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Agathis...is it a "crap" wood?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Airsick Pilot, Sep 25, 2002.

  1. Airsick Pilot

    Airsick Pilot Cleopatra

    Jul 29, 2002
    Cockpit(throwing up)
    Anybody?Since there are no Woods section, I guess this is the best section to post this at. Im getting a Cort Action 4 bass soon and it has an Agathis body. Is agathis any good or is it crap like a plywood?
  2. mikgag

    mikgag Guest

    Mar 25, 2002
    Ibanez GSR's are made with it. I had one. It's VERY light and doesn't have much tone to it. It's cheap, but not plywood.
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    So that's a Yes, then? ;)
  4. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    Some points

    1 bump for the luthiers
    2 the quality of the wood and the number of pieces are two seperate issues.
    3 As to the quality of wood used by Cort let someone qualified answer it.
  5. mikgag

    mikgag Guest

    Mar 25, 2002
    I guess I'll shut up then........thanks.
  6. CS


    Dec 11, 1999

    I dont mean to be as harsh as it sounded (read? looked?). Cone41 (hmm a 'punk' influence methinks) started the thread in basses and was directed here to the pro section.

    I meant no offence and therefore apologise.
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Wood of the Month
    - Ron DeWitt
    Kauri Pine (Agathis australis). A Softwood
    ARAUCARIACEAE. Araucaria Family
    (Southern Hemisphere evergreen trees)
    There are about 20 species of agathis in the world, all very large trees and all found only in the southwestern Pacific region. The kauri pine (Agathis australis), also known as agathis, almaciga, cowrie or kauri, is an ancient tree native only to northern New Zealand and is not a true pine. First appearing in the Jurassic Period 190 million years ago, it was among the earliest of the big coniferous trees to develop. The kauri pine is the largest and most famous of New Zealand’s trees and among the largest trees found anywhere in the world.

    Standing old growth trees today average 100 feet high with cylindrical stems almost 10 feet in diameter. These trees are typically free of branches for 60 feet. They are 400-1000 years old. Their first branches may be six feet in diameter. Tani Mahuta, native Maori language for “Lord of the Forest,” at 166 feet tall and almost 18 feet in diameter, is the largest standing kauri pine. It is estimated to be 2100 years old.

    The largest of these trees ever recorded was over 24 1/2 feet in diameter and clear of branches for 72 feet. Early explorers looking for replacement masts for their ships, reported war canoes of single kauri logs, some to 95 feet and carrying 100 men.
    Young trees (to 50 years) grow rapidly, producing narrow conical crowns and branches along the full length of the stem. As the top of the tree emerges above its neighbors, the stem self-prunes, top branches begin to develop into immense crowns and stems begin to add mass, a process that goes on for hundreds of years.

    The thick, leathery bronze-colored leaves of young kauri pine are elliptical, two to four inches long and half an inch wide. Mature tree leaves are dark blue-green about an inch long. The leaves have parallel veins and arise on the branchlets either alternate or opposite one another. Male and female cones may appear on separate trees or together on the same tree. The two- to three-inch spherical female cones mature in about three years to shed their winged seeds.

    Bark of the kauri is relatively smooth for the first forty to eighty years of its life before developing thick scales that it continuously sheds in great profusion. This shedding keeps air plants like mosses and lichens from attaching to the tree, but results in great mounds of bark scales surrounding the base of the tree. The bark also exudes large quantities of yellow gum.

    The heartwood of kauri is light brown to rich reddish-brown; sapwood is a very light brown. The color is usually quite uniform although excessive resin content may produce some yellowing. The wood has a characteristic speckle as if sprinkled with pepper, a useful feature for identification purposes.

    Growth rings are not well-defined and in some cases not discernible. The transition from earlywood to latewood is very gradual.
    Rays are very fine, uniseriate (one cell thick) and quite resinous resulting in an attractive but subtle ray fleck on quarter sawn surfaces.
    The wood is straight-grained, fine-textured and lustrous with little character or figure.
    Wood of the Month, continued from previous page
    This wood dries slowly with little tendency to warp, twist or cup, and with only minor degradation. Tangential shrink, green to 12% moisture content is 4.1 percent; radial shrink is 2.3 percent. Heartwood of old growth timber is very stable. It is durable when exposed to soil or weather. It should be noted that sapwood of old growth trees and heartwood as well as sapwood of second growth trees are considered non-durable and much less stable.

