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jorge_s
Member
Username: jorge_s

Post Number: 81
Registered: 8-2002
Posted on Thursday, April 20, 2006 - 1:50 pm:   Edit Post

I am very curious to find out why guitars and basses made today have such beautiful wood. Particularly maple guitars have such incredible figure. Even inexpensive brands are able to have spectacular tops. When I look at electric guitars from the 50ís and 60ís you just donít see that as often. I have seen some beautiful Les Pauls and stunning archtops but even these were usually not bookmatched. I wonder if it is due to a more ďglobalĒ economy and better distribution of exotic wood? Perhaps I just havenít looked hard enough.
hydrargyrum
Advanced Member
Username: hydrargyrum

Post Number: 204
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Thursday, April 20, 2006 - 2:24 pm:   Edit Post

Well,

If I may care to venture a guess, Fender did a lot to spur on the painted guitar phenomenon in the above mentioned era. At the time, the sleekly painted stratocasters were the height of the modern manufacturing age. Some felt they looked futuristic compared to the traditional wood grain and sunburst guitars of the past. This may have influenced the market for decades to come.
valvil
Moderator
Username: valvil

Post Number: 876
Registered: 7-2002
Posted on Thursday, April 20, 2006 - 4:05 pm:   Edit Post

That's an interesting question. I 've thought about it myself on occasion; I can think of a couple of reasons which might explain it.

I bet that most companies did not use really fancy woods because they thought it would be overkill;
in the early days, companies (Leo Fender for sure) were looking to make mass produced instruments that the general public could afford. Topping them with expensive woods, would have not helped. Painting the instruments with solid colors makes it possible to use cheaper woods with plain grain or even cosmetic blemishes, thus reducing the cost of materials.

It really wasn't until Alembic and other small makers got into the action that you started seeing fancy woods on a regular basis. To compete with the big boys you need something special to make your instruments stand out, and fancy woods are a great way of doing that.

I think your observation on the more "global"-internet fueled economy is also quite valid and likely has a lot to do with the fact that we see so many instruments with nice woods these days.


Valentino
bigredbass
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 748
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Saturday, April 22, 2006 - 11:39 am:   Edit Post

Another point not to be missed is that so many other makers use solid finishes. Ever see the wood under a stripped Black Les Paul Custom? THAT's why they painted them.

Sonically it sounded great, but eliminated hand sorting, book matching, saved money, all of which is REAL important when you're slamming out a couple hundred guitars a day. That sort of hand-picking the woods was usually reserved strictly for the best archtops or box guitars: Straight grain spruce, fiddle back/ flame maple for the back and sides, etc., since these were usually in see thru finishes. Solid bodies were regarded as a lesser instrument after these, so in the mindset of the day, you didn't see the fancy woods in them as often. That's how you wind up with flame top Pauls from the late 50s that are obviously NOT book matched on top, yet so dearly lusted after. Archtops were Lincolns, solid bodies were Fords.

It's just become the standard style for traditional electric guitars. You can see very expensive Custom Shop Fenders and Tom Murphy Gibsons all over the place, but the twists applied are rarely the body or neck wood. Fender occasionally offers 'other wood' examples (they're offering Koa Strats this year, Gibson periodically reissues something in korina) but these will NOT be big ticket items at Gruhns or Elderly 20 years from now. The only exception I can think of are the Rosewood Teles because of George, but they're usually so heavy it limits their appeal.

I'm hoping as more and more acoustics show up in exotic woods, this will influence electric style.
I'd be interested to pick the Warmoth Brothers' mind, what would be the rough mix of Strat bodies and necks they sell in traditional (ash, alder, maple) vs. non-traditional (mahogany, koa, laminated top, etc.) woods. Or the percentage of ebony fingerboard necks.

Guitar players are way more locked into a more narrow tradition than bassists, instrument wise.
Except for our friends here who drive Tributes, California Specials, etc., obvious examples of much higher intelligence and impeccable taste ! !

J o e y
jazzyvee
Advanced Member
Username: jazzyvee

Post Number: 399
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Saturday, April 22, 2006 - 12:38 pm:   Edit Post

Beware of some of the cheaper guitars that have seemingly highly figured wood tops and backs. These are photorealistic laminates similar to those you see on laminated floors and not genuine good quality exotic wood.
davehouck
Moderator
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 3685
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Saturday, April 22, 2006 - 2:27 pm:   Edit Post

Wow! I didn't know that.
jacko
Senior Member
Username: jacko

Post Number: 613
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Saturday, April 22, 2006 - 6:25 pm:   Edit Post

I very nearly bought a dining table like that. Even the underside had a laminate so that the whole looked like solid wood. Turned out to be MDF! You really have to read the small print these days.

