comes to the appearance of wood grain on the top of a guitar. Some love “bearclaw”, some love “silking”, and some prefer straight-grains.
There is some truth to that, particularly from the perspective of the consumer, but not entirely.

When selecting materials from which to manufacture objects, one works within "tolerances" - allowable variation from some "ideal" of what the material should be for its intended purpose.

If you are large factory manufacturing 1000 guitars a day, you need a lot of wood to feed that. Generally, in that environment, the tolerance are "looser", allowing you to select from a broader range of available materials, with a wider range of variation.

If you only make 12 guitars a year, you need far less material and can pick and choose through materials to the find the 12 pieces you want that are very close to your "ideal" - you have a much smaller tolerance. Your demand allows you to look through, for example, 1000 guitar tops, select the 12 closest to your ideal, and reject the other 988. If your production consumes 1000 guitar tops a day, that isn't viable. (Using, for example, the same 12/1000 ratio, you'd need to pick through 83,334 tops per day to yield the 1000 you want.) That should give you some insight into the discussion of why some manufacturers use generic naming - such as "select hardwood" - rather than name specific species and the amount of wood necessary to feed their production, and the issues of obtaining wood in sufficient quantities in sufficient qualities. In many cases, it isn't as much that the wood isn't available, as it is that it isn't available in the quantities and qualities they require to feed their production rates.

Some characteristics of the materials, such as guitar tops, are chosen for subjective (i.e. aesthetic) reasons: others are chosen for technical reasons. Subjective considerations include width of grain lines, straightness of grain, figure - such as "bear claw" - and so on. Technical considerations include things like the inherent stiffness of the wood, how the wood has been cut or split, inherent properties of the wood related to how a specific tree grew and so on.

How the wood has been cut or split, and how it grew, are related to things like runout and the appearance of "silking". Silking is the sectioning of medullary rays - a tubular structure of the wood that runs circumferentially around the tree, appearing perpendicular to the long grain of a cut board. Sectioning of the medullary rays, so that they are visible as "silk" only occurs if a board has been cut very near quarter sawn. More than a degree or two from perfectly quartered and the "silk" will not be visible.

In instrument making, the traditional reason for using quarter sawn wood is its increased stability in many species. Does a degree or two off-of quarter sawn matter, practically? Probably not. Does 20 degrees or more off of quarter sawn matter? In many species, probably. Since the wood industry defines "quarter sawn" wood to be any piece of wood where the end grain is within 30 degrees of being vertical, a guitar maker, for example, can claim wood to be "quarter sawn" at anywhere between +/- 30 degrees of vertical. The appearance of "silk" is an indicator that it is within a degree or so of vertical.

In some furniture making styles, most notably "mission" or "arts and crafts", a big part of the aesthetic of the style is the use of quarter sawn white oak with its characteristic very large silking pattern.

Drifting a little off topic, there have been a few recent discussions about Gibson's use of flat sawn walnut for guitar backs and sides. In their manufacture of that guitar, their "ideal" - the specification for that guitar - is flat sawn walnut. They would likely reject quarter sawn walnut for that guitar since that isn't "within tolerance" for that guitar. My point is that one can define one's target however one chooses: some define the target to include "quarter sawn" others "flat sawn".

Last edited by charles Tauber; 05-29-2019 at 10:06 AM.
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  #18  
Old 05-29-2019, 09:59 AM
jaymarsch jaymarsch is offline
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I have never minded bear claw but I would not seek it out. I actually do not mind a visual "flaw" or two in a guitar top as it is made out of natural wood and imperfections just come with the territory. I do hate the idea that good wood would be tossed simply for visual considerations but customer demand will dictate some decisions while marketing and competition will dictate others.

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  #19  
Old 05-29-2019, 10:16 AM
brianmay brianmay is offline
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Personally I really dislike bearclaw, but there again it truly takes all sorts and all opinions are valid.

For me, I'd never buy a guitar that displays this phenomenon, yet for others it's attractive.

So for those who love it, isn't it nice to have the opportunity to buy one and for those of us who don't, we buy without.

We are fortunate in today's market to have the choice.
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  #20  
Old 05-29-2019, 10:29 AM
bufflehead bufflehead is offline
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My Taylor BBT, a fairly inexpensive travel guitar, has a solid, sitka spruce top with lovely silking and a single, striking bear claw. I assume that the boards would have been used in a much more expensive guitar, but were "demoted" to the BBT because of the bear claw for fear that the more expensive guitar would have been less sellable with such a "defect." Therefore, I got a remarkable top, both visually and sonically, on a <$500 guitar.

