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Highly figured walnut back on a J-15


mojogood

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$950 isn't a bad price at all. However, if you can get a brand new (that you can also play first) for 1200, that's the way I would go. As nice as the back on the other one is, it's very true that it's rarely seen.....and besides that, most don't care what the back looks like.

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We had this debate a while back - wait for the neigh sayers (or is that nay sayers) who think it's gonna fold up within the year. Personally I love it msp_thumbup.gif

 

Yep. A certain forum member enjoyed informing us J-15 owners that our guitars were made from firewood grade walnut and that they weren't approved of by Ren Ferguson. I've been wearing safety glasses when I play mine just in case the flat sawn walnut back decides to implode..... [scared]

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Yep. A certain forum member enjoyed informing us J-15 owners that our guitars were made from firewood grade walnut and that they weren't approved of by Ren Ferguson. I've been wearing safety glasses when I play mine just in case the flat sawn walnut back decides to implode..... [scared]

 

Isn't it Saint Ren now?

 

rct

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When was the last time you heard of a decent quality guitar with serious back issues? I mean that question to be serious in nature 'cause the answer might go a long way toward resolving doubts and concerns. Short of impact damage, I haven't. If there's more going on with guitar backs than I was aware, apologies. On the lighter side, the guitar doesn't walk upright or do heavy lifting....

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When was the last time you heard of a decent quality guitar with serious back issues? I mean that question to be serious in nature 'cause the answer might go a long way toward resolving doubts and concerns. Short of impact damage, I haven't. If there's more going on with guitar backs than I was aware, apologies. On the lighter side, the guitar doesn't walk upright or do heavy lifting....

 

 

It's really quite common for a guitar to have back issues. The guitar isn't going to implode as some suggest. When the grain is running north and south in the back, as in a quarter-sawn, it resists stretching. I can go into complete detail on the stress points on the back but none here want to know the truth so I will just hit the highlights since you asked.

 

When the back stretches it can cause all sorts of problems. The most common is the need for a neck reset. Another very common problem is that the back can be pulled away from the neck block and the top will crack along the fretboard and the cracks can extend into the sound hole. When this happens the guitar is done for. This is a very common problem even with good quarter-sawn wood.. There are a lot more problems including the guitars intonation that can effected by bad back construction. Oh ya, all the lacquer checking around the bridge is another indication.

 

The best example of the proper construction is the back itself. The back is book matched and glued together running north and south instead of being glued together running east and west. Why do you suppose that is? The grain in the back must run in the same direction as the strings and their tension. Anyone can see this.

 

Why do you suppose that the back braces are so thick and wide? There is a tremendous amount of tension on the back. The entire strength of the guitar is carried in the back. When the back is flat-sawn the grain can swirl and even in some cases run east and west on the back. This is the problem. When the grain is running east and west on the back the grain can actually be pulled apart. The wood will stretch as it has less strength.

 

This is very basic information and there are some here that just don't have a clue so they choose to shoot the messenger. It's your money so I really don't care. I just think that some people would appreciate the heads up. This is ,after all, a place to share information.

 

All of the jokes posted here are from folks that just don't have a clue. Yes, you are funny and the jokes at my expense are amusing but you will pay a price for your lack of knowledge. When your guitar starts going out of tune while you are playing it you will know. When your action gets so high you need a neck reset you will know. When your top cracks along side of the fretboard you will know.

 

I have been collecting wood samples for years and really enjoy highly figured wood. I think the flat sawn walnut shown in the photo is beautiful. It just isn't the cut that most serious luthiers would use. So..... Now you know the rest of the story.

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When your guitar starts going out of tune while you are playing it you will know. When your action gets so high you need a neck reset you will know. When your top cracks along side of the fretboard you will know.

This is complete speculation when applied to the J-15, as none of the above has been observed.

 

What we do know for sure, is that the J-15 was designed to meet a price point. Other makers might use laminated woods with bracing, or an arched back with no braces, or satin finishes, or Richlite, or Stratabond, etc. Gibson has chosen a particular path for their entry level model. How well the overall design and build quality endures over time simply remains to be seen.

 

We also factually know that many J-15 owners find the tone & playability of their instrument to be outstanding. And we know this without a hint of speculation.

