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 Post subject: Bracewood for classical
PostPosted: Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:57 pm 
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So I am currently working on my second guitar, this time a classical guitar. It is going to have a Engelmann spruce top, east indian rosewood back and sides, and a Spanish cedar neck. I was wondering what species of spruce (or other bracewood species for that matter) would be best for the bracing, structurally and sonically.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 10, 2017 10:15 pm 
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I only make classical guitars. My choice for bracewood is Lutz Spruce from High Mountain Tonewood, regardless of what the top wood is. I have tried other bracewood, but none has been more consistent than the Lutz.

That is not to say that there are not other good choices. I do prefer spruce for it's resistance to splitting.

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These users thanked the author WaddyThomson for the post: Marn99 (Tue Oct 10, 2017 10:28 pm)
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 10, 2017 10:32 pm 
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WaddyThomson wrote:
I only make classical guitars. My choice for bracewood is Lutz Spruce from High Mountain Tonewood, regardless of what the top wood is. I have tried other bracewood, but none has been more consistent than the Lutz.

That is not to say that there are not other good choices. I do prefer spruce for it's resistance to splitting.

What can you say about Sitka, Engelmann, European, or Adirondack? Lutz is pretty expensive, also, lmii doesn't sell it, and I want to save on shipping by buying from one source. If Lutz is truly the best though, I will go ahead with it [:Y:]


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 11, 2017 11:56 am 
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whatever the species, just make sure it is split and so runout is kept to a minimum. more important than the species is, i believe, to look at the material properties of the piece in your hands. i prefer to use the lightest spruce i have for the fan elements (so that excludes stuff like adi or sitcka most of the times). i (and lots of others) measure the density and the stiffness of the brace stock and keep the best stuff for the fan braces, harmonic bar is next and then all other stuff. all this based on unverified and unsubstantiated assumptions!

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 11, 2017 1:01 pm 
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I've gotten some really nice brace wood at Home Depot. A mqbernardo says, the most important attributes are that it be split stock, and low in density. Since stiffness along the grain tracks density pretty closely for wood with little runout just getting lighter weight stock gets you a long way. Choosing wood where the annual ring lines are not too prominent takes you a step or two further, since those dark lines add a lot of density without commensurate stiffness, and can be a sign of unstable 'reaction wood'. A decent looking 2 x 4 doesn't cost all that much (when you can find one!), and if you lose a lot in splitting it out it's not a serious loss. There's a lot of talk on these lists about various 'magic' wood species, but so far I've seen very little actual evidence of it.



These users thanked the author Alan Carruth for the post: Marn99 (Wed Oct 11, 2017 2:58 pm)
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 11, 2017 3:24 pm 
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On the dozen or so classical guitars I've built I experimented with a few things. The best sounding one was a fan braced guitar with 7 fan braces the middle 3 were Sitka and the outer 2 were cedar. It was whimsical and probably had nothing to do with the species of brace wood but it sounded great! But that's how I used to build, idea pops in head, go for it. I tend to like Sitka pretty much for all bracing now.

I've got a few blocks of torrified Red Spruce bracing but I'm afraid to use it :)



These users thanked the author jfmckenna for the post: Marn99 (Tue Oct 17, 2017 1:50 pm)
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2017 11:14 pm 
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What Alan and Miguel said!

Don't worry so much about which species to use, worry about the particular pieces and how they were prepared.

For your fan braces, it is typical practice to use off cuts from you top. Before you thin the top, cut bits off of the sides of the top, like around the waist and upper bout. You can cut a slice off of one end and use that as your back joint reinforcement strip. Though still important, the rest of your bracing is less critical.

As your top is Engelmann, use more of that if you need to buy some.

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These users thanked the author douglas ingram for the post: Marn99 (Tue Oct 17, 2017 1:50 pm)
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 10:39 am 
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My understanding is that Lutz is a hybrid of Sitka and Engleman, and is close to Adi in properties. I got in on a buy of some top sets a couple of years ago and have been building with them lately. The wood is nice and the guitars have come out well.

However I have used Sitka brace stock from a couple of our suppliers, I just asked them to pick out the straightest grained billets and they have been quite fine. There are ways to evaluate brace wood stiffness (and if you follow John Greven's practices he mates stiffer braces with less stiff tops) but honestly, at my level of building (and yours) it doesn't matter. I do saw my braces instead of splitting and I just look at how the grain is running to decide where to use each piece.



