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Old October 26th, 2011, 08:49 PM   #1 (permalink)
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"Soft" Maple for Necks?

I have been given some lightly figured soft maple boards. I have looked through the forum and various sites, and can find info. on soft maple bodies and body caps, but (maybe I've missed it) can't find anything about soft maple for necks. Has anyone else used soft maple for necks?
Foresee any problems with using it for 1 or 2-piece necks?

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Old October 26th, 2011, 09:04 PM   #2 (permalink)
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By soft maple do you mean big leaf maple, or western maple?

Western big leaf maple is plenty strong to build a neck with a truss rod out of. I have a friend who is an accomplished luthier and I've seen several guitars that he has made with figured big leaf maple necks.

This is of course assuming that you will be using a truss rod. Also, keep in mind that western maple moves quite a bit, so let your neck come back to equilibrium after you shape it. Avoid cutting and sanding operations that cause a lot of heat. Western maple will bow and cup, and literally try to walk off your table saw if it gets hot enough on one side while you are cutting. This applies to sanding as well. It can be beautiful, but it can also be a pain to work with. Don't sand the raw wood any finer than 220 grit, also. Anything finer just burnishes the wood, and complicates finishing.
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Old October 26th, 2011, 09:24 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I've often wondered about this. Guitar manufacturers often
cite "hard rock maple". Is this what I'm getting when I buy
1x4 maple at Home Despot?
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Old October 26th, 2011, 09:30 PM   #4 (permalink)
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This one is soft maple.





They are a lot easier to carve and finish sand. As long as they have a working truss rod, I can't think of anything wrong with them. I have made necks from cherry, walnut, and others woods that were about the same hardness of the softer maples with no troubles.
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Old October 26th, 2011, 10:01 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Not soft maple - but a few of us have used Cherry - which is very similar to Bigleaf Maple - both of which seem to be similar to Mahogany - a little softer/lighter though. With Cherry, at least, strength is not an issue at all - I hardly use the truss rod on the Cherry neck I use all the time. I'm not sure about using a softer wood as a fretboard though.
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Old October 26th, 2011, 10:15 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CapnCrunch View Post
By soft maple do you mean big leaf maple, or western maple?

Western big leaf maple is plenty strong to build a neck with a truss rod out of. I have a friend who is an accomplished luthier and I've seen several guitars that he has made with figured big leaf maple necks.

This is of course assuming that you will be using a truss rod. Also, keep in mind that western maple moves quite a bit, so let your neck come back to equilibrium after you shape it. Avoid cutting and sanding operations that cause a lot of heat. Western maple will bow and cup, and literally try to walk off your table saw if it gets hot enough on one side while you are cutting. This applies to sanding as well. It can be beautiful, but it can also be a pain to work with. Don't sand the raw wood any finer than 220 grit, also. Anything finer just burnishes the wood, and complicates finishing.
What he said.
Have you ever bought maple from the woodbay company in Poulsbo?
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Old October 27th, 2011, 05:36 AM   #7 (permalink)
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i bought a qtr sawn 5a big leaf maple neck blank from bow river specialty woods in canada a while back. really beautiful wood.
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Old October 27th, 2011, 05:56 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Measure it and weigh it. Pretty simple mathematics to establish its density.

Some Acer macrophyllum can be too light for necks. Depends where it comes from in the tree.
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Old October 27th, 2011, 11:51 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shepherd View Post
What he said.
Have you ever bought maple from the woodbay company in Poulsbo?
Hi Shepherd,

I haven't bought from woodbay. Honestly I don't know about them. If there is a wood company in my podunk little home town, I would like to know about it

I buy a lot of dimensional lumber from a place in Port Townsend. It's called Edensaw. I also pick up a fair bit of figured western maple from private guys with small saw mills. Western maple is like alder. It grows like weeds out here. I bought a piece of highly figured maple the other day that is going to become 3 or 4 necks, and provide some natural wood binding. It is one of the most intensely flamed piece of wood I've ever seen.
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Old October 27th, 2011, 12:04 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I'm not an expert on Fender history, but I suspect Leo chose hard eastern Maple for necks for a couple of reasons. He was infamously frugal, so he originally chose it as the most economical wood for necks that had the strength to make a good neck without a separate fret board, and without a truss rod.

To this day, hard eastern Maple is one of the cheaper woods when you go out and price hardwood.

Guitar players are one of most resistant groups when it comes to change or innovation. Why are bass players so willing to try new things but guys who play the smaller guitars aren't? Anyway, you don't see much variation in commercial offerings.

My friend the luthier has built guitars with alder necks, and has had no problems with them (alder is not as strong as western maple or cherry). He has even built guitars with obeche bodies and obeche necks. Obeche is lighter than Bass wood, and even approaches the lightness of balsa. He was told by others that "you can't build a neck out of Obeche", but he did it (many times), and it has worked just fine.

