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Flat Sawed vs. Quarter Sawed Necks

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Dr. Cheese, Sep 14, 2004.


  1. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    I know that flat sawn and quarter sawn necks are one of the differences between USA Laklands ands Skylines. Someone please tell me the difference between these approaches.
     
  2. Suburban

    Suburban

    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Quartersawn has the grain perpendicular to the fingerboard, and yields some extra stiffness compared to flatsawn. Quartersawn is also less prone to warping.
     
  3. RAM

    RAM

    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Flatsawn wood is more efficient use of lumber which yields more product than quartersawn, which is why quartersawn is more expensive to use.

    Flatsawn is cut with the grain, and any figuring is more pronounced with flatsawn.
     
  4. McHack

    McHack

    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!
    If given the choice, go w/ Quarter sawn.
     
  5. Juneau

    Juneau

    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    This is one of the ways Sheldon saves money on Afterburners, they use flat sawn necks instead of 5 piece laminants.
     
  6. Sadowsky

    Sadowsky Commercial User

    Nov 1, 2000
    Owner: Sadowsky Guitars Ltd.
    When making a neck out of mahogany, I would only use quartersawn material. When it comes to maple, quarter sawn is not necessarily stiffer or more stable than flat sawn. I remember at a Symposium many years ago, Rick Turner quoted a US Department of Agriculture study that actually concluded that flat sawn maple was stiffer than quarter sawn.

    I think the most important thing is that the grain runs parallel for the entire length of the neck. If you had a neck blank that was quarter sawn on one end and rift sawn (grain at 45 degree angle) on the other end, I would be wary.

    I use a flatsawn neck blank and a quartersawn fingerboard. My choice is based on cosmetic reasons (assuming that everything I am doing is structurally sound). I like the look of the grain on a flat sawn neck but do not like the look of flat sawn maple fingerboards.

    Roger
     
  7. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    Thanks for the input, Roger!! I LOVE your basses!!

    I would also add that I have an MTD with a maple neck, and I'm pretty sure it's flat sawn. I seriously doubt Michael would use a "second choice" in materials.

    I would say this infers that (assuming in both cases the wood is good with nice parallelism for the entire length) either flat sawn is better (as mentioned above in the cited study) or at least no worse, making it purely a cosmetic choice.
     
  8. xyllion

    xyllion Commercial User

    Jan 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Owner, Looperlative Audio Products
    I own a Rick Turner Electroline and the neck is just beautiful. The neck is maple with a rosewood board. I've had no troubles with stability and the grain pattern is beautiful.
     
  9. McHack

    McHack

    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!
    Wow, Roger Sadowsky pops in! Ya know, that's what makes TB so cool. You simply never know who's going to pop in & participate... I really enjoy that!

    That's an interesting study. I'm pretty sure the neck on my 55-01 is flat sawn maple, where as the neck on my parts bass is quarter sawn wenge. Its unfinished. The grain looks great quartered & it feels great to play on.
     
  10. Stevious G

    Stevious G

    May 5, 2003
    Although I feel kinda like a dink disagreeing with Sadowsky...
    Everything that I have ever read, and everyone that I have ever spoken to on the issue has been very, very adamant in the use of wood which has the grain running perpendicular to the fretboard. Now, this dosn't NECCICARRIALY mean quartersawn-in fact, that is the entire point of laminate necks. You take pieces of flatsawn, turn them 90 degrees, and assemble them, effectively making a board that should behave as a quartersawn would.

    Now, wether maple is stiffer as quarter or flatsawn is somewhat of a moot point, as any GOOD cut of hard maple should be sufficiantly stable to support itself either way, especially with the installation of a trussrod. Now, what makes quartersawn, (or laminate necks,) different is that it is FARRRRR less prone to warping than flatsawn. Wood warping follows the lines of the annular rings. So, when using quartersawn, the ring sections are only as long as the thickness of the neck, making it very difficult for them to warp, especially unevenly. Flatsawn, on the other hand, has ring sections that run the entire width of the neck, and which often change shape while running the length, (which is almost impossible to see without cutting the neck blank apart.) This is what allows for uneven warping and dreaded S-curves. Granted, these problems aren't likely when using top-quality cuts, but still.
    It's the use of flatsawn that makes so many Fenders prone to bad warping, (and keeps Warmoth in business!)

    And as far as looks go; it's the neck. It dosn't HAVE to be pretty. And personally, I would much rather have a good, stable neck that'd last me for years to come than a bit of flame.

    Please; no disrespect intended. I just think it's best to know all arguments.
     
  11. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    Hmmm, not sure if I agree this all totally holds water. In one case, you have wider, but fewer annular "layers", in the other, you have narrower, but a lot more annular layers. I'd say in the end, the risk of inconsistency and some kind of distortion/warp is more or less the same.

    I will agree it mostly depends on the quality of the piece as well as the cured age of the piece PRIOR to construction. I've seen solid birdseye and flame necks, and I've heard (for what it's worth) from their owners there's never been a problem, and I'd think that's a fairly extreme case for an inconsistency or irregularity of the wood issue.

