May 17th, 2012, 08:42 PM
Grabbed a bunch of burls from a CL posting, prices each were 5-15$. The larger burls are big enough for 2-3 solid bodies, and they are on average 1.5-2" thick. The smaller ones were part of the package, and I figured I'd grab either to use as headstock adornment or as a gift to my mother-in-law who is a wood turner. For this price I am super happy with my new stash.
Being west coast BC wood, Most are softwood, looks like fir and cedar burls. Most are thick enough for a one piece body, but I am wondering if it would be best to somehow cut them in half and create a sandwich effect with a hardwood like maple/ash/alder in the center to strengthen the body up. I am also thinking maybe of a through body neck build, where the pickups and strings all mount to a maple hardwood center for strength, or a similar effect but using a bolt on neck onto a hardwood center on the body. I've spent the afternoon surfing the web, there are lots of images of finished guitars, but almost no build threads that use burls.
I love the figuring on these burls, I would not classify them as a AAA burl, but they all have beautiful character. I would rate them all as sold and firm enough to use as a one pice body, but they of course are cut against the grain, not with the grain.
Recommendations on using these?
pics attached, I'll post some more in a bit with a tele paper cutout on them to show the size of these, most are quite large.
May 17th, 2012, 09:07 PM
Sorry no recommendations but, wow those are gorgeous!
May 18th, 2012, 03:37 PM
Selected one of the smaller medium sized burls to start to play with. This is coming in at just under 2" thick, and is large enough for a one piece tele body, if I go with say an arm contour to miss some of the voids in the burl.
The wood came out of a BC mill in 2000, so its been dry for at least 12 years, and kept indoors. most warpage should have happened already. that being said it's still pretty darn flat. This particular piece to me looks like a douglas fir burl, the bark matches, and it has deposits of crystallized sap that is very common on firs.
What I am concerned about is using this burl as a one piece body. Will the neck pocket be strong enough with the stress of the stings and neck to stay true? Will the one piece body be more susceptible to warpage (i think the answer is almost for sure yes on this one). I am seeing a lot of burl guitars on the net that are using a a 3 piece body, with the centre piece being maple (etc) and that is what takes the stress of the neck and holds the pickups etc. Also, if I go with a 3 piece build, i can avoid all the wood in the burl that has voids in it without any radical shaping of the body.
Very few builds on this site that I can see using burls, any advice from experienced builders on this?
May 18th, 2012, 04:06 PM
If you are not sure how to use them, ship on down to Vermont, I am sure I can come up with a plan.:razz::razz::razz:
May 18th, 2012, 04:13 PM
Oh I'll figure it out, just probing the minds on this site first. Fish don't seem to be biting, so I might have to use my own brain cells on this one. :)
May 18th, 2012, 04:17 PM
I don't think I'd use burl for a one piece body... but I'd sure slice it up and make some nice caps in a heartbeat.
May 18th, 2012, 04:24 PM
Understood. I personally like one piece bodies better. But I understand your concern. I think with a neck plate you will be fine. If you thin it down down to 1 3/4" and it stays flat, you should be good to go. My experience with burls, although not extensive, is that they are usually more compressed fibers and harder than usual. I would give one a try and see where it leads. The worst that can happen is it warps and you cut in half, get a piece of maple and use it for wings.
May 18th, 2012, 04:35 PM
Good advice, (thank you) it is mostly just twisted end grain, and it is quite hard, much harder than any fir I've run across that are cuts of conventional lumber. This chunk cost me $10, so I'm not adverse to experimentation. I think I'll attempt the one piece body, and see what happens.
I'm hesitant to cut it in half and make wings simply because it is such a nice big chunk of wood, I'd like to do it justice and keep it as intact as I can. I'll keep an eye on the warpage, right now with a straightedge on it it is almost perfectly flat.
Colt W. Knight
May 18th, 2012, 04:37 PM
I wouldn't use it for a 1 pice body either.
1. It would be extremely heavy
2. I've seen a lot of burl slice clocks, signs, and butcher blocks split over time.
I think they would make beautiful tops though.
May 18th, 2012, 04:48 PM
Hmmm, weight, hadn't thought about it. The whole chunk weighs 16.2 lbs, I'd prob cut/route half of that away on a one piece - leaving at least 8lbs. That would be heavy.
May 18th, 2012, 05:33 PM
I think you'd be best served cutting it into caps. Even $10.00 body wood becomes $0.00 body wood when it warps or splits.
May 18th, 2012, 05:44 PM
Yes, definitely caps.
May 18th, 2012, 07:28 PM
Thanks for the advice guys, I really do appreciate it. I'll check the forums on the best way to resaw this -I don't have access to a large enough bandsaw. It might be best to see if I can get a local cabinet shop to resaw it for me. Thanks.
May 18th, 2012, 10:51 PM
Perhaps you could graft in a hardwood beam from the back. Basically take it all the way up to the neck pocket but miss it showing at the tail. That way you get the rigidity but you don't get the ugly stripe down the middle of the top. Pretty easy job to do that , just a big slot open at one end. Only thing to watch would be making sure you get a nice snug fit for the beam.
May 18th, 2012, 11:27 PM
Yes, definitely caps.
I agree - Burls are basically a cancerous outgrowth on the tree, and the grain and strength would be unpredictable. I'd probably thin slab that chunk to about 1/2" and make a thinline center body section of a more solid and stable wood (Maple, ash, whatever), and then it'd be visually awesome, and not a wasted effort over the long haul. IMOO. But it's yours to choose and do whatever with. Nice score though.
May 19th, 2012, 12:31 AM
Could have lots of internal stresses. Even if it's not moving any more now, once you cut it. . . .
May 19th, 2012, 01:05 AM
And if you had it sliced into tops, you could do 2-3 guitars with burl tops instead of just one. And make a few visually stunning guitars by putting the caps onto plain cheap wood like Basswood or Poplar.
May 19th, 2012, 07:05 AM
Thanks all for the thoughts!
Slicing into cap wood is what I'm thinking now, I think that would be the best way to use this wood. Honestly if this particular piece wasn't so heavy I would still be attempting the one piece build, but an 8lb body is just too much.
Thinking the best course of action is to chunk up the Burl into 2 blocks, each roughly 7x18" or so, and then resaw each block to get at least 1and hopefully 2 book matched pairs of cap wood (at just under 2" thick, maybe get 4 3/8" slabs).
Going to contact a few of the local luthiers I know of to see if they'd be willing to help me or let me resaw he wood in their shop with a bandsaw. Barring that, I think my bro in law has a foxtail saw that might work to carefully cut this wood. If I were at my parents house I'd be breaking out the chainsaw.
May 19th, 2012, 08:49 AM
If you look at the bass you posted above, it looks like the burl top is about a half inch thick. If it was me (and it isn't so feel free to ignore) I would make a body in the same way with a half inch burl top and back and a maple (or something else contrasting) centre. It isn't so much the cost of the burl itself that is the problem with a one piece - how would you feel if you got is finished and strung, and THEN it did something...
May 19th, 2012, 11:17 AM
My biggest problem with a one piece burl body is that all that figure gets wasted being nothing more than body bulk.
Resaw it into multiple caps.