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PostPosted: Thu May 16, 2019 6:48 pm 
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Joined: Thu Feb 21, 2019 10:51 am
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Location: Fishers, IN
In looking at tops for my first build (000 12-fret, walnut or honduras) I'm attracted to the idea and color of torrefied Sitka, but have read that it can be brittle so was wondering how touchy it is to work with (and does it matter if you use torrefied bracing)?

I also like all the wonderful options at Alaska Specialty Woods, have corresponded a little with Brent Sr. and really like their knowledge and what they do - so wondering how much, if any, difference a first timer will notice between a torrefied top and a non-torrefied ASW top?

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PostPosted: Thu May 16, 2019 9:38 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2014 7:50 am
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Location: Chadds Ford, PA
Personally, i don't think there is a big difference between torrefied and regular tops. The color is nice, though. I've done three, one with John Hall, and two on my own. I think the cooked wood is a bit more friable, but otherwise the same. And I have used cooked braces as well, no particular observations there. My only advice is don't use your best wood on the first guitar or buy expensive wood for the first, either. Some inexpensive woods grade low on visual quality, but acoustically can be really nice.


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PostPosted: Thu May 16, 2019 10:22 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 09, 2012 9:49 pm
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I've bought a bunch of tops from Alaska Specialty Woods. I've been delighted. I'm now building my third guitar using their tops. My suggestion is to buy inexpensive tops, they're going to be far better than most tops found on factory products, anyway.

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PostPosted: Sat May 18, 2019 5:23 pm 
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I've built with several torrified and non-torrified spruces. I can hear a bit of a difference in sound. Personally, I don't hear enough of a difference to justify the increased price. I only use it if a client requests it.

I never had a problem working with them, other than the fact that torrified woods don't absorb moisture like regular wood, so they're more finicky to glue. If you decide to use a torrified top, make certain that you leave it clamped at each stage, ie. joining the plates, Gluing Braces, closing the box, etc., for at least 24 hours.

As far as sanding, the sawdust produced by torrified wood is much finer than that produced by non torrified, so protect your airway. I never had a problem with it cracking.

For a first build, I suggest you use a nice set of regular sitka. Sitka produces a very nice, well-rounded tone and is reasonably priced.

As far as grading is concerned, one man's AAA is another's A. Mastergrade vs. AA is in the eye of the beholder, literally. There is no set standard for grading tonewood. Tonewood is graded based on appearance, not tap or sound. Usually, the tops with tight, straight grain, with little or no color (no candy stripes) costs more, but it doesn't sound better. Personally, I like some stripes in my tops; it all comes down to personal preference. The only thing i try to stay away from is runout, and a reputable dealer will help you choose a top without runout.

I've built guitars with beautiful voices, using "student grade" tops.


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PostPosted: Sat May 18, 2019 6:25 pm 
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Joined: Thu Feb 21, 2019 10:51 am
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Location: Fishers, IN
Thanks everyone for sharing your experiences and thoughts. For some reason I've been very attracted to ASW and their products so that's probably where I'll start.

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PostPosted: Sat May 18, 2019 11:31 pm 
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ASW have pleased me no end. I encourage OP to start at the low end of their grading/price schedule. There may be no reason to ever spend more.

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PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2019 11:49 am 
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phavriluk wrote:
ASW have pleased me no end. I encourage OP to start at the low end of their grading/price schedule. There may be no reason to ever spend more.

Peter is giving good advise here.


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PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2019 2:39 pm 
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Joined: Thu Feb 21, 2019 10:51 am
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Location: Fishers, IN
Any thoughts on other soundboard materials: Cedar, Redwood, Mahogany? Just saw a Redwood top for sale, very pretty and unusual - another bright shiny object!!

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PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2019 6:40 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 09, 2012 9:49 pm
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I urge OP to restrain his creative urges - - - just getting the first one built and playable is a big deal. There's reasons why certain materials are heavily used, and speaking for myself we early builders don't have the judgement to diverge from them. For example, the characteristics a soundboard needs to possess, if it's one of the spruces, are known, and in early projects yield success if we stick to the mainstream values. Drifting off into alternate woods is really getting off the map, especially so for first projects.

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PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2019 8:56 am 
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I agree; use a wood for the top that is generally accepted as a good wood for guitar tops. There are quite a few to choose from.

The spruces (e.g. red, sitka, engelman) are all good. I've made one top out of yellow cedar and liked the result very much. I made a dulcimer top out of red cedar that turned out well.

Personally, I would avoid redwood; while it may make a nice guitar top, it is quite soft and therefore more difficult to work with.

Somebody remarked that torrified wood is more difficult to glue and is more friable. I tried making a neck out of some torrified butternut and it was a colossal pain. I don't know if a torrified top would be as difficult to work with, but after my experience with the torrified butternut I'm not eager to try.

You'll build more than one guitar; everybody does <grin>. Get the first one built with predictable materials.

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