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Author Topic: All Wood Or A Wood Top  (Read 3711 times)

Offline GrizzlyBearBob

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All Wood Or A Wood Top
« on: March 07, 2012, 08:58:51 PM »
Hello, I was wondering if there is a benefit to having an all wood guitar compared to a solid wood top and laminated back and laminated sides model.  I noticed Washburn builds all wood guitars which made me curious. Thank you . ....Bob
Thanks be to God for our blessings.

Offline YerDugliness

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Re: All Wood Or A Wood Top
« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2012, 07:36:31 AM »
Like most things, the news is good and bad.

All solid wood guitars are very desirable for most of us who have been playing guitar for a long time.  The cellular structure of wood involves a "gel-like" substance that clings to the insides of the cell membranes.  That gel-like substance generally inhibits sustain, but the good news is that as the wood ages that gel-like substance dries out and as it does that empty spaces inside the cells develop more ability to vibrate (much like a bell), which improves the overall sound of the guitar.  This process is called "opening up", and depending on the type of tonewoods it can happen quickly or take a long time.  The phenomenon is also dependent on the guitar being played....letting it sit in the case does little to help the process.

"Laminated" wood does not undergo this transformation because of the contribution of the glues, as well as the fact that each type of wood used in the laminate will have its own resonant frequency, which will all compete with each other.

Having said all of that, it is generally accepted that the majority of the tonal contributions from the tonewoods comes from the soundboard.  That means that a guitar with laminated sides and backs, but a solid-wood soundboard, will demonstrate the tonal improvements that come with ageing, but to what degree?

Do the sides and back make that much difference?  Well, think about their function...they are necessary to entrap a volume of air inside the guitar and then set that volume of air into sympathetic vibration as we manipulate the strings, which set the soundboard into vibration.  Does that require that the sides and backs be all solid wood?  No, but then most of us who have solid-wood guitars can attest that we feel the sides and backs of an all solid-wood guitar vibrating as we play it, and there has to be some contribution to the tonal makeup of the guitar from those vibrations...and, as solid wood ages and "opens up", those contributions will become more evident over time.  THAT is why many of us buy guitars that are all solid-wood.

Take a look at your playing habits, and other habits in general.  Are you someone who will keep your guitar(s) for a long time, or do you prefer to supplement your collection  frequently, resultling in a lot of turnover?  Not sure?  How do you manage your cars?  I keep my cars and guitars for a long time, prefering to maintain them well throughout their lives, but others would rather not be bothered. It's all a personal choice.

The bad news regarding all solid-wood guitars IS the increased maintenance they require.  They are much more sensitive to variations in humidity and can crack quite easily if not maintained in humididy-controlled rooms, or at a minimum inside their cases with humidifiers during dry weather.  Sure, cracks can be cleated, but that's a job for a luthier and most of us would rather avoid all that expense, not to mention being without the guitar while a luthier takes their own sweet time getting to the repair. 

Is it worth it?  Only you can decide.....

If you are new to the pleasures of playing a guitar, my suggestion would be to begin with a guitar with a solid-wood soundboard and laminated sides/backs....you'll get a decent amount of tonal improvement as the "opening-up" process proceeds, just not to the degree that you will experience with one made of all solid woods.  As you get more experience, as you decide which style of guitar really speaks to you (that's a combination of size, shape, tonewood selection, scale length, nut width, even string material) you can then pursue "the one" that you won't be able to part with...THAT ONE would be a good candidate for an all solid-wood construction!

Cheers, Bob, from.....

YerDugliness,Esq./Post No Bills
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Washburns:WD32SW,D61SW,D62SW,C124SWK,
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Offline mcloud10

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Re: All Wood Or A Wood Top
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2012, 12:20:25 PM »
+1

Well said, Dugly.   8)
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Offline t.y.

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Re: All Wood Or A Wood Top
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2012, 01:35:46 PM »
Y.D. As always,  I like how you explain things. Tom.   :) :)

Offline GrizzlyBearBob

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Re: All Wood Or A Wood Top
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2012, 09:26:02 PM »
Hi Dugly, a big thank you! I now understand the differences and learned a couple things that I was unaware of. ....Best wishes, Bob
Thanks be to God for our blessings.

Offline Pining

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Re: All Wood Or A Wood Top
« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2012, 04:07:03 AM »
I would like to add you get what you pay for, as a general rule.
All wood is more expensive than laminate for a reason when dealing with the same type of guitar.
(You can get cheap all wood guitars and expensive laminate guitars, generally not under the same banner.)
There are many places in the world where the weather is not going to affect the all wood guitar.......(unless of course you leave it out in said weather!)
 

Offline Tony Raven

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Re: All Wood Or A Wood Top
« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2012, 11:04:31 PM »
The "all wood" guitars hold their value better. Years down the road, people will pay more for a used guitar that's got higher-cost materials.

IME, laminate ("plywood") tops are a little quieter & not as tonally rich. But for a guitar that's going to see a lot of gigs &/or be stored in a wide range of temp & humidity, I'd go for a good laminate every time.
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Offline t.y.

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Re: All Wood Or A Wood Top
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2012, 02:18:19 AM »
A good quality all lam, can sound great. Tom.    :)

Offline Pining

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Re: All Wood Or A Wood Top
« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2012, 01:56:22 AM »
I can't honestly say I've played an "all laminate" that I have ever liked.
"Solid top," yes, but "all laminate," no.
 

