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Difference between normal, flamed, and Quilted woods

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by belair57, Dec 16, 2000.

  1. Does anyone know what the difference, soundwise of flamed and quilted woods as opposed to regular. Also, there are too many kinds of woods for the neck and body to list so does anyone know of a website or something listing these woods and there different characteristics. If anyone knows of one it would be a great help as I'm thinking of ordering a custom bass but have too many options and don't know what to do with them.
  2. The quick answer to your question is that there isn't any difference in sound quality between a specimen that shows figuring and one that doesn't. "Flame", "quilting", "Tiger striping" are all terms referring to a twisting of the fibers of the wood that causes light to reflect from it differently. All species will show this in certain samples. They will however cost more as raw lumber and as a finished product.

    For more answers go to the "Setup" forum and look at the various topics on wood selection. There will be some good info there.

    For a REAL education, go to Yahoo.com and do a search for Exotic Hardwoods. There will probably be over 50 sites from suppliers and a lot of these give excellent descriptions of the woods. They do not and cannot tell you how they will sound precisely in any given instrument. It would be best to talk to your builder to get his impressions.
  3. Bass7755

    Bass7755 Supporting Member

    Oct 27, 2000
    Roanoke, Va.
    Hambone, You know your wood! Dan
  4. Cirrus

    Cirrus Guest

    Apr 30, 2000
    Las Vegas, NV
    You said wood.
  5. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Hey! I've got wood!:D

    All 5 of my basses, not one bit of graphite in them!
  6. mwbonsall

    mwbonsall Supporting Member

    Aug 2, 2000
    Casa Grande, Arizona
    You need to play a bass to see if you like the sound and feel of the instrument. If you order one, make sure you can send it back if you do not like it. A lot of factors come into play regarding sound quality, mainly your personal preference. What is great to me may suck for you, and vis versa.

    good luck

  7. Skip


    Mar 22, 2000
    Bronxville, NY
    Different types of the same woods may sound different, but not much. The only real issue is strength. The whorls, striping and flame patterns are usually due to stressed or sick trees. The patterns actually weaken the wood. Quartersawn wood looks better than flatsawn and is more stable. Strength is really only needed in the neck, and then only if its unsupported. Graphite neck supports allow almost any wood to be used in bass construction. In the body it is simply a matter of taste.


  8. Skip, I would put to you that most figuring (certainly not spalt) is genetic and not necessarily a sort of flaw as you have suggested. Of course, some is caused by stress but that, in and of itself, doesn't weaken the wood. This type of stress may be from wind exposure, or from the way a tree had to develop in it's particular growing location. Either way the patterning in these types of figure are compressions of the fibers, essentially into a more dense grain. IMO that isn't a "weakening" of the wood. If the selection of figured wood is sawn in the correct orientation as you have suggested, it will retain all of the strength needed for it's purpose.
  9. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    i second hammy on that one - many of my conklin necks have highly figured flame maple as the neck wood, along with purple heart. these necks are extremely stable.

    figuring will not necessarily weaken a piece of wood.

    now, on the other hand, spalting is caused by a fungal growth in the wood - this undoubtedly will have an adverse effect on the strength of the piece of wood.
  10. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    When I was trying to decide which woods to order, I referred to http://www.kensmithbasses.com . Click on the "Wood Species" button. At the bottom of each page a short description of the tonal characteristics is given. It only lists the woods Smith uses but they use many different kinds and they also give other names assigned to them.

    [Edited by rickbass1 on 12-27-2000 at 01:59 PM]
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    A short description is right! For quilt maple it just says "warm and bright". While I can't deny this, I was hoping for more of a description that characterises the sound. I know what it is in my head from experience, but can't describe it in words. I suppose the point is that tone is subjective and almost impossible to put into words - we all hear things slightly differently and as I've said in the amps forum many times; one person's "warm and mellow" is another person's "dull and muddy".

    I know I like maple best and I know the characteristic sound I want, that it gets me; but I have no idea how to describe that characteristic sound in words.
  12. Skip


    Mar 22, 2000
    Bronxville, NY
    Sorry if I was confusing, and/or incorrect on my statements. Most of my information comes from summer jobs long ago at boat yards and lumber yards not from luthiers.

    I did not mean to imply that figured wood was less stable than plain grained wood - it is not to my knowledge. I would expect it to be more stable because the grain moves in many directions as opposed to one direction. My stability statement was meant to be a comparison of flat and quarter sawing techniques - sorry for the confusion.

    I was always told that straight grained quartersawn wood was stronger than figured woods. This may be for two reasons. One is that the use that the wood was being put to was very different. In construction (home, furniture or boat) the goal of the load bearing members is usually consistent strength for a given weight or cost. The way in which straight grain handles stress is fairly consistent. Figured wood can have weak spots because of the patterns in the wood that can handle less stress than the member as a whole. The second is a practical issue in that most figured wood gets used for veneer or decorative work and the only non-straight grain wood that is seen in a pallet of lumber used for load bearing is truly knotted, spalted or diseased.

    None of this probably apples to bass construction, as the only part of the instrument under load is the neck. And the neck can be supported with other materials. It also probably is not anywhere near its load limits in any case (my assumption based on watching people try to break basses on stage - the necks always separate from the bodies before the neck breaks) :)

  13. I see where you're comin' from there Skip and I agree that the difference between flatsawing and quartersawing necks is great.

    The only thing I can add is that in both boat and dwelling construction, a single piece of lumber is a small part of the whole construction and gets some stress relief from the piece right next to it. In basses the neck is fully 1/2 - 3/4 of the system and has stress applied in a way that you won't find in very many boats or homes. Like you said, with the addition of trussrods and stiffeners like carbon fiber, you'll be hardpressed to ever break one.

    Good post!

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