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Spalted Maple Top Alternative?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BtHt83, Feb 3, 2013.

  1. BtHt83

    BtHt83

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    I'm in the beginning stages of having a custom built and had my mind set on a spalted maple top cap. However, my luthier (DP custom - no I don't care what you think about his work) sent me a piece of spalted maple because he wanted me to be aware of how fragile it is.

    I've got to say now, that I'm really hesitant to use it. I was able to snap it along the grain with minimal pressure between my thumb, fore, and middle fingers. After snapping it about 4 times, the individual pieces' edges were really soft, and spongey, like cork, or that wood for a toy wooden airplane/glider (see attached). :meh:

    Has anyone had any negative experience with spalted maple as a top cap? Any advice on an alternative? I love how it looks, but don't want to risk the integrity of the instrument.

    He did say that he could use some techniques in the finishing process that can "firm it up" if I want, but somehow that seems less than ideal.

    Help?

    Attached Files:

  2. bassgod0dmw

    bassgod0dmw Supporting Member

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    Once you glue it to the actual body and cover it with poly it's not going to matter all that much how fragile it is now.
  3. bassman10096

    bassman10096

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    +1 Spalted woods are soft and often have holes in them. Typically they are glued, then filled and stablized with epoxy before clearcoating. As a result, they have about the same sonic characteristics to a similar thickness sheet of formica (no worse for the sound than a thick finish on one side). But they sure are purty!!
  4. BtHt83

    BtHt83

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    :scowl:

    Hmm, that's what I was thinking. How much effect does a top cap have on the sound though? Doesn't most of your sound come from your neck and main body woods?
  5. phillybass101

    phillybass101 Supporting Member

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    if you want an alternative how about burl maple? I do however like spalted maple tops.
  6. elgecko

    elgecko

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    20 years old and still going strong. If you want spalted, go spalted!

    [​IMG]
  7. BtHt83

    BtHt83

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    Check this - My luthier, DP, got back to me today with an email: :)

    "for your consideration:

    I found this at my local hardwood supplier ....
    very nice pencil line spalting, good coloring, and no punky areas! Unlike the maple, this stuff is nicely firm, solid. fronts and backs look similar ... won't know exactly the patterning till I slice and bookmatch them.

    It was so nice looking I bought these 2 just on spec ..I'm sure someone will want it ... you got first dibs"

    While I typically associate tamarind with food, this may be a nice alternative...

    See, for example:

    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f57/spalted-jazz-pickups-555487/

    Attached Files:

  8. BtHt83

    BtHt83

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    Mehhhh, it'd have to be the right piece.
  9. BtHt83

    BtHt83

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    Good to hear, thanks!
  10. lettsbasses

    lettsbasses

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    Spalts and burrs are soft. When you glue them to your substrate they are fine. You the saturate them with ca glue and fill any gaps, voids withca glue and wood dust. The final product is perfectly acceptable. Some burrs are unusable without acrylic impregnation.
  11. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

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    It's pretty clear he doesn't want to work with the wood. As others have said, once it's glued to the body it's not fragile any more. Burls are probably more difficult to work with than spalt. If properly applied in the build, there aren't any problems with spalted wood for the end user. The beauty of the wood is what I go for. Here are a couple of my spalted tops - no problems at all.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
  12. BtHt83

    BtHt83

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    Niyyyyce - those are absolutely gorgeous.

    In fairness I don't think it's that he doesn't want to work with it, he just wants be to be fully informed before making a decision:

    "From my experience with spalts these areas would tend to be very soft and "punky" ... think cork-like. They will dent and scratch relatively easily. Remember that spalting is another word for rotting, and all those colors come from hungry microbes and fungi eating away at the wood cells. ( I will see if I can find a small piece in my stash I can mail to you to illustrate how light and flimsy it can be). I can firm it a little in the finishing process by impregnating it with a stabilizer ... in some cases I've even used clear epoxies. But I'd be remiss if I didn't call this characteristic to your attention.

    So, as long as you're informed and accepting the limitations of the wood.


    I'll try to get that sample in the mail right away to you, but regardless if you are convinced that you want to go with one of these just say so and I'll order it right away to be sure we lock it in." [emphasis added]
  13. bass12

    bass12 Fueled by chocolate Supporting Member

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    How thick is the top going to be? Regardless of any tone wood debates, one thing most luthiers that I've heard discuss the subject seem to agree on is that a thin top won't have any noticeable effect on tone. As for stability, the only trouble I've ever had with a piece of top wood was because it was too hard and stubborn. The wood in question was macassar ebony and it refused to move with the wood it was laminated to (with the typical expansion/contraction that wood can experience with changes in humidity) resulting in a separation of the wood at the join. Honestly, I wouldn't be too concerned.

    P.S., that tamarind looks pretty cool. Reminds me of mango.
  14. BtHt83

    BtHt83

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    Yeah, he told me that the top will be thin enough that it will almost purely be cosmetic. That's kinda what I wanted others' opinions on.

    But still, something about injecting it with epoxy or whatever seems weird to me.

    He just wanted me to be aware that it may be more susceptible to dents and scratches. I don't plan on going Pete Townsend on it, so you may be right, it may not be much to worry about.
  15. T_Bone_TL

    T_Bone_TL

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    It also depends a LOT on the specific piece of wood, and how far along it is.

    You have a range that starts at "solid wood" and ends at "pile of rot" - spalting is in the middle. The sample you got was towards the rot end. I have maple that's nicely lined and solid, and I have maple that's in need of acrylic stabilization to be used for much of anything. Some from the same log, sawn at the same time. Some in the same board. The lower third of this one is pretty dodgy (where it looks "fuzzier"), but the upper part and the visible end are quite solid (where you can see more of the grain.) Its a 2 inch slab that's around 24" wide, as far as I recall.

    Spalting is boundary lines between warring fungus communities that are rotting the log. At an early stage you can get the lines in pretty solid wood - at a later stage you have a punky mess. When you dry the wood, it stops rotting.

    Attached Files:

  16. elgecko

    elgecko

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    That's gotta be the best top for metal! :bassist:
  17. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass Supporting Member

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    Very true, with "thin" being defined as 1/4" or less. That's typical, as the figured wood is there as bling and nothing more.

    A few builders offer tops that are 1/2" or more, but that's rare, and thick tops would be tonewood, and not something like spalted maple.

    If DP is hesitant to work with spalted maple, then don't "Push" him into it, go with something else. :)
  18. BtHt83

    BtHt83

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    I just googled mango/spalted mango basses/guitars. I found a few, which are badass (to the point where I might seriously consider it), but I'm mostly seeing ukuleles. What's up with that? Is it expensive?
  19. bass12

    bass12 Fueled by chocolate Supporting Member

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    I don't know. I was introduced to mango as a top wood by Michael Tobias. I haven't seen it on too many basses (which adds to the charm a bit for me). My next MTD will have a spalted mango top (and Mike T uses thick tops). Don't worry about the idea of a top being injected with epoxy or another stabilizer - luthiers do this all the time. :)
  20. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

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    Jerzy and George never felt compelled to issue such a caution on their spalted tops. There are no limitations to the player. It's of no consequence once the bass is built. He doesn't want to work with that wood.

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