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PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 12:57 pm 
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With regard to bracewood, splitting softwoods is an invaluable exercise to help you understand what you are looking at and how runnout works. As Alan said, you can find great bracewood in the lumber section of the big box stores if you know how to find it. By "know how to find it" I mean both, how to select a promising 2x from the stacks and how to find the bracewood in that board (there will be a lot of waste). The best way to get a mental picture is to just start spiting spruce scraps. Whatever you have around, split it up before you toss it or burn it. I still do this from time to time. As you start to split bigger pieces you will start to figure out where a full length straight brace might be living inside a board that doesn't split perfectly straight along the board.

Buying split brace stock saves you from having to do this and you can pretty much saw along the split line to get your braces. But, it doesn't teach you the value of splitting to weed out the waste and ensure that the strongest plane is inside the full length of the brace. One of my favorite things Roy Underhill says when talking about splitting wood is something like "By exploiting its weakness you capture its strength."

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These users thanked the author Bryan Bear for the post (total 2): Alex Kleon (Wed Oct 18, 2017 6:31 am) • Marn99 (Tue Oct 17, 2017 1:51 pm)
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 1:50 pm 
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Thanks for the comments and ideas everyone! I have settled on an Engelmann top, 1 piece Spanish cedar neck, East indian rosewood back and sides, Gabon ebony fingerboard, standard hardness 18% nickel silver fretwire (as apposed to the softer 12% nickel silver sometimes used on classicals), an east indian rosewood bridge, unbleached bone nut, saddle, and tieblock inlay, east indian/maple/east indian rosewood peghead veneer, east indian rosewood binding, a .020 maple purfling line, reverse Honduran mahogany kerfing, western red cedar back bracing, Engelmann top bracing, a Honduran mahogany tail block, and ebony buttoned nickel hauser style schaller tuners. That being said, I am now electing to make this my 3rd build instead of 2nd, I am planning on doing a ukulele instead :)


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 4:40 pm 
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Marn99 wrote:
That being said, I am now electing to make this my 3rd build instead of 2nd, I am planning on doing a ukulele instead :)


As I said in my reply to your other thread, you should build the instrument that you want to play.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 4:42 pm 
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Freeman wrote:
Marn99 wrote:
That being said, I am now electing to make this my 3rd build instead of 2nd, I am planning on doing a ukulele instead :)


As I said in my reply to your other thread, you should build the instrument that you want to play.

What can I say, I love everything stringed! I love making and learning new musical instruments.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 3:23 am 
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May I ask you why you're going with western red cedar for the back bracing?

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 7:42 am 
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mqbernardo wrote:
May I ask you why you're going with western red cedar for the back bracing?


Yeah. Why?

Use more Spruce.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 8:42 am 
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I, too would go with spruce.
I've seen Spanish cedar used for back bracing but I don't believe I've seen wr cedar used there. I have seen it used (and have used it myself a couple of times to match the top) for the center seem reinforcement on the back, though.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 9:34 am 
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A few years ago john greven wrote in the gal of the varieties of spruce that he used and how he used them . I believe that the GAL has a new abstracts section where one can read past articles. IMHO a must read ! for your edification


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 11:42 am 
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The only reason I can think of for using WRC as brace stock is to save weight, since it is normally lower in density than the spruces. However, it's not hard to find spruce with density as low as average WRC. Since the long-grain Young's modulus of all softwoods pretty well tracks the density in the same way you would end up with the same brace weight. Aside from that, spruce has the advantage over WRC of being much more split resistant, which is certainly a consideration in brace stock. Keep in mind, too, that saving weight is probably not so important on the back, and may even be counter productive. If a light back mattered we'd use spruce or cedar there, too.

An important technical point on splitting wood is that you always want to split it in the center of the piece. If you try to split a narrow piece off one side the split will run toward the thin side, rather than perfectly along the grain. It may seem wasteful to split a piece into two sections that are quite a bit thicker than you'll need, instead of three pieces that are 'just right', but wood from the lumber yard is not all that expensive, and two pieces you can use are better than three you can't.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 1:01 pm 
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Alan Carruth wrote:
An important technical point on splitting wood is that you always want to split it in the center of the piece. If you try to split a narrow piece off one side the split will run toward the thin side, rather than perfectly along the grain. It may seem wasteful to split a piece into two sections that are quite a bit thicker than you'll need, instead of three pieces that are 'just right', but wood from the lumber yard is not all that expensive, and two pieces you can use are better than three you can't.


