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  #16  
Old 01-26-2019, 02:02 AM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Originally Posted by Black-n-Nan View Post
Here in Russia white birch is used mainly for heating wooden houses
Try to find Karelian Birch which is pretty expensive but looks beautiful and very similar to koa.
I played a week long concert tour in Magadan Oblast in March of 1992, about eight months or so after the USSR became the Russian Federation. That was an interesting trip in interesting times. I was part of a cultural exchange group from Anchorage, Alaska.

Anyway, most of the Russian balalaikas, domras and seven string guitars I saw at that time appeared to be made with birch backs and sides and either spruce (possibly pine) or larch tops. But all were of Soviet era manufacture.

The fit and finish of those Soviet era instruments I had a chance to play were fairly crude by Western standards, but a lot of them had a really sweet tone.


Wade Hampton Miller
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  #17  
Old 01-26-2019, 02:18 AM
catfish catfish is online now
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Originally Posted by Wade Hampton View Post
Anyway, most of the Russian balalaikas, domras and seven string guitars I saw at that time appeared to be made with birch backs and sides and either spruce (possibly pine) or larch tops. But all were of Soviet era manufacture.

The fit and finish of those Soviet era instruments I had a chance to play were fairly crude by Western standards, but a lot of them had a really sweet tone.
Possibly, some artisans in the regions still use birch in their instruments, but factory-made domras and balalaikas use maple. This is the largest manufacturer in Russia --
https://doffguitar.com/product-categ...aikas/?lang=en
https://doffguitar.com/product-category/domra/?lang=en

They would probably produce the birch versions as well, for tradition sake, but as I see no one is offering birch as tonewood.
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  #18  
Old 01-26-2019, 02:19 AM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Originally Posted by Osage View Post
Plenty of vintage Gibson archtops that were sold as maple are actually birch. Although always advertised as maple, they used the two woods more or less interchangeably for years. It's a very good wood in this application. Also, they're clearly tonally similar as Gibson got away with this for like 30 years.
I haven’t played enough Gibson archtop guitars made from birch to have a preference, but when it comes to those old oval soundhole A model and F-4 mandolins I definitely prefer the ones made from birch. They have just a bit more sustain and low end response than the same models made from maple.

There was a guy here in Alaska named Dave Carlson who was making mandolins that he built from the spruce and birch trees that grew on his property. They sounded remarkably good. It didn’t take him long to saturate the market up here for custom-made birch mandolins, though, as you might imagine, and I haven’t seen or heard of him in quite a while now. Ten years at least.

I admire him for doing something creative and not just trying to build yet another Gibson F-5 copy, even though that’s what most mandolinplayers want.


whm
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  #19  
Old 01-26-2019, 02:28 AM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Originally Posted by catfish View Post
Possibly, some artisans in the regions still use birch in their instruments, but factory-made domras and balalaikas use maple. This is the largest manufacturer in Russia --
https://doffguitar.com/product-categ...aikas/?lang=en
https://doffguitar.com/product-category/domra/?lang=en

They would probably produce the birch versions as well, for tradition sake, but as I see no one is offering birch as tonewood.
That doesn’t surprise me. It’s a shame, but so far as I can tell most manufacturers who built instruments from birch did so mainly for convenience’s sake.

I do like the sound, however. When I lived in Finland in the early 1980’s the Finnish guitar company Landola was still in business, and most of the instruments they built were from birch - not just guitars, but banjos and other stringed instruments, as well. Most that I played sounded good.

In retrospect I wish I had bought a Landola guitar back then to bring back with me to the United States, but there are all SORTS of guitars I would have liked to have bought years ago!!

C’est la vie...


whm
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  #20  
Old 01-26-2019, 04:15 AM
Dino Silone Dino Silone is offline
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How about tops? The old Stella guitars also had birch tops. I’ve searched for that, and haven’t found a source for birch or maple tops. What would be the best substitute? I was thinking about either just using a maple or birch back/sides set for the top, or substituting a more common top material. If I were to do the latter, would spruce be the choice? Or something else? I’ve got a redwood top set I never figured out what to do with...
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  #21  
Old 01-26-2019, 04:35 AM
takamineGD93 takamineGD93 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Black-n-Nan View Post
Here in Russia white birch is used mainly for heating wooden houses
Try to find Karelian Birch which is pretty expensive but looks beautiful and very similar to koa
But I am not luthier an have no idea is it good as a tonewood.
Same here in scandinavia. Mostly used for heating. Flamed birch has been used for furniture, gunstocks and instruments.
Levin is another (swedish) guitarmaker that has built guitars with birch. It's actually a great toonwood.
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  #22  
Old 01-26-2019, 04:45 AM
Black-n-Nan Black-n-Nan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wade Hampton View Post

The fit and finish of those Soviet era instruments I had a chance to play were fairly crude by Western standards, but a lot of them had a really sweet tone.


Wade Hampton Miller
Yes, instruments factory made in Soviet Union were awfull. The first guitar my mom bought me was Russian 7th string which I converted to 6 simply cut new nut slots and make a plastic spacer at the bridge And it was screw adjustable neck angle No truss rod.
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  #23  
Old 01-26-2019, 05:21 AM
perttime perttime is offline
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Originally Posted by gr81dorn View Post
Birch and Hard Maple are pretty similar in many ways and definitely in the ways of hardness, density, etc that impact its use as a tonewood.

