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Neck blank: issues with curly maple

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Basschair, Oct 22, 2005.

  1. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    Hi all,

    Not too long ago, I glued up a bubinga, hard maple, and curly maple neck blank. The curly wood seemed to have decent figure, and I needed some extra width, so I added it. Well, when I bandsaw'd and planed the lam edges, it turned out to have crazy curl, far more than what I expected.

    Now I'm having issues with chipping and tear-out when I run it through the planer, going either direction and on either side. What should I do? I don't have a thickness sander or anything like that. I just need one good run through a planer so that one of the faces is flat and without chips so that I can glue down the fingerboard to that side and not have to worry about chipping gaps between the neck and the fb.

    Your thoughts and suggestions are greatly appreciated...thanks!

  2. Adding to the ends is worse for wood that causes tear out, 'cause it may occur on all 3 faces/sides.

    I don't know much about planers (is it a thickness planer?), but what I've heard is that they need to be setup ok. So, for difficult wood it would probably need to be setup to take fine shaves. Tear out and chipping can also occur if the blades are blunt, so ensure they are very sharp.

    So, assuming the planer is setup ok and still causes tear out. You could sand it or plane (hand plane) it out. I use a hand plane (smoother set for very fine shave with a closed mouth with a very sharp cutter, and plane in different directions depending on grain direction) for difficult wood, especially wood that has grain in different directions. A stock Stanley (especially a new one) probably won't cut it unless it's been given an overhaul. This can be tricky, so if your not confident with hand planes and planing this type of wood don't try it on your laminate.

    Alternatively, you could remove the curly maple and use something else.
  3. JSPguitars


    Jan 12, 2004
    Grass Valley
    time for a thickness sander..... :p
  4. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    I've got some good planes (Lie Nielsen), and had thought about trying that next. Still, I may see if I can find someone around here with a thickness sander before that...
  5. JSPguitars


    Jan 12, 2004
    Grass Valley
    Just ask Hambone to build you one of his real quick! J/K :smug:
    I'd build one, but they just seem too damn complicated for my skills. :bawl:
  6. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Curly wood will lift up under planer blades unless they are very sharp. Sprial cutterheads can handle it, but that probably doesn't help much, does it? The grain direction undulates making it difficult/impossible to find a feed direction that won't cut against the grain with a regular cutterhead. I have heard that wetting the wood can help, but I have never tried it.

    Look in the yellow pages for fine furniture makers or millwork places and start asking around for people who will run it through their thickness sander. It may cost you a few bucks but your options are limited for tuning your own machinery to handle curly woods.
  7. gyancey


    Mar 25, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Also feeding the blank into the planer at and angle lowers the effective angle of the blade which helps. It imitates the skew cut handplane people use when dealing with figured wood. Also don't try to take off more than 1/64" at a time. With a skew cut and really small increments (maybe even 1/128") you can deal with curl.
  8. Scott French

    Scott French Dude

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    I've got a thickness sander up in Auburn if you want to borrow it for a few minutes. Long drive from Stockton though.
  9. Yes, Greg Yancey hit it right in the head. Skew cut (at an angle) and very light depth of cut is the only way to deal with this. Also, if you are handy with handtools (hehe, handy, get it?) I would suggest using a well tuned hand plane. I usually use handtools on figured wood and a handplane is best.
  10. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    If you want to ship it I will put it through my thickness sander..Or find one localy.......t
  11. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    Wow, guys, thanks for all the input! I may give the offset-angle feed a try. If it doesn't work, then I may just hit you up on that Scott: that's not too bad a drive, and it'd be cool to meet someone from the group.

    We'll see what happens...
  12. nateo

    nateo Schubie Fan #1

    Mar 2, 2003
    Ottawa, Ontario
    I've had quite a lot of success with moistening figured wood to reduce tear out. I wipe the wood down with a wet rag, let it sit for a moment, and then run it through the planer on a very shallow cut. By "wet" I mean a rag that I've taken out of a dish of water and rung out quickly by hand. You don't want to leave standing water on your wood, but it needs to be damp enough to penetrate and loosen the grain on the surface. I find that if you do things right a shallow planer pass will cut off just about all of the moistened wood, leaving a dry surface. This means that for every pass you'll have to wipe down the wood again.

    I'm sure there are any number of people who'll get upset with the idea of putting water on wood and then feeding it through a power tool, but it's given me some pretty significant success. I've also never noticed any warping of my neck blanks because of it, since the wood that's left never really gets wet. My only real advice is to keep experimenting until you get something that works.