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Working with Avonite?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by JTGale, Jan 16, 2006.

  1. JTGale


    Oct 26, 2004
    Hummelstown, PA
    A friend of mine has an idea of using some new material called Avonite (spelling?) to build an arched-top acoustic bass. Has anyone ever heard of this stuff? He was talking about heating it up and using a vacuum table to suck it onto a mold while it is still malleable. Also, he was wanting to route a groove in the top and bottom to fit bent wood sides into. Not sure on the rest of the design. Sounds kinda like working with aluminum except it is all a type of plastic. Just curious ...

  2. Avonite is a product of WilsonArt. It's an engineered acrylic polymer designed for counter surfaces. It is similar to Corian* and is worked the same way. It comes in several varieties simulating stone, marble, aggregate, and sandstone, and in solid colors. It's pretty heavy and certainly dense. Your friend is talking about a fairly simple process using 1/8" thick(?) sheet and a large/wide heater capable of getting the stuff heated to something in the 275º-300º range and soft before pumping the air out over a handcarved contour plate.

    We use this stuff (and other brands) to make architectural signage because it's easy to work with wood tools, polishes to a high gloss, and can be engraved. But I doubt seriously it's viability as the top of an acoustic instrument. This stuff just doesn't have a tap tone in the thickness you need here. And with all the time the experts take to find the right response in the wood for their tops, I'm pretty sure this will be a dud. But it would do for an interesting albeit heavy top for a solidbody.:D
  3. T-34


    Aug 11, 2005
    France, Paris region
    What is this "nitron" stuff Gretsch used for their chambered electrics as a top material ? Plastic, impregnated wood or somehing else? It is always used for their drum kits shells.
  4. I had to do a little research because the word "nitron" is quite popular in a lot of different areas.

    But essentially what I discovered is that "nitron" is a physical deposition vapor coating. It's used on firearms and, as you noted, the shells of Gretsch drums. The process deposits tungsten, titanium, or other similar compounds onto metal surfaces to create a hard, resiliant coating. The black matte shells from Gretsch is a perfect example of the process. You can see how it would be a natural for applying to handguns and the exposed parts of long guns.
  5. JTGale


    Oct 26, 2004
    Hummelstown, PA
    Thanks for the info, Hambone. Somehow I didn't think the "plastic" stuff would be very active in the tone catagory. He had talked about using 1/4" sheets, but I will let him know that there are 1/8" sheets available. It will be interesting to see if he can pull it off. One thing I forgot to mention on my original post is that he wants to build this Avonite shell around a neck-through pice of wood. I think Stew Mac and Carvin both sell a ready-to-go neck through, sans wings. I will let you know how it turns out.

    Thanks, again!