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Tiger striped maple necks prone to warping?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Jim T., Jan 11, 2004.


  1. I read in a back issue of BassPlayer, an article by Rick Turner (if I remember correctly) that tiger striped/fiddle backed or other highly figured maple bass necks are very weak and prone to warpage. (Birdseye was ok, said he...)

    Do you luthiers agree? I have a friend with a beautiful Ibanez tele copy with a tiger striped maple (fiddleback) neck and he's had no problems but then it is a guitar neck.

    Turner(?) said that hundreds of years of fiddle/violin builders who used figured necks were wrong.

    What's the scoop as I'd like a heavily striped neck one day. I'd consider using bubinga or other laminates in combination if you think that would be necessary.

    Thanks!
     
  2. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Maryland
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Tiger striping is caused by oscillating fibre orientation in the wood. There are a couple of reasons to be dubious of tiger maple. One is that when wood moves, it moves based on how the fibers are reacting to changes in climate. This might mean that tiger maple is somewhat less predictable. It also means that there are waves of "runout" in tiger maple where fibre orientation causes wood to be weaker and more likely to split under severe stress.

    All that said, I have used flame maple in necks a handful of times and some of my favorite instruments were the result. These instruments are still young, but I remain fairly confident that flame hard maple can safely be used in modern instruments as long as they are well build and the wood is well seasoned and sound throughout.
     
  3. Thanks FBB. I assume that the addition of one or more lamination stripes of different woods
    (walnut, birdseye maple, etc.) would afford extra warpage protection? Are there any other luthiers here who have tiger stiped necked instruments that have been out in the world for a few years or more? I've never heard of a problem with these necks on orchestral instruments but the bass guitar is a different animal tension wise?
     
  4. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Prone to warping?..... NO
    Less stable?????? Depends on the wood, how it was dried and how it was cut as well as how the neck is made.
    The first Smith Basses were made from Curly/Tiger (Red) Maple aka soft maple. The Red maple is very hard but not as hard as Sugar(hard) Maple.
    These Necks were 3-Piece with a 1/4" Morado Strip in the center of the two Curly/Tiger Matched Halves.
    They were made in 1979. I have never had to fix any of these necks. They had a 1/4" Morado fingerboard as well.
    Double Basses usually use European Maple or Sycamore Which is softer than hard maple but works fine for the past 400 years. Why try to change history?
    We have used hard maple ever since the first Basses and rarely find any Tiger figure in the lumber.
    When we do use the Tiger figured hard maple in the necks, they seem to work just fine. All of our necks are 3 or 5-piece laminated with the occasional 7-piece. All Fingerboards are about 1/4" thick to start and sometimes thicker. The fingerboard plays a major role in the stability of the neck. Good and Bad !!
    We have never noticed any 'stability' advantages with our 'Graphite'inlaid system with the exception of world travel and extreme tempertures.
    Graphite added to a bad neck just makes the bad neck stiffer and with higher resonant frequencies.
    The neck will still pull the graphite if it is bad.
    Tiger figured necks are beautiful but must be made well to survive.
     
  5. Thank you for your very concise answer Ken !
    I really appreciate your taking the time to respond in such detail. I think it's safe to say that your word is good enough for me! Sorry that I didn't respond in kind, sooner.

    I'm involved in "elder care" at the moment and it's gonna delay the start of my project for now...

    This is reassuring and I'll start looking for my neck wood now.

    Have a prosperous New Year Ken . Jim T.
     
  6. kboyd

    kboyd

    Jul 6, 2002
    Loranger
    I have noticed my bass neck made of curly red maple with lams of bubinga and ebony is not quite as stiff as my bass necks made of hard curly maple with bubinga lams.
    I just put together a bass neck with horizontal lams of wenge/purpleheart/wenge with a stabilized wenge fretless fingerboard. Jesus, this thing is incredibly stiff. I can put it across my knee and hardly bend it.
    Will make a great 6 string :)
     
  7. schuyler

    schuyler

    Aug 5, 2003
    Atlanta, GA
    the problems i've seen and heard about with warpage in highly figured maple seem to be related to the grain orientation, and not the figure of the wood. there is a tendency to cut figured wood(tiger, curly, birdseye, quilted) to best show off the figure, not considering how the grain (growth rings) lies.

    in my experience, if the wood is properly oriented according to grain and has been dried well, then it should still be relatively stable. in the end though, every piece of wood is unique, and it's ultimately the responsibility of the builder to use his or her best judgement in choosing the right board for the job.