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Is this wood usable?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Landy67, Nov 9, 2013.

  1. I was clearing up some fallen trees in my yard today, and I found this Cherry burl.

    Most of the tree had lots of rot, but this burl is solid all the way through. It's 26" wide, and 30" long. I made the mistake of cutting it in half, thinking it was rotten. The figure in the wood is gorgeous, with only 2 visible voids that are typical on cherry.

    Can I salvage the wood from this burl to make a bass body?

    Should I try to find a pro to cut and dry the wood, or have I messed it up to bad by cutting it in half?

    If I have it cut, or if I cut it myself, how thick should I cut the pieces?

  2. lbridenstine


    Jun 25, 2012
    People usually use burl as a top and not for the whole body, and I assume as long as it's dried you shouldn't have a problem doing that. I think probably like 1/4" - 3/8" thick if you're using it for a one piece top would be good. If you want a bookmatched top, cut it twice as thick plus the kerf of the blade.
  3. JustForSport


    Nov 17, 2011
    Not in any spec order:
    Mistake I made with a 'find' is that I didn't at the time know to seal/ semi-seal the cut grain to keep it from splitting/ checking badly. Some use wax, or tar, etc- don't want to stain/dye a limited amount of wood, tho.
    No saw mills near my local, so I had to use a chain saw to make approx 2" thick planks, plus some thicker cuts for a poss quarter sawn neck.
    Wood needs to be sawn to plank/ board thickness 'soon' to allow it to dry at a relatively uniform rate- keeps splitting/ checking at a minimum, otherwise it dried from cut grain first ('cause it can).
    Research these things to your satisfaction- I'm no expert, this is what I've learned while trying to preserve what I came across, and want to know what to do in the future, before I waste more of a limited resource.
  4. KEEP IT, let it dry out. Once cut two part epoxy the divots and rock... This what you'll get...


  5. That sure is pretty, but you really HAVE to take the time to dry the wood to a humidity level that will remain stable. IF NOT, the wood is likely to crack and your top will be rendered, well, cracked.

    Air drying takes a long time unfortunately...
  6. A solid body made of a burled wood is going to be dead. Burl figure looks nice, but it's junk wood with no desirable resonant qualities. That (along with workability and availability issues) is why people usually only use is as a thinner decorative laminate over straight-grained wood.
  7. That piece dried for about a year before I sectioned it and roughed it out. It sat for six months in that state, then I cut it to a rough state again letting it sit for about three months.

    Then did the nasty. All this was done in a humidity control environment at 45 percent. As far as it being tonal or not I will find out real soon.
    I know it won't be a "bright" sounding guitar..
  8. Wood densities.

    Solid Density (103 kg/m3) (lb/ft3)

    Cherry, European 0.63 43- 56
    Mahogany, African 0.5 - 0.85 31 - 53
    Mahogany, Cuban 0.66 40
    Mahogany, Honduras 0.65 41
    Mahogany, Spanish 0.85 53
    Walnut, Amer Black 0.63 38
    Walnut, Claro 0.49 30
    Walnut, European 0.57 35

  9. Wherever there is burl formation, the density will be wildly variable, depending on the location within the piece.
  10. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    What do you base this conclusion on?
  11. Konquest


    Aug 26, 2003
    Yup. Throw out all conventional stats where tree deformities and to a lesser extent, figured wood is involved. Plus: you stretch out a pretty board with resawing...
  12. The fact that the density of the wood is not consistent. The resonant frequency changes all throughout the material, depending on where you have dense burls, and where you have regular grain, and where you have voids, and where you have bark pockets, and so on.
  13. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    A distributed resonant response based on varying density does not equate to dead sound as would be caused by a high damping factor.
  14. Seal the end grain even if it's with any old latex paint you've got in your garage.It will help reduce splitting as it dries.I've had some cherry logs sawn and they painted the ends with latex paint.I've also had walnut sawn and they didn't seal it,much more splitting at the ends of the boards.Cherry can be very beautiful!! If you're able to resaw it please post some pics!
  15. sowilson


    Jul 5, 2013
    Cut a few slabs (1" thick), seal it (wax, shellac, whatever), throw it in a brown paper bag with shavings, and let sit for a year or so. Then resaw a nice bookmatched top, plane it, and build away. Make the body out of something useful like ash or mahogany.
  16. Yes

    and yes again, both great ways to aid in a slow dry...
  17. Is slow dry better than Kiln drying?
  18. djtecknick


    Aug 18, 2013
    Marietta, GA
    Keep it. This is what it looks like

    Attached Files:

  19. djtecknick


    Aug 18, 2013
    Marietta, GA
    Some more

    Attached Files: