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Old 07-24-2014, 02:28 PM
psychojohn psychojohn is offline
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Default Tonal Qualities of Oak

Aside from being heavy, can anyone tell me anything about the tonal qualities of oak for back and sides of guitar builds.

Thanks

John
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Old 07-24-2014, 02:41 PM
mstuartev mstuartev is offline
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check out Fraulini Guitars (Todd Cambio). Makes amazing guitars and uses oak. You could reach out to him for some sonic input on oak. Here is a link to his blog
http://fraulini.blogspot.com/

and his website
http://www.fraulini.com/index.php
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Old 07-24-2014, 02:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psychojohn View Post
Aside from being heavy, can anyone tell me anything about the tonal qualities of oak for back and sides of guitar builds.
Hi John...

Thanks for raising the topic…

I cannot tell you much, having only played a couple of the Oak palette guitars that Taylor built a few years back - which sounded somewhat like cardboard to my ears (& I really like Taylor guitars).

I guess I've always wondered why a wood which is so plentiful and useful to other parts of the woodworking industry is avoided by the acoustic guitar building sector.





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Old 07-24-2014, 02:48 PM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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It's a good tonewood. The acoustic guitars made from oak I've had a chance to play (all five or six of them) had good trebles, good clarity and volume, but not a lot of overtones. It's not an especially distinctive-sounding tonewood, which is probably why it doesn't have much of a fan base.

I've played one or two 1920's or '30's parlor guitars made by Regal or Harmony that had oak backs and sides that were fairly low end instruments, with ladder bracing, movable bridges and tailpieces, and about twice that many modern oak guitars.

The modern ones were better, but had clearly been built with a lot more care and attention to detail.

If you're considering the purchase of an existing oak guitar and are just wondering what people think of oak as a tonewood, some of us think very highly of it, notably Al Carruth, a guitar builder who happens to love building with it. If you've had a chance to play an oak guitar and like it, by all means take the leap.

If, on the other hand, you're wondering whether to commission a custom guitar made out of oak, you should know going in that it will be difficult to re-sell should you ever decide to. Oak guitars are not particularly sought-after, and whether this is fair is irrelevant, because very few players are clamoring for oak guitars.

If it was me contemplating a purchase, if I'd already played the guitar and really liked it, I wouldn't worry about the resale value. But I don't think I would commission a custom guitar made from oak. I would insist on playing any oak instruments before I'd commit to buying one.

Hope that makes sense.


Wade Hampton Miller
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Old 07-24-2014, 02:58 PM
Ted @ LA Guitar Sales Ted @ LA Guitar Sales is offline
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I had a Taylor Pallet in my collection for a few years featuring Oak from an old pallet for the back and sides along with Pine from a pallet for the top, and it was rather amazing given the materials. Tonally it was closest to my Maple/Spruce 614ce but not as much headroom thanks to the soundboard. I also spent some time with an Oak/Sitka Go Guitars travel guitar that had similar Maple like clarity but given the size the back and sides don't have that much affect on tone.

So, based on my very limited experience with Oak I would say it's closest to Maple but I'm guessing the tone could be different from other builders.

Last edited by Ted @ LA Guitar Sales; 07-25-2014 at 02:42 PM.
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Old 07-24-2014, 03:01 PM
psychojohn psychojohn is offline
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Have gotten on EJ Henderson's build list and am approaching it from a clean slate perspective (not blank slate as in unlimited funds, but clean slate as in trying something new from the ground up). Her first suggestion was Oak. She's built a few white oak guitars (most notable of which was for Doc Watson but he died before completion) and so I am just trying to get a sense for it's qualities including bass response, if it has any. Comments so far have already been helpful.

Thanks

John
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Old 07-24-2014, 03:50 PM
Alan Carruth Alan Carruth is offline
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As a material, oak has about the density and hardness of a rosewood, but higher damping; more in the maple class. I would not even consider building a guitar with oak that is not quarter sawn. Flat or rift cut oak will not be anywhere near stable enough IMO. Also, quartered oak looks so nice (to me).