I did an A/B comparison with two other BBTs when auditioning the guitar, and the one with the bear claw was clearly superior in tone. It desperately wanted to come home with me.
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  #21  
Old 05-29-2019, 10:40 AM
silvereagle48 silvereagle48 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wade Hampton View Post
Correct. It was Stan Jay at Mandolin Brothers who first began to heavily promote bearclaw figure in spruce tops as being desirable. Prior to that, which fits in the timeline Charles mentioned, for the most part bearclaw was looked at as a disfigurement, when it was even thought about at all.

Personally, I've never cared for the look of bearclaw, much less consider it to be "beautiful." To me it looks like stretch marks:

[CENTER]

Bearclaw

On a human being, stretch marks are a mark of character and personal history. But I'm not that eager to have any on my guitar tops...

Other folks like bearclaw figure just fine, and some are even willing to pay extra money to get it. I think that's great - more power to them. I'm just not among their number.


Wade Hampton Miller
I agree. Just not my cup of tea.
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  #22  
Old 05-29-2019, 05:08 PM
Mycroft Mycroft is offline
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Jayne pretty much laid out my thoughts: don't mind it but do not actively seek it. On the right guitar... I also don't mind streaky Adirondack tops, streaks in ebony fretboards and bridges, or tops with chatoyance.

Interestingly, I hate the look of sapwood. but if I found the right sounding guitar at the right price...
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  #23  
Old 05-29-2019, 06:23 PM
rwmct rwmct is offline
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Still looks like a blemish to me.
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  #24  
Old 05-29-2019, 06:25 PM
rwmct rwmct is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mycroft View Post
Interestingly, I hate the look of sapwood.
Me too. I don't get the attraction to sapwood at all. I am always surprised by the praise backs with sapwood get.

There is a market for everything for sure.
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  #25  
Old 05-29-2019, 07:05 PM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Ozarkpicker wrote:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ozarkpicker View Post
Please don’t be offended...but could it be that the promotion of “bear claw” or “silking” as more desirable simply a way to make use of pieces of wood that would normally not be used by a guitar company or luthier/builder because in their eyes it was flawed & unattractive?
Charles explained it in his post, so I'll just add that the only time the cross grain medullary rays known as "silk" are visible is when the wood of the top is well quartered. So the presence of silk is a reliable indicator of that, at least.

I've had my best luck with guitars and dulcimers that have silky tops, so that is something I look for. It's not a requirement, though - I've played (and owned) plenty of other instruments that had little to no silk which STILL sounded great.

So the presence of silk is an indicator of quartersawn wood, not proof of tonal superiority.

Bearclaw is more a matter of fashion and personal preference among guitarists. While there are some builders who'll argue that bearclaw tops sound the best, others disagree. I'm not going to argue that case either way, and will only say that I have never personally witnessed any corresponding tonal characteristics - good or bad - with spruce tops that have bearclaw figure. Some sound good, some don't.

So for me bearclaw is a visual characteristic, nothing more. I don't happen to care for its appearance, but wouldn't let its presence keep me from buying a guitar I liked otherwise.

Then Bufflehead wrote:

Quote:
Originally Posted by bufflehead View Post
My Taylor BBT, a fairly inexpensive travel guitar, has a solid, sitka spruce top with lovely silking and a single, striking bear claw. I assume that the boards would have been used in a much more expensive guitar, but were "demoted" to the BBT because of the bear claw for fear that the more expensive guitar would have been less sellable with such a "defect." Therefore, I got a remarkable top, both visually and sonically, on a <$500 guitar.
It's possible that it got downgraded because it only had one visible bearclaw mark, but what's more likely is that it was a small piece of spruce and so it got made into a travel guitar rather than a larger instrument.

That was one of the motivations when Larrivée started making their parlor guitars: they had some wood on hand that was too small to make into a larger guitar but too good to throw away.

But Taylor isn't going to downgrade a regular-sized guitar top because of bearclaw figure. On the contrary, the more bearclaw the better, and the more likely such a top will end up on a high end guitar. Because there are plenty of players who are willing and able to pay extra for heavily bearclawed tops.

But a top with only one streak of bearclaw by itself? Yeah, that top might get "demoted" to a less expensive instrument. A lot of that would depend on the tastes of the in-house employees who sort the wood stock for the guitar companies, and on the corporate culture and philosophy of the company itself.

Bufflehead concluded:

Quote:
Originally Posted by bufflehead View Post
I did an A/B comparison with two other BBTs when auditioning the guitar, and the one with the bear claw was clearly superior in tone. It desperately wanted to come home with me.
And you made exactly the right choice.


Wade Hampton Miller
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