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Old 01-17-2020, 05:53 AM
Silly Moustache Silly Moustache is offline
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Default Wide/Narrow grain on spruce tops ???

I would like some opinions/wisdom about this.
I assume that wide grain indicates faster growth than narrow grain, and so the latter indicates an older tree ???

What is considered best tonally and/or cosmetically?

Also I have this lovely new Eastman guitar (said to have an "adi" top)which compared to my other guitars looks extremely pallid.
Is there a way to speed the darkening process?

Thanks in advance.
(edited to correct my careless spelling)
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Old 01-17-2020, 06:08 AM
mechanic1908 mechanic1908 is offline
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Wide grain vs narrow is usually traceable back to how much precipitation the tree received during the years it was growing.
( wide = lots of precip and narrow = less)
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Old 01-17-2020, 06:20 AM
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Originally Posted by mechanic1908 View Post
Wide grain vs narrow is usually traceable back to how much precipitation the tree received during the years it was growing.
( wide = lots of precip and narrow = less)
*also - elevation and age come to mind.

I've enjoyed guitars all over the board when it comes to grain... I do like the look of a slightly wider grain though.

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Old 01-17-2020, 06:34 AM
keith.rogers keith.rogers is offline
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The length of the growing season, which may correlate to the amount of moisture (as rain) the tree receives is a factor. (Elevation and latitude are indicators here.) So, "faster" means that it gets bigger in the same timespan, perhaps, but the tree isn't really growing faster - it just has more time within which it can grow, assuming we're talking the same or comparable species and other factors, like soil, nutrients, etc.

So, wider grain could mean younger, but it could also just mean it was a bigger tree. Grain width alone doesn't mean that the wood is softer, if that's the concern. Of course, if you're comparing yellow pine in the US Gulf Coast with Alpine spruce, that's different.

P.S. Photo-chemically reactive lacquer might darken if you hang your guitar outside in the sun. You might also soften the glue or expose it to an unexpected rainstorm! Or, you can get a UV light and try that if you're in a hurry. Or hang out a lot in smoky bars with the case open, perhaps.
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Old 01-17-2020, 07:05 AM
offkey offkey is offline
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In most cases of guitar top spruce a narrow growth ring indicates an old growth tree. Trees that grow in an older forest with more canopy. Each ring indicates one summers growth. I have no opinion on how it affects tone but I don't like a wide grain pattern visually. Tight in the center of the top and getting larger close to the edge, is to me a perfect looking top. Sunlight will darken the top over time. It takes awhile but I have seen it happen in a few years.
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Old 01-17-2020, 07:12 AM
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The other question was about tone.

As I understand it , the narrower grain wood tends to be stiffer, which kinda makes sense - sort of like a wall with more studs, closer together.

So I think whichever attributes you can ascribe to a stiffer top would apply. Such as brighter sound, clearer more articulate ringing, more volume "headroom" but less responsive to a light touch. But I am making all that up from what seems to make sense in my head.....I think it's right, but I don't have objective evidence to back me up.
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Old 01-17-2020, 07:19 AM
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Beats me! I just keep playing guitars until I find the one that sounds best.
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Old 01-17-2020, 07:30 AM
John Arnold John Arnold is offline
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In general, the growth rate of a spruce tree is determined primarily by the availability of light. Second growth trees grow faster because they have less competition for light. In my experience, there is no correlation between grain width and stiffness or density. Those are the qualities that affect the performance.
Tight grain is associated with vintage guitars, when old growth spruce was the norm. IMHO, that is the only valid reason for favoring it over wide grain. Looks, basically.
Spruce darkens on exposure to UV light.
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Old 01-17-2020, 07:46 AM
zombywoof zombywoof is offline
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Personally I do not give a fig about grain. My favorite guitar has a top which looks like somebody scrounged through the scrap pile for a useable piece.

But one thing I have always wondered is that it is common for violins to have a close grain at the center widening at the edges. I figured that this was because the closer the grain the denser the wood which would, in theory, impact sound. But that might only be a factor given the size difference between a fiddle and a guitar.
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Old 01-17-2020, 07:54 AM
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In some species, growth rate and resulting width of annual growth rings, impacts strength. In conifers (especially uneven grain species like Douglas fir), the band of denser & stronger latewood is least affected by growth rate. Therefore, as a softwood tree grows faster the wider rings have a larger proportion of weaker earlywood, and the wood will be weaker on average.