I built 'matched' Classical guitars of oak and BRW some years ago, and tried to get an idea of how the tone differences reflected the properties of the wood. The oak guitar was not quite as powerful for a given input of energy, and had slightly less treble response. I attributed those differences to the fact that the oak back I used was even denser the BRW (which would not be common at all), and ended up heavier, which kept the power down a little. The treble was probably a function of the difference in damping. Overall, they both were pretty nice guitars, and I have to wonder if BRW is really worth the upcharge.

I do like making oak guitars. I hate trying to sell them. Maybe if people would stop listening with their eyes so much that would be easier: everybody loves the way the oak ones sound. I will say that I think it may be more suitable for 000/OM size guitars than for bigger ones. Dreads, in particular, may well need the low damping of a rosewood to work well as lead instruments. Then again, I've never tried to make an oak Dread for lead: maybe it would work fine. Oak Jumbos do OK.
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Old 07-24-2014, 04:25 PM
Phantoj Phantoj is offline
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How does oak compare to ash? I've always thought the two seemed structurally very similar (but I was afraid to ash).
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Old 07-24-2014, 04:45 PM
kydave kydave is offline
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Oak? Tastes like chicken. Er... Sounds like maple...
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Old 07-24-2014, 05:50 PM
bohemian bohemian is offline
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Toasted wheat underpinnings.
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Old 07-24-2014, 05:53 PM
pickitluther pickitluther is offline
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I have enough sets of backs and sides to build three oak guitars.
It is nice quarter sawn white oak with figure galore.
I have one guitar I want to build before that then I will figure what kind of body I want to use one set of oak for.
John Arnold over at the UMGF built a somewhat famous white oak 12 fretter, that has been spoken highly of.
Martin a few years back did a run of some really purdy oak small bodies .
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Old 07-24-2014, 08:55 PM
mercy mercy is offline
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Note that Al said it has high damping. That is bad for any part of a guitar. I really like the look of quarter sawn WHITE oak but I would not spend any money on one. Its just a poor use of money. If you want an unusual wood Hormigo or Paduk make great sounding guitars.
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Old 07-24-2014, 09:04 PM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mercy View Post
Note that Al said it has high damping. That is bad for any part of a guitar. I really like the look of quarter sawn WHITE oak but I would not spend any money on one. Its just a poor use of money. If you want an unusual wood Hormigo or Paduk make great sounding guitars.
I think you misunderstand what that means. Maple is also high damping, and it's one of the most popular tonewoods in the world.

It's a characteristic that can be worked with quite easily if the builder knows what he or she is doing with it.

John, you said Ms. Henderson is interested in using this wood, and has used it before. That right there is usually a good sign - I've ordered a number of custom instruments over the years, and have always gotten the best results whenever I let the luthiers dig into their wood stashes to get a set that they've really been dying to use.

Having said that, if she can get any of her previous oak instruments back from their owners long enough for you to play one, you will undoubtedly get a better sense of what she's talking about and what it will mean for you as the guitar's owner. Considering that you're looking into getting a guitar that you will probably own for many years, it seems to me that it would be a wise investment of both time and money to make a weekend trip to wherever you need to to get a chance to play one.

Hope that makes sense.


Wade Hampton Miller
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Old 07-24-2014, 09:15 PM
kydave kydave is offline
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Sounds like maple, but looks like oak... beautiful oak!







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Old 07-25-2014, 01:47 AM
perttime perttime is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wade Hampton View Post
good trebles, good clarity and volume, but not a lot of overtones.
I've only heard a short live comparison between a "rosewood guitar" and an "oak guitar", built to otherwise same design but with different woods. They were not all that different to my ears. I think that more clarity and less overtones for oak would be a good - rough - description.

I think that these guys will put some video samples online in September or October:
http://www.leonardo-guitar-research.com/
https://www.facebook.com/lgrproject
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