So, be free. Try it. Soft maple will work just fine, and there are many other things to try that the commercial guys wouldn't touch because they simply would not sell.
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Old October 27th, 2011, 12:45 PM   #11 (permalink)
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For those making their first couple of necks though - I think is is always best to start on the simple and known path - make a one-piece hard maple (or some other common neck wood) neck (perhaps laminated to counteract warping) - choose a truss strategy that seems feasible (I honestly think the home-made single action rod would be a good thing for everyone to master as it's not that hard to make and really frees up some design options); practice and work out all of the kinks in the techniques and play the snot out of that neck to figure out what you want to improve on or perhaps try next time... Then try other woods.

I'm convinced that just about any wood will work well for a neck as long as splitting/warping concerns are addressed. It's likely that any issues may only show up after years of use though.
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Old October 27th, 2011, 01:03 PM   #12 (permalink)
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a laminated neck will never wraps and always be stronger than a one piece neck
i have made a laminated with a very thin profil and he doen't move at all and it is the one the more stable neck i have
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Old October 27th, 2011, 01:50 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ludobag1 View Post
a laminated neck will never wraps and always be stronger than a one piece neck
This is not really true. laminated will warp.
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Old October 28th, 2011, 02:23 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Thanks for the responses, all. From the majority of responses, looks like it's OK, with some qualifications. I do plan to use a truss rod, and would not use it as a fret board, therefore would be a 2-piece neck.

"By soft maple do you mean big leaf maple, or western maple? "
Good question, and I'm not sure. I was given a few boards by a cabinet shop owner who is a client of mine. It was part of a bundle they'd bought for some clear-finish cabinets they were making, it wasn't figured enough for fancy work, but too figured for clear. I have some planks I acquired long time ago, called 'Michigan Rock Maple', and the boards I was given are no where near as hard as the rock maple..

"Measure it and weigh it. Pretty simple mathematics to establish its density. " Nick, could you elaborate on the methodology of this. Is it as simple as cutting and weighing a volume of the wood and comparing it with known wt./c.f?

Can post some photos if that would help establish species, etc.
Thanks again.
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Old October 28th, 2011, 03:09 AM   #15 (permalink)
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I have used big leaf maple with no problem but I laminated it with another wood as a center stripe on a resonator guitar
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Old October 28th, 2011, 10:02 AM   #16 (permalink)
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BigLeaf Maple is generally called "Western Maple".

From: http://www.wood-database.com/lumber-identification/hardwoods/soft-maple/

The various Soft Maples are:
Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum)
Box Elder (Acer negundo)
Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)
Striped Maple (Acer pensylvanicum)

I think BigLeaf has come up a lot because it's a little harder/stiffer/more elastic than the other Soft Maples (except for Red or Black Maple). It's actually one of the more interesting woods out there as it is very inexpensive because it grows very quickly and is pretty easy to find. I have found the most interesting grain in BigLeaf boards too - one of those great woods for making guitars - and it's very renewable - go figure.

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Old October 28th, 2011, 11:48 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Thanks, Mojo -- that's really helpful.

What kind of maple do you think I might be buying at my
local Home Depot?
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Old October 28th, 2011, 01:47 PM   #18 (permalink)
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The maple sold at the HD in the Cincinnati area is NOT hard maple. But my guess is this might vary by location to minimize transportation cost overhead. All of the Choicewood sold here has a Weyerhaeuser sticker. I just bought some pine at HD that came all of the way from Sweden though.

Since some soft maples can be hard and some hards can be soft depending upon a number of factors, some say the only true test is the use of a solution of ferrous sulfate. When treated, the sample area of hard maple is supposed to turn silver/grey/green and soft maples will turn blue/black. My own tests were inconclusive but I could never find the ideal mixture of ferrous sulfate/water. Also, my chemical is the heptahydrate form and I'm not sure that's ideal either.

I'm guessing a relatively good soft maple (sufficient density) will work based upon some experience restoring a few old tenor banjos. Once stripped, I've encountered a few that were actually poplar. Not known for stability or strength, this poplar was 50+ years old and still straight and none had a truss rod. Go figure.
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Old October 28th, 2011, 03:17 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Quote:
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Thanks, Mojo -- that's really helpful.

What kind of maple do you think I might be buying at my
local Home Depot?
Ya - no idea - the strange thing is that unless I see them side by side I don't think I can really tell the difference between Maples - they all have fairly close properties too.
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Old October 28th, 2011, 03:45 PM   #20 (permalink)
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I use soft maple, flat sawn. Rip it and stand two pieces up to make it quarter sawn. With a thin strip down the middle the same thickness as your truss rod you can omit the router work. Very strong and attractive.
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