Good to point that out! Alsways split form the middle. Also, if you are splitting lumber yard spruce for bracewood don't be tempted to look for the quarter sawn (or vertical grained piece). It may seem counter intuitive but you want a board that is nicely flat sawn. Then you split in the middle of the board perpendicular to the grain lines. If the wood runs out the edge of the board, split from the other end in the middle of the board. That split should run out the other direction at the same angle leaving you with two (roughly) parallel split faces. That is the grain direction you want to follow for your braces. You should be able to find lots of usable straight braces between those splits even if it ran out quite a bit from the edges of the board. If you try to do this with a quartersawn board, your first split (perpendicular to the rings) will be along the width of the board and the board won't be thick enough to make up for any runnout.

It's hard to type this out and communicate it clearly. Split a bunch of boards and it will become obvious.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 1:37 pm 
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Bryan Bear wrote:
It's hard to type this out and communicate it clearly. Split a bunch of boards and it will become obvious.


I'm not so sure about this but I'm going to try it!! :)

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 2:20 pm 
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How are you guys finding Spruce 2x4's at Home Depot?! Do they sell it as Spruce in some places? I've never seen it. Or is some of the "white wood" actually Spruce and you just have to find out which ones are?


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 2:32 pm 
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bcombs510 wrote:
Bryan Bear wrote:
It's hard to type this out and communicate it clearly. Split a bunch of boards and it will become obvious.


I'm not so sure about this but I'm going to try it!! :)


Perhaps a crudely drawn picture will help. The proportions are terrible and the runnout is drawn at an extreme angle to help show what I'm talking about but hopefully this will give you an idea. Assume that this is a wide 2X board that is flatsawn. When you are done getting your brace stock (the black rectangles) you turn them on edge and they are now quarterrsawn brace blanks. If you started with quartersawn wood you would be spllitting the 2inch (really 1.5 inches) thickness in half and any runnout would use up the usable space between the splits. . .

Attachment:
split board.jpg


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 3:04 pm 
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pat macaluso wrote:
How are you guys finding Spruce 2x4's at Home Depot?! Do they sell it as Spruce in some places? I've never seen it. Or is some of the "white wood" actually Spruce and you just have to find out which ones are?


It might well be a different issue on the west coast, but here in the middle of Canada there is a good supply of Spruce in the Big Orange. Every time that I go in I cruise by the racks and take any piece that look good. There isn't a lot, but sometimes there is. I have found some 2x4, 1x6, and 2x6.

However last December I found the equivalent of canoe builder's gold. A 2 x 12 that is 16' long of nearly all clear Spruce. That is pure unobtanium! I doubt that I will ever see the likes of that again.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 8:54 am 
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mqbernardo wrote:
May I ask you why you're going with western red cedar for the back bracing?

I assumed it would be a good idea considering the Robert O'Brien kit from LMII uses Western Red bracing for the back.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 11:13 am 
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douglas ingram wrote:
pat macaluso wrote:
How are you guys finding Spruce 2x4's at Home Depot?! Do they sell it as Spruce in some places? I've never seen it. Or is some of the "white wood" actually Spruce and you just have to find out which ones are?


It might well be a different issue on the west coast, but here in the middle of Canada there is a good supply of Spruce in the Big Orange. Every time that I go in I cruise by the racks and take any piece that look good. There isn't a lot, but sometimes there is. I have found some 2x4, 1x6, and 2x6.

However last December I found the equivalent of canoe builder's gold. A 2 x 12 that is 16' long of nearly all clear Spruce. That is pure unobtanium! I doubt that I will ever see the likes of that again.


Years ago I used to build racing power boats (hydroplanes). The skeletons were always spruce, the skins mahogany plywood. We also happened to have a local business that restored antique airplanes - they were also spruce frames with fabric covering. They would hand select their spruce from local mills (I live in the PNW) and allow me to select a few boards for my boats. When I think back on it, my cutoffs would have made great guitar braces, instead they went into the fire place.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 1:48 pm 
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Very cool Freeman!


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