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1461315131[/url]' post='1763220']

This is complete speculation when applied to the J-15, as none of the above has been observed.

 

What we do know for sure, is that the J-15 was designed to meet a price point. Other makers might use laminated woods with bracing, or an arched back with no braces, or satin finishes, or Richlite, or Stratabond, etc. Gibson has chosen a particular path for their entry level model. How well the overall design and build quality endures over time simply remains to be seen.

 

We also factually know that many J-15 owners find the tone & playability of their instrument to be outstanding. And we know this without a hint of speculation.

 

 

I think, when you take these two lines in the context of the posters lengthy discussion of the construction of ALL guitar backs, it's clear he wasn't addressing his comments to the J-15 specifically. I, for one, learned a good bit and will be sure to pay close attention to the backs of guitars I'm considering to purchase in the future.

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I have been collecting wood samples for years and really enjoy highly figured wood. I think the flat sawn walnut shown in the photo is beautiful. It just isn't the cut that most serious luthiers would use. So..... Now you know the rest of the story.

 

 

That sums it up pretty well. Aesthetically, highly-figured flat-sawn woods can be really pleasing. Sonically, there may be no difference between plain-sawn and quarter-sawn wood. I don't know one way or another on that one.

 

But when it comes to the essential structural qualities of woods for guitars, you would generally choose quarter-sawn wood with straight grain for every part of the guitar.

 

About 45 years ago, I owned a lovely little Martin New Yorker from the 1870's (pre serial number, CF Martin New York). It was a visual gem, with back and sides of highly-figured Brazilian rosewood. But all that beautiful convoluted grain had resulted in numerous open cracks in the back and sides over the guitar's hundred years of life in the Midwest. A very patient and highly-skilled luthier put some 30 nearly-invisible splices in the guitar to repair those cracks. I couldn't have afforded that repair at today's labor rates.

 

I had first taken the guitar (by hand) to Martin for restoration. They refused to touch it, saying it was beyond repair. They might sing a different tune these days, but this was before there was much of a serious vintage guitar market.

 

The simple fact is that the pieces of wood in a guitar move a lot over the course of their lifetime. The rate of expansion of a piece of wood along the grain versus across the grain varies by species, but it's not an exaggeration to say that many woods expand and contract about 10 times more across the grain with changes in humidity than they do along the grain. This says nothing about the relative strength and stiffness of the woods, of course. But the fact that virtually every top on a quality guitar is made with quarter-sawn wood should tell you a lot about its structural properties

 

Quarter-sawn wood behaves far more predictably than plain-sawn wood, which is one reason that instrument makers, boatbuilders, and furniture makers all like to work with it. The furniture you see with very fancy grain is generally veneered, with the substrate historically being quarter-swan wood. These days, its more likely to be MDF.

 

There may never be a problem with this guitar, particularly if it lives its life in a stable environment without wild swings in temperature and humidity. But from a probability perspective, a guitar built with quarter-swan woods, with the grain running parallel to the loads, has a better chance of a trouble-free life, even if it may lack the aesthetic appeal of a guitar like this.

 

To each his own.

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I think, when you take these two lines in the context of the posters lengthy discussion of the construction of ALL guitar backs, it's clear he wasn't addressing his comments to the J-15 specifically.

They were generalized comments about what would be considered best practices in guitar construction, addressed to J-15 owners regarding their instruments.

 

Again, at any given price point, there may be multiple ways to successfully skin a cat. Guild's well regarded arched & laminated backs will often rival the best Gibson (or Martin, etc) has to offer in tonal response (when compared to similar jumbos & dreads). Even Martin's HPL construction is about as far removed from best practices as you can get, but still offers satisfying tone & playability in entry level categories.

 

Nick's example is valid and interesting, but how was this guitar treated & what environmental exposure did it enjoy or suffer during it's long lifetime? I'm always amazed how some folks can destroy a guitar within a couple of years, whether it's construction is best practice oriented with straight grain or otherwise.

 

Longevity in an instrument will be based on many factors. Someone please revive this thread in about twenty years so we can take a look at how the J-15's build quality has fared. If still alive at 85, I'll be happy to discuss it!

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