Roasted wood

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by tjclem, Dec 4, 2012.


  1. tjclem

    tjclem

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    I searched adn didn't find somebody that had worked with it. I bought some roasted maple to use for fret/fingerboards and havent' worked with it yet. Just wondering if any of you had?
     
  2. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

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    There was a thread with someone using it within the past year, I think. Or was it just considered and then dropped?
     
  3. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member

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    I've worked with roasted maple a fair amount over the last two years. I haven't used any in my own basses, but I have used it in many of the partial necks that I build for Mike Lipe. We've done about 40 of them so far. Most are roasted flame and bird's eye, plus a few in roasted plain maple.

    The big advantage to the roasted woods is with the highly figured boards. Roasted tight flame or bird's eye boards will be more stable than equally figured non-roasted boards. Normal kiln-dried flamed maple can drive you nuts twisting and bowing. The roasting process settles the wood down. We haven't had any instability problems so far with the roasted necks we've built.

    With straight grain maple, the roasting doesn't seem to have any big advantage that would be worth the extra cost. Roasted woods are typically 3-5 times the cost of a similar kiln-dried board. The roasted straight grain maple boards are stable, but so are our normal kiln-dried ones. I rarely have stability problems with straight grain maple necks anyway. The problems are almost always with figured wood necks.

    What about the tone? (Oh, no, here we go...) There are some claims that the roasted wood has miraculous tonal properties, but I sure haven't seen it. In fact, the roasted necks that we've built have tended to be deader sounding than comparable kiln-dried necks.

    Last year, I built a batch of six of Mike's necks at the same time. They were all the same dimensions and all straight grain maple. Two were roasted, two were fresh kiln-dried, and two were from a kiln-dried board that had been sitting around my shop for about ten years. It was an interesting comparison, and I kept checking their tap tones and characteristics all through the process of building them. The roasted necks were the deadest sounding, the fresh necks had the most ring, and the old necks were in between. In the finished guitars, Mike said that he couldn't hear too much difference between them. If anything, the roasted necks were a little warmer, like necks that are made from soft maple.

    And that makes sense. Working with the roasted boards, you'll find that the outer surfaces of the board are like a tough skin. But the inside of the board is soft and almost powdery. It's almost like MDF, but not quite that much. When you rout it, you get a fine powdery dust that's not good to breathe. Structurally, the roasted boards are definitely weaker. They chip and break easier. They glue and finish well, but the glues and sealers sink way in.

    In summary: Roasted boards are the hot thing right now, this years' buzz. Mike's customers are asking for necks built from roasted boards, and are willing to pay the extra price. In my experience so far, roasted boards make fine necks, but I don't think they are worth the extra money unless you are working with highly figured wood. I still prefer normal kiln-dried straight maple for my Scroll Bass necks. If I were going to build one from solid flame maple, then I would probably spend the money for a roasted board.
     
  4. tjclem

    tjclem

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    Thanks cool thoughts I am looking forward to checking them out.
     
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  6. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member

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    One other warning about roasted woods: The boards have a very strong smell of burnt wood. Even after finishing, I'd swear that you can still smell it.

    Be careful if you have a shop dog! To many dogs, that smell instantly triggers an alert of a BARBEQUE! Which results in an uncontrollable need to FIND THE STEAK! A few years back, I had an elderly Blue Tick Coonhound named Inspector Alf. I remember trying to rout some samples of roasted maple, and Alf went nuts. He was trying to jump up onto the routing bench, because he just knew that I was cooking a steak up there. Believe me, it's not easy running a router with a 110 lb Coonhound trying to climb up on you! And afterwards, I had to lock up the necks and scraps because he was determined to chew on them.

    Be careful about leaving a bass with a cooked maple neck near a dog! Yum!
     
  7. tjclem

    tjclem

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    ��
     
  8. tjclem

    tjclem

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  9. coreybox

    coreybox

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    I've read that roasted maple is stiffer, and more stable, but also more brittle.
     
  10. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

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    For myself is go with Bruce's experience, combined with the USDA - Forest Products Laboratory findings of reduced strength and IIRC stiffness in heated wood.
     
  11. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member

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    It's more stable, that is, it's less likely to twist or bend with changes in temperature and humidity.

    It's definitely more brittle. When you try chiseling it, it's easy to knock big chunks out of it.

    It's not stiffer or stronger. An equal sized board bends easier with fewer pounds applied. I warned Mike in particular that these necks have low impact resistance. A good smack may break the headstock off, rather than just make a dent. No one has broken one yet, but it will happen eventually. That's part of the reason that I would hesitate to use roasted maple for a bass neck. I'm not saying that it wouldn't work, but it would be more fragile.
     
  12. tjclem

    tjclem

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    But ok for fretboards?
     
  13. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

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    Is there any info available for what "roasting" is? Given the time and temperature, I could look up the effect on elasticity. But suffice it to say that at elevated temperatures, you can quickly lose a huge percentage of the material properties.
     
  14. iamlowsound

    iamlowsound

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    There are a few guys over at TDPRI that swear by them and go as far as to roast their own in the oven. IMO, guitar players a little crazy :)

    lowsound
     
  15. tjclem

    tjclem

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    Guitar players...crazy.... You don't say? :bag:
     
  16. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion Gold Supporting Member

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    I love that roasted maple MM neck just beautiful.
     
  17. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member

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    Sure. But it will be a softer piece of wood, more like soft maple. When you finish it, you'll find that it will suck in a lot lacquer before it levels out. Also, it will always have that tan color all through the wood. It won't color match uncooked maple.

    About half of the roasted maple necks that I've made for Mike have "matched" fingerboards. That is, the slice of wood that becomes the fingerboard comes off the back of the same board that the neck is made from.

    The roasted maple is easy to machine. You have to be a little careful not to burn it. If you hold a router in place too long it will scorch easily. No problems with fret slots or inlays.
     
  18. tjclem

    tjclem

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  19. CH Design

    CH Design Supporting Member

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    Hmmm....
    I bought two pieces of Roasted Ash earlier this year in hope of using them for necks. After reading some of the comments here (greatly appreciate you sharing your experiences Bruce), I think I might be better off using them for something else.
     
  20. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member

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    You should be able to use the roasted ash for necks. Just recognize that the roasting process will make the wood somewhat softer, weaker, and more brittle than the same wood would be unroasted. So, compensate for that in your design. Leave some extra thickness at the volute (the transition from the neck to the headstock); keep the headstock thickness at 5/8" or more; don't go super thin on the neck thickness, etc.

    I'd also recommend using some kind of threaded inserts in the heel for the neck screws. The roasted wood won't grab onto wood screws as well as unroasted wood. You don't want the screws stripping out the wood or pulling out.

    Other than that, a roasted ash neck should be nice and stable, and will probably give the bass a deep, warm tone, as compared to a normal maple neck. I haven't seen any roasted ash up close, but I assume that the roasting has a similar effect on the ash as it does on the maple.
     
  21. CH Design

    CH Design Supporting Member

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    [​IMG]

    So a headless set neck might be a good choice as it avoids possible headstock and neck screw issues. Thanks Bruce.
     

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