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Old 07-13-2008, 01:11 PM   #118
J Kennedy
Human being with feelings
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: ocean mists
Posts: 858
Default notes on wood


I wanted to add some information on wood. This had been partially mentioned elsewhere but is added here to get everything in one place. You’ve got to have a lot of spare time on your hands and an old beater of a guitar to work on, so this is probably more for information only. It does work. Given the time and a paintbrush, you can significantly alter the sound of an electric by doing nothing else.

The things that affect sustain most are likely in order string height and gage, properties of the neck, body construction and wood type, pickups. String height is major as well as neck wood because here is where the string energy is absorbed most. Higher action, heavier gage strings and heavy lacquered neck, heavy lacquered body, light magnets with wide coils increase sustain at low volumes.

The way we interpret the sound is that lighter gage strings, lower action, porous neck (eg unlaminated rosewood), light body wood decrease sustain and increase the sense of funk, country twang. This is because the faster rolloff accents initial pops, initial attack and artifacts. Longer sustain can have the same tone characteristics but will sound deeper and darker. My strat is stock finished like a heavy cake of urethane. It sounded more like a Gibson next to the same rosewood version before redoing the pickups to compensate.

I’d mentioned the Highwayman Telecaster series as a prototype for the funk effect. Microcellulose finish (meaning thin coating and less hard finish compared to urethanes). The neck and light body soak up the sound and the country effect is classic.

At higher stage volumes, the effect can go opposite. The body can pick up resonances from the amp better and reinforce the string vibration. Sustain and feedback can be better, especially in a light hollow body design.

Increasing sustain, bells at the expense of funk, can be got from refinishing the neck and body.

Urethane coating on the neck is about the best thing for increasing sustain. You can’t undo this though. Rub-on type urethanes applied with a cloth (Minwax brand) do the job nicely if the neck is open and unfinished. Neck has to be cleaned several times with acetone if the guitar is old because there is an inspiring amount of oily organic debris worked into the fret board. Several coats needed until the wood stops soaking it up and all crevices, pores filled.

Light body coatings, light cellulose and less-light acrylic finishes are removed with paint stripper or a heat gun. Apply sealant first to the bare wood. Use an oil based compatible sealer and dilute about half and half with mineral spirits. Several coats applied until it stops soaking in. The mineral spirits help deeper penetration into the wood. Finish with about 3 coats of hard urethane paint, brush applied. Body should be horizontal during drying and rotated every few minutes till tack free to keep finish from sagging. Neck plate area and shoulder strap pin area are good props to stabilize.

Bit of an unattended fire hazard, but after the last coat is dry several hours, freely support the body under a large cardboard box with a couple 60-100 watt light bulbs and cure for about 12 hours.

Urethane evens out very nicely as it gels, so if the surface is kept clean, it’s hard not to get a good looking and very functional result.

Last note on acoustics. Urethane on the neck increases sustain and volume. This will almost always improve things. Redoing the body itself could mess up the sound permanently.

Hope all are well,

Last edited by J Kennedy; 08-03-2008 at 04:06 PM.
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