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Where Do You Purchase Your Buckeye Burl?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Bryan R. Tyler, Jun 2, 2003.


  1. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    I've been looking around for buckeye burl for a top, and I've noticed it's rather scarce in pieces large enough for basses. I've seen large wedges for sale at gilmerwood.com, but where else are quality pieces available?
     
  2. Zon Bass

    Zon Bass

    Jan 20, 2002
    Dallas, TX
    Try Larry at Gallery Hardwoods even if it isn't on his website, he can hook you up with some.
     
  3. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    Alright, I just shot him an email. Thanks guys! Any others you know of in case none is available?
     
  4. Zon Bass

    Zon Bass

    Jan 20, 2002
    Dallas, TX
    Don't worry, if Larry can't get it then it doesnt exist.
     
  5. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Maryland
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Larry is not a big fan of buckeye burl. The stuff warps and cracks the second you resaw it. It is full of voids, dirt, and rocks, so it sucks to resaw. Righteous Hardwoods sells it, but they generally sell it in big slabs.
     
  6. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    Larry sent me this image of a curly buckeye wood that I'm considering (looks a lot lot gonco alves to me), but none of the typical buckeye specimens. I live in the buckeye state, and it's even harder to find good pieces here! :rolleyes: :)
    [​IMG]

    It is quite lovely though.
     
  7. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE
    haha

    here are the tops I was considereing some weeks ago...

    [​IMG]

    I finally let them go...and Chris Benavente bought them ;)

    Larry sent me some sample from the same ,log I believe as he thought buckeye was a bit soft for my oil and wax finish.

    I've talked to Matt (FBB) who build Xush's 8 strings bass (buckeye top and oil finish) and I'll let him maybe tell us again what he thinks of it.


    Peace, JP
     
  8. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Maryland
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Well, since you asked...

    Buckeye burl is miserable. Larry's stuff is not burl, per se. The stuff sold as burl is root ball from buckeye trees, and this stuff comes from west coast. Being the root ball, it's full of dirt, rocks, bark inclusions, and scorpions. They usually get rid of the scorpions, but all the other stuff you get to keep.

    The stuff I get is in big 50+ lb slabs. You need to get at least a 50lb slab to find clear regions big enough to make bass tops. Once you have charted the slab, you get to try and saw through it. The slabs are always very rough cut. Once you mill up a rectangular billet (no small task), you resaw it and then it starts warping and cracking. Like no other wood. It is not very dense. When you glue it down, it cracks some more. The dust smells and shouldn't be breathed in (the blue stain is fungal). It drinks oil like a sponge, but as a result, the oil hardens, and the buckeye becomes reasonably hard.

    So, when I spoke to Larry about buckeye, he really didn't want to touch the stuff because of the above reasons, plus he thought it was too low density to transfer resonance to the body very well. I used an exposed neck-thru on all the basses I've built with the stuff, so the resonance debate didn't really apply. This recent batch of buckeye that Larry found was not root burl, if I remember correct, but very curly with some interesting blue stain. He felt reasonably certain that this stuff would be easier to mill, more dense, and more stable to the point where he went for it to sell as tops.
     
  9. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    Scorpions? Wow, I knew a lot of luthiers didn't like working with it, but that's a REALLY good reason to not like it.'

    I'm going to go with the curly fiddleback piece Larry showed me; there's no inclusions by the look of it, and it should look great with the complementing colors of the neck.
     
  10. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    Larry Davis of Gallery Hardwoods also sent me these pics of the log my top was cut from. It's the only buckeye burl log he's ever seen.

    [​IMG]

    He also wrote this article on buckeye burl; very interesting stuff. All copyright and credit for this article belong to Larry Davis and Gallery Hardwoods.

    "BUCKEYE
    A wood most deer to knife makers
    Funny name, "Buckeye", but this popular handle wood has another equally unusual name as "Horsechestnut" Thanks to Dennis' encouragement to do these articles I've had to crack the research books a bit wider than normal and have uncovered many interesting (to me) wood facts along the way including the source of these two nicknames. We'll get to that shortly.

    Buckeye belongs in the Hippocastanaceae family and the genera Aesculus with several species world wide. Aesculos californica or "California Buckeye" is the species most used by knifemakers, I believe because wood suppliers have access to good amounts from cutters on a consistent and dependable basis. We harvest our burls directly in the Sierra foothills about forty miles from the shop. California Buckeye seems to like growing in shallow, rocky soil so burls are generally not large or deep underground like walnut or maple burls can be, and tend to be more "saucer" shaped with ingrown rocks that play havoc with chain saws (sigh).

    Buckeye wood is soft and porous and doesn't have much commercial use except a past history in the prosthetics industry. It's light weight, stable fiber made carved wooden "legs" and such desirable from it. It also has use as a fine carving wood. When freshly cut, Buckeye's color is creamy yellow and the highly regarded blue and grey colors only show up after the wood has aged and fungus has produced a stain in it. This coloration is unpredictable (darn) and fortunately some knife makers prefer all grey color and others prefer a mix of grey and yellow while others like the solid yellows. Buckeye must be stabilized to be of good use.

    Buckeye gets it's name from the resemblance of the large, shiny brown seed with it's pale scar upon it to the eye of a deer....buck eyes. This source, I was aware of but the Horsechestnut name was a surprise. Seems Matthioli, physician to Emperor Maximilian II, received a specimen from Constantinople in 1565 with information that the Turks fed their horses meal prepared from seeds. Matthioli gave the tree the Latin name of Castanea equina. Later this was translated into Greek as Hippocastanum, and Linnaeus adopted this form in the name he gave to the tree, Aesculus hippocastanum. Both the Latin and Greek names mean horsechestnut.