In ring porous hardwoods (like oak and ash) it’s opposite; the width of large pored earlywood doesn’t vary much. So the rate of growth in faster grown hardwood (with wider rings) is represented by having a greater percentage of denser & stronger latewood. Wide ringed wood of these species will be stronger on average.

Growth rate has virtually no predictable relationship to the strength of diffuse porous hardwoods.

How all this relates to guitar tone is less understood, at least by me.
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Old 01-17-2020, 07:55 AM
vintage40s vintage40s is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silly Moustache View Post
... I assume that wide grain indicates faster growth than narrow grain, and so the latter indicates an older tree ???
What is considered best tonally and/or cosmetically. Also I have this lovely new Eastman guitar which compared to my other guitars looks extremely pallid.
....
A few weeks ago I looked at two Eastman guitars at the store and asked about the difference in tops.
1. An E10D, which was Adirondack and Mahogany. The top was wide grained and very light. White-ish.
2. An E8D, which was Sitka and Rosewood. The top was fine grained and a little darker. Yellow-ish.
The owner/luthier said:
The old-growth eastern Adirondack forests were harvested long ago, the trees today are fast-growing second-growth, just getting big and old enough again for instruments, and the wider rings make the wood lighter and sound better. Old growth Sitka can still be found in the northwest, and narrow rings make the wood denser and look darker.

I bought two Eastman guitars in 2019:
1. A new 2018 E20OM with Adirondack top. The top was obnoxiously light, but has become slightly darker after almost a year.
2. A used ~2015 E20P with Adirondack top. Its top is darker than the OM, a normal shade.

So Adirondack is naturally light due to the less density of rings, will darken with time, but new or old, will not be as dark as Sitka
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Last edited by vintage40s; 01-17-2020 at 08:01 AM.
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Old 01-17-2020, 08:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silly Moustache View Post
I would like some opinions/wisdom about this.
I assume that wide grain indicates faster growth than narrow grain, and so the latter indicates an older tree ???

What is considered best tonally and/or cosmetically?

Also I have this lovely new Eastman guitar (said to have an "adi" top)which compared to my other guitars looks extremely pallid.
Is there a way to speed the darkening process?

Thanks in advance.
(edited to correct my careless spelling)
curious about the doubt

sunlight would darken the top......
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Old 01-17-2020, 10:05 AM
jaymarsch jaymarsch is offline
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I offer this just in terms of spruce darkening over time. The guitar in the center was completed this past July and is German Spruce. The guitar on the right was made in 2004 and is also German Spruce. I do store my guitars in cases when they are not being played. So, it does take some time for tops to darken but leaving them out in sunlight does speed up the process. I have an adi topped guitar from 2014 that I acquired as the first owner in early 2018 and it is still creamy white.



Best,
Jayne
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Old 01-17-2020, 10:29 AM
foxo foxo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zombywoof View Post
Personally I do not give a fig about grain. My favorite guitar has a top which looks like somebody scrounged through the scrap pile for a useable piece.

But one thing I have always wondered is that it is common for violins to have a close grain at the center widening at the edges. I figured that this was because the closer the grain the denser the wood which would, in theory, impact sound. But that might only be a factor given the size difference between a fiddle and a guitar.
Iíve noticed my Lowden has what you describe, wider towards the sides.

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Old 01-17-2020, 10:40 AM
bufflehead bufflehead is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vintage40s View Post
The old-growth eastern Adirondack forests were harvested long ago, the trees today are fast-growing second-growth, just getting big and old enough again for instruments, and the wider rings make the wood lighter and sound better. Old growth Sitka can still be found in the northwest, and narrow rings make the wood denser and look darker.
I concur that it's mostly a difference between old-growth and second-growth wood. I see this on my own property, mostly Douglas-fir and Western Red Cedar, which was logged a century ago. I've had to take down half a dozen trees in the past two years, and I get a lot of practice studying grain while bucking and splitting the firewood, especially knowing which logs came from which trees.

While many guitarists prefer the aesthetics of tighter grain, it doesn't follow logically that this would result in a better tonewood.

Play the guitar. If it sounds good, it is good, regardless of grain pattern.
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