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Top/Table Grain

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by eerbrev, Dec 27, 2011.

  1. eerbrev


    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN
    Hello makers and repairers,

    There's been a lot of discussion in the "Basses" forum about old instruments, and I have noticed that some of these old basses have flatsawn, or partially flatsawn tops. I have heard some explanations regarding why this was done, including luthiers not really giving a hoot, and unavailability of large pieces of quartersawn.

    i guess what i kind of want to know is what sort of affect does this quartersawn wood have on the bass, and is it going to be good, bad, or just different? and if it's good, why don't we do it, if it's bad, does that mean these surviving basses are good despite this imperfection, and if it's just different, why don't people still do it?*

    *I know that Jason Sypher has bass with quartersawn wood on the top, but his bass seems to be an exception, and from what I gathered from the thread the luthier's work is considered "rough".

    thanks in advance for the information, guys. cheers in the new year,

  2. Dr Rod

    Dr Rod

    Aug 19, 2005
    I have played so many great basses that were made with flat sawn wood, knotted wood, or multiple piece tops with the grain going every which way, that I am convinced that what really matters is the skill of the maker, and very little else.
  3. George700DL


    Jan 9, 2009
    Rumano Solano offers both slab-cut tops and quarter-sawn: Solano Basses | Gallery

    I made my top from 16 spruce pieces, but I think it still qualifies as "quartersawn" :)

  4. anybody find the repair less diffulcult in a quartered top since for the most part they tend to split straight,w/good vertical edges,etc. flatsawn seems to have little direction,just the path of least resistance?
  5. jtlownds


    Oct 3, 2004
    LaBelle, FL
    Slab cut wood is more prone to warp than quarter sawn.
  6. eerbrev


    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN
    So is it a freak of nature that these other slab cut tops have survived so long, or was something done to keep them from warping, such as extra drying time? Is slab cut wood more prone to warping because of the less even grain?

    This sort of stuff fascinates me.

  7. George700DL


    Jan 9, 2009
    Come to think of it... do slab cut tops really crack all that much? I can't picture why they would?
  8. i don't believe it is a freak of nature..just a balance...and the builders intuitve knowledge of the materials and it's limitations.
    trial and error go a long way.
    look for failure in wooden things in your everyday life...how the fence post split,the floor opened up,the maul handle broke,a tree, snapped at 30ft.etc... notice success as well, and the long enduring qualities when the materials suit the application.
  9. Schoolhouse

    Schoolhouse Thomas Andres- Bass Makers

    Dec 7, 2006
    Northern Virginia
    We are making our first slab sawn top now. Historically, basses with grain that runs out are less arched then the vertical grained examples. Maybe this has something to do with it?
  10. powerbass


    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
  11. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    Quartersawn lumber swells and shrinks half as much as flatsawn. In a bass top, the additional movement (with flatsawn) in such a wide plate can cause all kinds of issues with cracks and openings elsewhere on the instrument. Also, almost all old flatsawn bass top plates have sunken severely, have been re-arched, and considerable repair wood has been added to help the top plate keep from sinking again. Most higher-end modern makers avoid using flatsawn wood because we worry about problems down the line. Flatsawn tops can sound really good however, because flatsawn wood is weaker than quartersawn, and in a bass, weaker equals wider vibrations (more bottom). If I were to use a flatsawn top, I would only use wood that has been severely tortured, over-dried, then re-acclimated. And I would carve it thicker than quartersawn wood.
  12. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    Sinkage is an issue. I know someone with a very old Italian slab cut bass which looks like a Dali painting:)

    (edit: my Pfretzchner is caved in as well, but not in such an interesting way)
  13. eerbrev


    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN
    Thanks for all the info guys, and thanks for the response, Mr. Schnitzer. Super cool to learn about all of this stuff and get some answers from people in the field.


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