    IMHO.
     
  12. Stevious G

    Stevious G

    May 5, 2003
    "Hmmm, not sure if I agree this all totally holds water. In one case, you have wider, but fewer annular "layers", in the other, you have narrower, but a lot more annular layers. I'd say in the end, the risk of inconsistency and some kind of distortion/warp is more or less the same."

    Well, think of it this way...

    Take a regular 12-inch ruler. Grab one end by the 1-inch mark and the other end by the 12, and try to bend it. Bends pretty easy, eh? That's flatsawn.
    Now, turn that ruler sideways, so you're trying to bend it shortways. It'd be one hand on the inch side and one hand on the centimetre side, (here in Canada, anyways.) Now try to bend it. Good luck. Meet quartersawn.
    Now you can stack as many of those rulers together as you want, going either way. It'll still be wayyy easier to flex the rulers going lengthways.

    Admittedly, I'm only a budding builder myself, but I've done my time as far as research goes. I've attended similar confereces, specifically addressing the growth patters of woods and their potential applications for the construction of instruments. And although some may say that flatsawn is fine, I know I would never use it for a one-piece neck.
    And there's gotta be a reason that many builders use it only on their top-end models, eh?
     
  13. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    Not my direction. In my point, we're bending the ruler the same way. In other words, with flatsawn, it might be more suceptible to string tension, but we have the truss rod to compensate. Now look at QS. THAT's where you get the kind of distortion the truss rod can't help with.

    In other words, you bend the ruler ecactly the same way, you just have a difference in the direction of the distortion.

    Besides, in your example, you're bending agains a thinner wood in one direction, so I don't think that's a fair analogy. It would have to be dowl rod, though I still think the point may be valid, but the difference is MUCH less dramatic, which may affect the case of the neck... especially since we have a truss rod and string tension involved, which are unidirectional forces.

    Again, I prolly haven't done the research you have, but I have done some digging into this, and am just trying to apply basic logic (if applicable here). IMHO, as usual, and I welcome correction.
     
  14. Stevious G

    Stevious G

    May 5, 2003
    No, a ruler is aboot right. Have you ever check'd out the grain patterns on a piece of maple? The difference is actually even more dramatic, as the layers can be thinner than a ruler, and much longer.

    As far as the plane that you are talking aboot, well, it's kind of hard to explain without pictures. I'm at work right now, so I don'really have the capacity to do up any structural-dype drawings right now...

    I know that I've never seen someone have those kinds of trouble with a quartersawn neck. Not to mention, you do have the fretboard attached, which does add stability in that direction yet again...
     
  15. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    No prob. Sounds like you know more about it than I do.
     
  16. Juneau

    Juneau

    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.

    I wonder if its like so many other things in instrument building....everything makes a difference, but is the difference noteworthy enough to worry about? I imagine your right in your thoughts, but maybe its not a huge deal one way or the other. Kinda like leather over pleather hehe. Sure, its nicer, sure it may hold up a little bit better, but it costs more too, so it only goes on high end stuff where money is no object hehe.
     
  17. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    Well, an MTD 535 is pretty high-end, and I think mine has a flatsawn neck (I'm gonna' double check tonight), so it's not like all cheap guitars are flatsawn and all high-end guitars are quartersawn. This is what leads me to go back to the thing that, ok, maybe there is a difference in structural integrity, but maybe that difference is insignificant if the wood is high enough quality and properly cured, which allows one the freedom to select based on aesthetic appeal.
     
  18. Juneau

    Juneau

    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    I agree with that too. Hell my "low end" Dingwall is still a $1500 bass. That makes it pretty high end as far as Im concerned. Especially since many pro's play basses that are well under $2000. It has a flat sawn neck and is very stable. I do know however Sheldon made the choice to use flat sawn to save some money, but I think the quality of wood does reduce the effect this makes enough that it shouldnt be a big concern.

    I was just saying, because it IS more expensive to use quartersawn, you likely wont find it on cheap basses. Not saying high end basses all use quartersawn, more so I mean low end ones usually wont.
     
  19. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    OIC. Totally agreed.
     
  20. Stevious G

    Stevious G

    May 5, 2003
    Are any of them using graphite support rods, though? That's pretty common practice. Often, some of the shortcomings of flatsawn necks can be counteracted by the addition of graphite. They, however, have their own downsides too. Like making the neck TOO stiff to be adjusted easily with a standard trussrod. You have to really fight with them. Then there's the whole "I can hear it in there! It's messing up my tone!" angle, (which I really think is psychosomatic.) It can be a really useful tool, though. Especially when making seriously extended range basses.

    But, if you really want a good, solid piece of wood, with no extra supports or anything necciarry, then I'm still voting quartersawn.

    For example, the bass that I built with Mike Browne is a 6 string 36" scale set neck. It's got one trussrod in it, and that's it. But it was a really good quartersawn maple blank from a very reputable source, (Gidwani from Gallery Hardwoods.) I have no real worries at all that that neck will EVER do anything funny on me, assuming I don't take it to the Mojave or the Arctic. Occasional trussrod tweaks is all she'll ever need.