Offline Rocket

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Re: All Wood Or A Wood Top
« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2012, 06:19:48 AM »
I can't honestly say I've played an "all laminate" that I have ever liked.
"Solid top," yes, but "all laminate," no.
Agreed...
Back & sides make up the sound chamber and can be made of anything hard enough to reflect sound properly but for decent transmission of string vibration, must have at least a decent tonewood top plate that can resonate.
Plywood, particle board, or laminated non-tonewoods are just not capable.

Offline YerDugliness

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Re: All Wood Or A Wood Top
« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2012, 10:37:15 AM »
Rocket, remember the black Epi AJ100 I bought from you and Rockette?  It was an all-lam guit...I thought it had a nice, mellow tone and for a few years it went with me whenever I was out 'n' about.  I was generally pleased with it and people with whom I played commented positively on it, although as you say it was a bit down on volume.

I gave it away to a promising young musician who had destroyed one of Takamini's lower-end guitars (at least I THINK it was a Tak product...it was a "Jasmine", is that Tak?)...he claims he still has it and plays it regularly.

I do a lot of tent camping....have upsized my tents as I have aged (I, on the other hand, have downsized about 30# in the past few years)....no longer happy with a 2 person tent, now it's a 6 or 7 person tent with enough room for a guitar stand/guitar, as well as a playing chair in the tent for those "less than acceptable weather" days.

I was not unhappy with the Epi AJ100....just couldn't stand to see a 28 year old (who could play rings around me) living without any sort of an acoustic guitar (he has at least one electric, to my knowledge, maybe two, not to mention mandos and a sitar and more bizarre stuff).

Having said that, though, I must agree about the tonal complexity issue...lams don't have it, solid-tops do.

Cheers from.....
YerDugliness,Esq./Post No Bills
Guitar Playin' FOOL, attempting to age disgracefully!
Washburns:WD32SW,D61SW,D62SW,C124SWK,
WMJ21S(2),WGO26SCE,WSJ60SKELITE,WG26S (2).
Other fine acoustics:Breedlove custom shop 000,Hippner #506 Hauser,Takamini 2005 LTD,Epi Masterbilt AJ500RC

Offline Rocket

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Re: All Wood Or A Wood Top
« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2012, 11:31:20 AM »
Rocket, remember the black Epi AJ100 I bought from you and Rockette?  It was an all-lam guit...
That was Rockette's... and that's why she didn't like it. Too soft for serious play and cost of installing electronics outvalued the guitar.

Offline YerDugliness

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Re: All Wood Or A Wood Top
« Reply #12 on: March 14, 2012, 11:36:43 AM »
That was Rockette's... and that's why she didn't like it. Too soft for serious play and cost of installing electronics outvalued the guitar.

Yeah....all true.

I put a set of medium strings on it and played it with a heavier pick...took care of the volume issue, no help for the tonal complexity. Never gave any thought to juicing it (although, I think the next thing I'll do to the Masterbilt AJ500RC is get it juiced up).

Cheers!
YerDugliness,Esq./Post No Bills
Guitar Playin' FOOL, attempting to age disgracefully!
Washburns:WD32SW,D61SW,D62SW,C124SWK,
WMJ21S(2),WGO26SCE,WSJ60SKELITE,WG26S (2).
Other fine acoustics:Breedlove custom shop 000,Hippner #506 Hauser,Takamini 2005 LTD,Epi Masterbilt AJ500RC

Offline Tony Raven

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Re: All Wood Or A Wood Top
« Reply #13 on: March 16, 2012, 10:54:42 PM »
It's definitely one of those "YMMV" situations. I know a few players who turn up their little noses at my mere spruce-top guitars, because (to them) there's NOTHING that creeps up on a select cedar top for tone.

Well, I'm an old hard-rocker with a strange love of folk tunes, so I can readily get away with whanging madly at any old box. I can play some sweet jazz on an archtop, but (weirdly perhaps) this doesn't translate to flat-top. Spruce is about my personal level -- while I can goggle at the tones of a cedar, it's mostly wasted on my paltry abilities.

Back in Santa Fe, I spent a wonderful afternoon at a shop (now apparently defunct, alas), & among the highlights were a carbon-top & Martin aluminum-top. I laughed, I picked them up, my jaw hit the floor -- really, these things sound AMAZING. Use of dead trees is minimal, less than you'd find in an Ovation.

There's plywood, & then there's plywood. Again, IME, a top-notch plywood won't have a chance (tonally) against a mid-range single layer of wood. But there's plenty of tonewood that's poorly selected, or covered in too much finish, so "solid wood" is NOT by any stretch a guarantee of tonal quality.

I should also point out that a quality guitar needs to "age in" to achieve a rich tone. A new guitar can sound too crisp (the wood is still marginally wet) or too muddy (the glue hasn't set to its full rigidity). And an acoustic that sits unplayed for years will not sound as good as one that has been played heavily over a similar span -- it's as if the glue needs to be pushed into its final place by the vibrations running through the body.
M1SDL; XB-400 (natural), XB-400 (burg), XB-500 (teal); X-10, X-33; D46CESP, WCSD30SCE; BT-3, BT-4, BT-6, JB-80; WS-4; WI-66V; Lyon LCT24; OS Autoharps

resident troublemaker: http://cheapguitars.boards.net/