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Thread: Spalted maple and it's tonality?

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    Senior Member vchizzle's Avatar
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    Spalted maple and it's tonality?

    I've always wondered about this since it's the start of decay of wood. I understand they get it before it starts to get soft. Does it retain resonance as a tone wood? It looks cool but I've always wondered about the tonal qualities.

    http://www.wood-database.com/lumber-...spalted-maple/

  2. #2
    Thanks for asking a really good question... I've wondered about this very subject myself many times, and look forward to the responses. Maybe Phenny will chime-in here; I know he has a few lying around.
    "You come around here with these... SOUL DESTROYERS... clad in some kinda paisley rittenou... I don't even know what rittenou means." -Greg Koch re: PRS amps

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    I don't think it's wood decaying. Last I read about it on a site, it said the black lines and streaks were actually mineral stains. I doubt decaying wood can be used for woodwork, since the density of the bark is already decreasing. Also, decaying wood could be pretty fragile, so it's impossible to use it for guitar-making.

    Tonewise, it's probably the same as normal maple, just like flamed and quilted maple. If there's a difference, I don't think it's audible to human ear.

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    Senior Member Whitecat's Avatar
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    It's fungal, not mineral, so the wood is actually diseased. It does make the wood fragile and it is hard to use for guitar making, but it's not impossible. Perhaps 'decaying' isn't the right word - the wood is dying, but not dead, if that makes sense. Decaying to me would indicate dead and rotting.

    I don't think there's a measureable tonal difference between it and any other kind of maple once they're under fillers/sealers and topcoats. I have one electric guitar with a spalted maple top (not a PRS!) and it's outstanding to play and look at, and it sounds amazing, but I suspect if it were a curly maple top my experience would be nigh on identical.
    PS Starla (burnt orange smokeburst), Starla (vintage cherry, IRW neck, birds), HBII (faded gray black 'double' 10-top), HB12 (black gold), NF3 (antique white/birds), 25th ann. Mira 245 (frost blue metallic), KL1812, 2011 'Stripped' 58 (goldtop)

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    Senior Member veinbuster's Avatar
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    The wood is well on its way to destruction, but not there yet. The block of spalt used for a top is much lighter than a block of standard maple - easily less than half.

    Soundwise, the super light top (lower density) doesn't make as much difference as you might imagine. The neck elements play a far bigger role than the top material does. I also have a rosewood topped guitar, which is about as far away as you can get in density of the top wood.

    That said, I think the spalt top is somewhat more resonant in the higher registers (I'm talking a small percentage - audible if you are listening for it, but perhaps not to a random Joe who happens to hear the guitar). The low end response is a bit more obvious in that you don't get that darkness that I feel is characteristic of a heavy bodied guitar in the bottom octave or so.

    The bottom line is that if you like the look, to ahead and get the guitar - it won't sound that different from every day maple.

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    Senior Member vchizzle's Avatar
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    I guess I'd have to have it in my hands raw(or see it in process) to see what it's like. Well, I'm not eyeing one. Just have always been curious.

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    Senior Member 11top's Avatar
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    Spalt is a fungus, and it grows in wood that is starting to rot. Spalting is common in stumps or logs that are on the ground and the moisture content is high. If it's caught early enough it is still solid. However, it's common to find it in various stages of decay, and parts of the wood can be too far gone unless treated. It can be impregnated to give it strength, but that can make it heavy, too. It's common to use wood superglue to strengthen parts of the softer punky wood. If the wood is not too rotten or soft, it still works OK as a tone wood as far as I'm concerned.
    Last edited by 11top; 10-17-2013 at 06:55 PM.
    Sh*tter's full

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    Senior Member jfb's Avatar
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    I bet it sounds...rotten.
    Plank Owner

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    I'm no expert but I have a Custom 24 with a spalted maple top and it sound killer. I have an '88 Sig that I also love though they do indeed sound different. I think I prefer the tone of the bridge pu on the spalted top and the neck pu on the more "standard" topped Custom. I had wanted a spalted maple topped PRS for years before ordering one and one thing I like about that wood is it's so different in appearance when compared to flame or quilt. The more unusual the wood the more interesting it can be as long as it sounds good to me.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Woundtight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfb View Post
    I bet it sounds...rotten.
    Obeche Body with a Spalt Top prolly sounds AND smells rotten.

  11. #11
    Senior Member jfb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woundtight View Post
    Obeche Body with a Spalt Top prolly sounds AND smells rotten.


    Stain it rotten egg green.
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    Ah, my previous source must have been wrong and unreliable. Thanks guys, I'm learning something new every day!

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    Senior Member veinbuster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woundtight View Post
    Obeche Body with a Spalt Top prolly sounds AND smells rotten.
    I have one. Stink wood and fungus makes a nice guitar. Only smells while you are in the vault.

  14. #14
    Senior Member 11top's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by veinbuster View Post
    Only smells while you are in the vault.
    Could be other sources. Did Markie have hot sauce for lunch?
    Sh*tter's full

  15. #15
    DEEPER STRIATIONS markie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vchizzle View Post
    I've always wondered about this since it's the start of decay of wood. I understand they get it before it starts to get soft. Does it retain resonance as a tone wood? It looks cool but I've always wondered about the tonal qualities.

    http://www.wood-database.com/lumber-...spalted-maple/



    Sounds like glue
    Fanboy of the Jester (AKA) James (Previously known as 11top)

  16. #16
    DEEPER STRIATIONS markie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 11top View Post
    Could be other sources. Did Markie have hot sauce for lunch?


    Of course he did!
    Fanboy of the Jester (AKA) James (Previously known as 11top)

  17. #17
    Senior Member vchizzle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markie View Post
    Sounds like glue

  18. #18
    Senior Member vchizzle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 11top View Post
    Spalt is a fungus, and it grows in wood that is starting to rot. Spalting is common in stumps or logs that are on the ground and the moisture content is high. If it's caught early enough it is still solid. However, it's common to find it in various stages of decay, and parts of the wood can be too far gone unless treated. It can be impregnated to give it strength, but that can make it heavy, too. It's common to use wood superglue to strengthen parts of the softer punky wood. If the wood is not too rotten or soft, it still works OK as a tone wood as far as I'm concerned.
    Thanks Phenny

  19. #19
    Senior Member jfb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markie View Post
    Of course he did!
    I knew it.
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