Tonewoods question for luthiers

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
flamenca blanca

Tonewoods question for luthiers

Post by flamenca blanca » Fri Jun 15, 2007 1:50 am

I'm looking to purchase a guitar with solid sides and back. What individual characteristics differentiate Brazilian rosewood from Indian rosewood?

alfalfa

Post by alfalfa » Fri Jun 15, 2007 12:47 pm

I'm not a luthier, but have played guitars made the same way by the same luthier with the only difference being the material used for the back and sides. To me, Brazilian has more "sparkle" or liveliness. Of course, if you have great Indian and mediocre Brazilian, the Indian is probably a better choice. But if you have great Brazilian and great Indian rosewood to choose from, I think that usually the Brazilian will have a little more going on sonically.

MarkJ

Post by MarkJ » Fri Jun 15, 2007 12:56 pm

Brazilian is 10 to 20 times the cost of IRW and will add $800 to $2,500 to the cost of an instrument, depending on the quality and cost of the rosewood. Brazilian will crack (it is only a question of when). Brazilian smells way better when you plane or sand it. Brazilian can have more interesting figure. Some believe Brazilian is superior tonally, others say the skill of the luthier can offset any difference there.

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Peter Oberg
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rosewoods

Post by Peter Oberg » Fri Jun 15, 2007 4:50 pm

Brazilian- From Brazil, exhorbitant in price, scarse in good quality, sometimes risky to bend, sometimes very beautiful, dense, nice sound, traditional bias.

Indian- From India, very reasonably priced, seriously plentiful, easy to bend, sometimes very beautiful, not as dense, nice sound, exceedingly common.

Conclusion- Spend the money you would have to shell out for good Brazilian on a trip to the tropics, where the ocean is warm and the tradewinds soothe away the stress from making this decision.

p

Dan Kellaway

Post by Dan Kellaway » Sat Jun 16, 2007 1:03 am

It would be easy to get sick of this perennial subject. There's no comparison with the tonal qualities of B versus I. The 'B' which is Dalbergia Nigra is superior in every way, from looks to sounds. The 'I' which is Dalbergia Latifolia is by comparison much duller in these same attributes and often has more obvious resin although it will finish nicely.
Have a look at a range of steel stringed guitars that offer these alternatives[eg Martin, Taylor, Collings] and usually a mahogany alternative as well. I'd usually choose the mahogany over the Indian there, but the Brazilian usually shines, if you can afford it.
However why are you wanting solid back and sides? Laminating gives a superior result in most cases without all the problems of cracking that you get with solid. As well you are less likely to end up with Wolf notes.

But if solid is for purely aesthetic reasons then why compromise with boring old Indian. It's not that aesthetic to my eyes.

flamenca blanca

Post by flamenca blanca » Sat Jun 16, 2007 3:31 pm

I suppose I should have been more specific in my question. I actually was interested in physical characteristics (such as BR cracking over time) than aural qualities, which is highly subjective.

Marcus Dominelli
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Post by Marcus Dominelli » Sat Jun 16, 2007 4:12 pm

Hey Flamenca Blanca,
You're going to have to change your handle to 'flamenca negra' with such an interest in rosewood!
There are a lot of great comments here on the two rosewoods.
It's very difficult to generalize about the physical difference in the properties of the Indian versus Brazilian. I build almost exclusively with Indian rosewood, but use Brazilian, and increasingly more with Cambodian rosewood and other Dalbergia's.
The properties of the wood has less to do with what species of rosewood it is and more to do with the growing conditions encountered by each rosewood tree.
There is old growth Indian rosewood which is hard and heavy, and there is plantation rosewood, used to shade coffee trees. The plantation rosewood has wider grain, and tends to be a lot lighter in weight that the old growth stuff.
I have been told that Brazilian rosewood is now being grown in plantations in Brazil, but that the trees won't be ready to harvest for a long time. These trees grow fast and therefore won't have the higher density of the old growth wood.
Is this plantation wood bad for making guitars? Certainly not. If it's straight grained, well quartered, and seasoned properly, it will be fine for guitars.
A good luthier will take the lighter weight of the plantation grown wood into account when voicing the guitar. He may decide to make the back thicker, or laminate the sides.
But many luthiers are still 'stalking the wild asparagus', and want the old growth wood. Some argue that it is more reflective and is therefore better for concert instruments, where projection and clarity are required.
We've started to see African Blackwood, Ebony, Honduran, and Cambodian rosewoods employed for backs and sides on concert guitars to achieve this end.
I think that the jury is still out on whether or not these woods, often being extremely hard and heavy, make better quality concert guitars.
I heard Paco Pena play his blanca in the Q.E. theatre in Vancouver some years ago. He filled the hall with that small cypress box....
At the end of the day, I still believe that the skill of the luthier, and the design of the guitar is more important than the type of rosewood used.

Marcus Dominelli
Dominelli Guitars

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James Lister
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Post by James Lister » Sat Jun 16, 2007 7:35 pm

Marcus Dominelli wrote: At the end of the day, I still believe that the skill of the luthier, and the design of the guitar is more important than the type of rosewood used.
I'll second that!

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

Nacio de Falla

Post by Nacio de Falla » Sat Jun 16, 2007 9:02 pm

jmdlister wrote:
Marcus Dominelli wrote: At the end of the day, I still believe that the skill of the luthier, and the design of the guitar is more important than the type of rosewood used.
I'll second that!

James
well.......better make that a third! :lol: :wink:

Dan Kellaway

Post by Dan Kellaway » Sun Jun 17, 2007 11:35 am

Just a note about the question of BR cracking over time.
This is entirely to do with the original dryness of the wood plus the relative humidity that the instrument was built in.
That is then contrasted with the environment in which the instrument lives. If this environment happens to be much drier than the original beginnings of the instrument it will probably crack, no matter what sort of wood it was made of.
If BR is treated properly in this regard it is perfectly stable. I have worked on Martin guitars from as old as 1834 many of which are made of BR and they rarely crack.
When they do it's almost certainly due to having been subjected to unusual climatic conditions.
So the short answer is if it's built right and you look after it there should be no problem with BR.

Pepe Vergara

Post by Pepe Vergara » Sun Jun 17, 2007 5:47 pm

Agree with most of what has been said. However, I think BR produces such a special sound color better than anyother wood. Cocobolo is a close second to BR. Indian Rosewood is a third close place to me. I do not use cocobolo for several reasons (health protection is one!). I use mostly Indian rosewood. I do lots of BR but with the stump wood available nowdays. Not the most beautiful, but with great sound.

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Michael.N.
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Post by Michael.N. » Sun Jun 17, 2007 10:16 pm

Anyone worked with Bubinga? I've worked with it but not for musical instruments. Might just prove to be at least as good as Indian.

Pepe Vergara

Post by Pepe Vergara » Mon Jun 18, 2007 3:45 am

Michael.N. wrote:Anyone worked with Bubinga? I've worked with it but not for musical instruments. Might just prove to be at least as good as Indian.
I read somewhere that Hauser believes Bubinga is second only to BR. I have not tried it yet. However, I have to sets that I will use one day to see if tht is true.

tatodoc2002

Post by tatodoc2002 » Sun Jun 24, 2007 7:34 pm

Anyone worked with osage orange?

Marcus Dominelli
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Post by Marcus Dominelli » Mon Jun 25, 2007 1:08 am

I know a guy here on Vancouver Island who has made a couple of guitars with Osage Orange. They looked really cool.
His name is Steve Heizer, and he has a web-site, so try to google his name and it will probably come up.
Cheers,
Marcus Dominelli

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