    Kauri has a specific gravity of about .56 and weighs about 39 pounds per cubic foot at 12 percent moisture content, similar to Douglas fir.

    It ranks among the strongest of the softwoods.
    The wood is easily worked with hand or power tools, leaving smooth surfaces and clean edges. Sanding must be done carefully in the direction of the grain. It takes fasteners well, glues satisfactorily, paints, stains and takes most finishes well, and polishes to a soft luster.

    A thin coat of sealer may improve uniformity of stained surfaces. Careful handling in the shop is necessary to avoid surface dings. It carves very well and turns nicely but as far as turnery is concerned, it has been described as producing “singularly uninteresting” results.
    It has a faint pleasant odor and no distinct taste. No toxicity is reported when working with this wood but the usual breathing precautions are advised.

    Kauri has a worldwide reputation as a quality wood. Like so many of the fine species throughout the world, it too has been used to near exhaustion. As resources are depleted, recycled wood is being recovered from barn beams, church pews, etc. Even the tops of old trees, cut 90 years ago, are being retrieved, some by helicopter!
    Another variation is “swamp kauri” recovered from deep in marsh areas in its native habitat. Some of these downed trees have been radio carbon-dated at least 40,000 years old (the extreme limit of radio carbon dating). Although the appearance of this wood is improved with beautiful coloring, mechanical properties such as strength are greatly diminished.

    A related industry is gum gathering. Kauri gum is the resin that oozes into the bark from any injury. It builds into large, hard lumps that eventually get pushed off with the bark. Over millions of years vast quantities of this very durable gum have accumulated in the ground.

    Because it burns easily, native New Zealanders used gum for fuel and light. It was also used for chewing gum and burned to make a dark powder for use in tattoos. Outstanding pieces of kauri gum, known as copal, were carved and polished. More recently trees were notched to encourage the bleeding of fresh gum. Commercial uses for the gum include high quality varnish, paint, linoleum, denture molds, sealing wax and marine glue.

    Kauri has been used as a great all-purpose wood. It was the wood of choice for boats - some still in use after 100 years. It was used for ship masts and spars, railroad cars and cross ties, bridges, wharves and even road paving. It was used extensively for furniture including school desks, tables, benches and for bath tubs as well as woodenware. An important application was for tanks and vats for breweries, textiles, dyeing and chemicals especially in acid handling industries such as tanning. It is quite desirable for foundry patterns and large carvings.

    National policy in New Zealand prohibits felling old growth trees for timber production but does permit harvesting some second growth timber. Reforestation and regeneration are contributing much to the return of the great kauri forests. The rest will take hundreds of years.

    At present, available reserves of kauri pine are limited and very little is exported from New Zealand. Most commercially available
    material is from Australia, Fiji or Malaysia. When available much of it is second growth, clear and quarter sawn, priced similar to yellow
    poplar and cheaper than clear pine.
    Of local interest, agathis or kauri pine is carried at Curtis Lumber in Ballston Spa, NY. Available to 14 inch widths in 4/4 thickness and to 12 inch widths in 5/4 thickness, it’s priced starting at about $3.00 per board foot for the 4/4 narrower boards.
  8. DigMe


    Aug 10, 2002
    Waco, TX
    Yeah, but does it sound good as a bass? :)

    brad cook
  9. mikgag

    mikgag Guest

    Mar 25, 2002
    duely noted:) :) :D
  10. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    If it looks good and sounds good, then it shouldn't matter whether it's cheap or not.

    I use sassafrass, and it looks and sounds great. It is also one of the cheapest woods in the yard. The stuff is like swamp ash but it smells better. The bottom line is that almost any solid wood can be used with good results in a solid bass body.

    That said, it's kind of unusual to use a softwood in solid body instruments. ;)
  11. Turock

    Turock Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2000
    Some of the DeArmond basses are made from Agathis.
  12. My p-clone is made out of agathis. I guess the wood was too soft or something becuase the bridge kept ripping out of it! its getting repaired right now...

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