Graeme
lidon2001
Intermediate Member
Username: lidon2001

Post Number: 138
Registered: 4-2005
Posted on Saturday, April 22, 2006 - 6:32 pm:   Edit Post

Fender Foto Flame. I always liked this "rumor".

http://www.bunnybass.com/e-zine/amusing/amusingbass24.shtml
keith_h
Senior Member
Username: keith_h

Post Number: 407
Registered: 2-2005
Posted on Sunday, April 23, 2006 - 6:20 am:   Edit Post

"Fender foto flame ...."
The pattern looks more like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas to me.

Keith
davehouck
Moderator
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 3689
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Monday, April 24, 2006 - 10:34 am:   Edit Post

I don't understand. What exactly is a photo realistic laminate? What is it made of?
dadabass2001
Senior Member
Username: dadabass2001

Post Number: 562
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Monday, April 24, 2006 - 10:52 am:   Edit Post

Very thin slices of lamb, wedged between photos of a Radio Shack warehouse.

(yum, yum)

the midday punster
davehouck
Moderator
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 3692
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Monday, April 24, 2006 - 11:40 am:   Edit Post

Mike; Radio Shack - Realistic; hah! Lunch is over, go back to work!
lidon2001
Intermediate Member
Username: lidon2001

Post Number: 139
Registered: 4-2005
Posted on Monday, April 24, 2006 - 11:46 am:   Edit Post

Dave, I assume the process uses a clear film that has the flame figuring printed on it. The film is applied to the body parts, then finished over.

T
811952
Senior Member
Username: 811952

Post Number: 712
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Monday, April 24, 2006 - 12:17 pm:   Edit Post

My Lakland Skyline fiver has a photo-realistic veneer. Looks awesome with a tobacco sunburst, but certainly seems like cheating to me.

John

photo-finish
colin photo-finish
keith_h
Senior Member
Username: keith_h

Post Number: 408
Registered: 2-2005
Posted on Monday, April 24, 2006 - 12:25 pm:   Edit Post

Boy John you sure seem to have held up well over the years. LOL.

Keith
davehouck
Moderator
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 3695
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Monday, April 24, 2006 - 12:48 pm:   Edit Post

Hmmm ... it seems to me the I must have known this at some time in the past but just no longer remember. So I've learned something new today, even if not for the first time!

So if you owned a Fender bass (as in the Fender Foto Flame mentioned above) and took it to your local luthier to have the neck shaved, he would be sanding a piece of plastic?

Keith; those Laklands sure have long necks!

John; nice house!!
mica
Moderator
Username: mica

Post Number: 3272
Registered: 6-2000
Posted on Monday, April 24, 2006 - 12:56 pm:   Edit Post

Another thing to consider is that traditionally, most woodwoerkers used available (local) materials. Purpleheart decks? Ebony railroad ties? Rosewood floors? Sure, where the materials grow. Now, exotic, imported materials are much easier to come by.
davehouck
Moderator
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 3697
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Monday, April 24, 2006 - 1:11 pm:   Edit Post

In the house I lived in before my current home, I was just a few hundred feet from the rairoad tracks. And I loved the sound and feel of a coal drag rumbling through! But Ebony railroad ties!! (I wouldn't mind having a nice Purpleheart deck and some Rosewood floors too!)
keith_h
Senior Member
Username: keith_h

Post Number: 409
Registered: 2-2005
Posted on Tuesday, April 25, 2006 - 4:05 am:   Edit Post

Dave,
They sure do. After seeing this one it makes you wonder why people complain about the reach on long scale Series basses. :-)

Keith
811952
Senior Member
Username: 811952

Post Number: 714
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Tuesday, April 25, 2006 - 5:56 am:   Edit Post

Keith - That's just a photo-realistic finish I'm wearing! I could choose between "8 year old boy" and "goat," so I chose the one less likely to get hoof and mouth. Or maybe that's simply how young I *feel* when I get to play music with my friends. I know you can relate.

Dave - As for the house, thanks. It's waaaaay too much house for us, but it sits invisibly far back off the road in the woods (about 100 feet from where Tracy and I were married), and isn't completed yet. We did everything but the exterior log work and roof ourselves. Ugh. If I could do it over, I would have paid someone to build it. One day it will be finished (or nearly so) and then we can sell it and move to Nova Scotia or back to Alaska. One day...

We never considered the photo-realistic flooring, because it really doesn't stand a chance in a house with my family. We Fords are inclined to destroy that which we touch. We went with bamboo instead (save the trees and such) and are quite pleased.

I think if the Foto-finish gets a young person (or old) interested in picking up an affordable instrument to noodle around on, then that's not a bad thing. If the noodling comes to naught, then we haven't wasted a good tree. If things instead work out and the person continues to play, they will follow their bliss to something that resonates both musically and with their soul, and that's not a bad thing.

John
davehouck
Moderator
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 3704
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, April 25, 2006 - 6:24 am:   Edit Post

John; sitting invisibly far back off the road in the woods sounds great! I keep getting the impression that Nova Scotia is really nice; but maybe a bit cool in the winter. Bamboo floors; I think that was discussed in a previous thread a few years back; sounds like a great idea!

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