....
Several Finnish luthiers have been working with birch, for many years. Mainly for electrics but a few build sides and backs - and sometimes necks - out of birch. The top is usually still spruce.

One luthier told me that bending birch sides takes some extra care to keep them from splitting or cracking.

Not all birch is the same. There's about 120 different species of Birch. The people who use birch for guitars seem to go mainly for Betula pendula. Those can grow very large, if you let them and conditions are right. The flamed wood is invariably found in the bottom part of a massive Betula pendula birch tree.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betula_pendula

The posted "Karelian Birch" (Betula pendula var. carelica) is most likely difficult or impossible to bend to any shapes. In Scandinavia it is a traditional material for knife handles and other smallish items. It is rare to find a large piece but I've seen it used decoratively on some electric guitars. ... and it really is expensive.
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  #24  
Old 01-26-2019, 07:28 AM
mercy mercy is offline
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Perhaps OT but why bother? Vintageparlorguitars.com has em all ready to go. The inventory changes from time to time but tell him what you want.
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  #25  
Old 01-26-2019, 08:01 AM
Dino Silone Dino Silone is offline
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Originally Posted by mercy View Post
Perhaps OT but why bother? Vintageparlorguitars.com has em all ready to go. The inventory changes from time to time but tell him what you want.
I just build instruments for fun. Most have been offbeat - a copy of an 8th Century Saxon Lyre, a Greek tzouras and baglamas (though I used to play out on those), a few cigar box guitars of different types and configurations, tackhead banjo, got about halfway through a renaissance vihuela de mano build (by far the most challenging thing I ever attempted). In fact, would probably use the same form I made for the vihuela, for parlor guitars - perfect size...

So, the answer to “why bother?” is only partially “to have one”, and partially to see if I could sort of recreate the sound. Just a hobby.

But, to your point, one reason that I’ve never attempted a 6-string acoustic guitar build is that there are just so many available, and even most of the inexpensive ones are probably as good as or better than anything I could build, with the possible exception of if I worked from some well-established plans (and maybe even then). And that’s not fun - the design process is at least half the fun.
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  #26  
Old 01-26-2019, 08:57 AM
printer2 printer2 is offline
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I have a flat sawn 6" board of birch that I could get a full instrument out of doing the top and back 3-piece. The flat sawn direction should not make a difference other than more susceptibility to humidity changes. And the reason for it? As said, just to have one. I do have a couple of order catalog guitars from back in the time built from birch, not the best examples of instruments though.
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  #27  
Old 01-26-2019, 09:52 AM
Dino Silone Dino Silone is offline
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Originally Posted by printer2 View Post
I have a flat sawn 6" board of birch that I could get a full instrument out of doing the top and back 3-piece. The flat sawn direction should not make a difference other than more susceptibility to humidity changes. And the reason for it? As said, just to have one. I do have a couple of order catalog guitars from back in the time built from birch, not the best examples of instruments though.
So, maybe this belongs in the build and repair forum, but I picked up a nice 8/4” flatsawn maple board at a local sawmill a while ago, and I’ve been slicing pieces off it to make “quartersawn” stripes for, among other things, a vihuela de mano that I was building. In fact, I have the back and sides glued up as stripes, with ebony spacers in-between each stripe (those renaissance folk did like their gaudy...). I would repurpose those for a parlor guitar, which would be very funky looking, for sure.

There’s plenty left to make a neck, and also a top, if I wanted.

My bandsaw would choke on trying to resaw anything wider than 3” or so (it’s a small one). Do you think a 6 or 7 piece top would be a disaster? Alternatively, I have some spruce and some redwood top material, that would each easily make a 2-piece top. Would western red cedar be better for getting close to that “mail order” parlor guitar sound?
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  #28  
Old 01-26-2019, 10:52 AM
printer2 printer2 is offline
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Going for a hardwood top I would think the added stripes would not matter. I thought of doing a multi piece top like that with darker colored strips. I think a thicker width purfling would tie it together. I have built a spruce 5 piece top and back, just more gluing to do. When I get the time I'll do it yet.

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  #29  
Old 01-26-2019, 01:05 PM
Dino Silone Dino Silone is offline
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Originally Posted by printer2 View Post
Going for a hardwood top I would think the added stripes would not matter. I thought of doing a multi piece top like that with darker colored strips. I think a thicker width purfling would tie it together. I have built a spruce 5 piece top and back, just more gluing to do. When I get the time I'll do it yet.

That’s very cool. My maple stripes are a bit under 2” wide (to get “quartersawn” slices off of an 8/4” flatsawn board.) I made a simple but handy gluing frame that made the glue-up not so bad. It would have been even easier, except I was separating each 1.75” maple stripe by an ebony purfling strip, then a maple purfling strip, then an ebony purfling strip. Then I got busy with live, put the project aside... but now it’s ready to be the back and sides of an all-hardwood parlor guitar... . Still need to make the top, but I might go with a simpler striping arangement on that.
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