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onewilyfool

Are Torrefied Tops the New Industry Standard?

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Great article that I will have to peruse carefully later. Gave it a skim. Very interesting.

 

I've also heard that it doesn't actually cost that much to torrefy woods, so maybe we will soon see it as a standard, instead of special, feature.

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Interesting piece. The guy knows what he's talking about.

 

All this makes me wonder about humidification, though. I used to live in Minnesota and the rule of thumb is you start humidifing guitars when the leaves fall and you can generally stop when they start coming in again. Then I moved to Kuwait, a desert. I humidify my guitars with Kyser soundhole humidifiers and an additional sponge-in-a-soapdish up near the headstock. So far, no problems.

 

But here's the thing: None of the locals I've met humidify their guitars. It is just unheard of. While I haven't seen a lot of high-end instruments here, I also haven't seen anybody with cracked guitars. Since dryer wood is what we're after (as per the article) I'm wondering if I'm over-humidifying my guitars. Should I be trying to gradually acclimate them to the dry environment?

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All this makes me wonder about humidification, though. I used to live in Minnesota and the rule of thumb is you start humidifing guitars when the leaves fall and you can generally stop when they start coming in again. Then I moved to Kuwait, a desert. I humidify my guitars with Kyser soundhole humidifiers and an additional sponge-in-a-soapdish up near the headstock. So far, no problems.

 

But here's the thing: None of the locals I've met humidify their guitars. It is just unheard of. While I haven't seen a lot of high-end instruments here, I also haven't seen anybody with cracked guitars. Since dryer wood is what we're after (as per the article) I'm wondering if I'm over-humidifying my guitars. Should I be trying to gradually acclimate them to the dry environment?

 

I've been wondering about this, too. It gets really dry (indoors) here in the winter. Seems like even with a lot of humidifiers in the case, I struggle to keep it at 45%.

 

Which might actually be over-humidifying. But this is a big topic. Of course manufacturers want us to overhumidify because it cuts down on warranty claims, and if we do mess up, they can say, "Well, we told you to keep it 45-55%."

 

Interesting, Guild says 40-50%, and if you ask Ren Ferguson about humidification, especially now that he's retired, I doubt he'd tell you 45-55%.

 

I have developed a few theories. When guitars are new, they need more humidification. When they're older (at least 10-15 years old), they need less, and when they're really old, they don't need a whole lot. A torrefied guitar, so I would think, would need about as much as a real old guitar. Except. Only the top is torrefied. The bracing, back/sides, neck, fretboard, bridge... that's all newish wood and has not been torrefied.

 

I would say, in a desert, try to stick to 40%, maybe as low as 30%. If you use a lot of A/C (I don't know if A/C is common in Kuwait), it might be even drier inside than outside!

 

I am nerdy and use hygrometers to make sure I'm keeping humidity where it should be. This is harder in the winter because it gets so terribly cold that the windows fog up if I introduce much humidity. However, in a desert, I doubt it's ever very cold. You could theoretically humidify your whole house, or at least you guitar room, even if it has outside windows.

 

Anyway, just my rambles. It'll be hard to get a trustworthy, straight answer on these topics, tainted as we are by: capitalism, mythology, religion and habit.

 

Of course, it depends upon the guitars, too. Taylors seem to need more humidity; Gibsons seem to need less. Junky guitars might not really need any. It depends upon the woods, depends upon whether they're solid, and depends upon how the guitar is built. My Martin D Jr needs less because of how it's built, because of the woods, and because it has a sapele top. I keep it the same as I do my nice guitars, but I don't worry about it as much. It should be a little more resilient.

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Yes, drier wood is the thing that makes those banged up 50+ year-old instruments sound so tight and immediate. The trick is to get to that point in a controlled manner - either by a gradual, natural process of aging or by fooling father time with torrefaction. As the article states, after the wood has been through the process (either way), it has become mineralized and much more stable under varying humidity conditions......it no longer absorbs moisture like it did when fresh cut. Yes, I think many are guilty of over humidifying their guitars, to the point of obsession in some cases. How many of the old Gibsons and Martins we consider "vintage", possessing that dry, punchy tone acoustic players love.........how many of those were humidified in the way it's done today? I'd venture to say very few of them had a wet sponge shoved down their throat when winter rolled around, and few of them were babied through the long hot summers before there was air conditioning. They just were there.......the players played them, took reasonable care not to break them, leaned them in the corner at night and just let mother nature take her course with the wood. And look at 'em now!

 

Torrefaction seems like a reasonable shortcut to dry wood. Maybe it will turn out to be the best thing to happen to acoustic guitar building in decades.........but maybe these things will start popping apart after ten years or so...........who knows. Jury's out.

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I have the Martin OM18 Authentic with torrefied top and braces.

 

 

It needs more than just a torrefied top to replicate a Martin from 1933, so NO, manufacturing all the Standard models with torrefied top would be nice enough but more needed - below is a list of differences between an Authentic model and a Golden Era model, which is different again than a Standard series model.....

 

 

I was very happy with mine straight out of the box, while I have never played an original 1933 one to compare, but it is a great, great guitar!

 

 

So I have trained my new guitar to be an old guitar on three fronts - thinner finishes, torrefied top and braces came with it; 3 days on the Tonerite and then some plain old hard playing!!!! A key ingredient to players loving this model guitar is the 'feel' and sound through the back in to your chest, stomach - the whole thing just RESONATES! My new budget model Martin 000-17 Black Smoke has some trickle down effect from the Authentic learning curve, I reckon - thin finish and no pore fillers, thinner woods and scalloped braces - a different kind of 'vintaged'....

 

 

Edit - I forgot to mention that a test track I posted here of both my OM18 Authentic vs my vintage Gibson L-0 and the question of which guitar sounded like a vintage guitar, had the slightly embarrassing result of everyone picking the new guitar! Ahem.

 

 

OM18A1_zpsi7ly4u7g.jpg

 

 

 

 

From Todd Yates UMGF....

 

Here are some of the key differences that set the Authentics apart from the Golden Eras:

 

Hot hide glue

Smaller bridge plate

 

Tucked bridge plate and braces

 

No popsicle brace

 

Narrower #1 cross brace

 

No L-shaped neck block

 

Unslotted bridge pins and slotted bridge

 

Tapered bridge pin holes

 

Low, wide #3 and #4 back braces

 

Tee-bar neck reinforcement

 

Neck that is thicker toward the body

 

 

 

 

 

BluesKing777.

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One thing I would be concerned about is…..who knows what torrefied tops will do in 20 years. Dana, said some of his first attempts resulted in bridges coming off……Who knows? Maybe these tops will last 100 years like old Gibsons and Martins….maybe they won't……there isn't any research…..just wait, and trust, and see…..

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They'd be covered under Gibson's warranty.

 

Only in the U.S Lifetime ..or Canada 1 year.. Original owner ship only..

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How many of the old Gibsons and Martins we consider "vintage", possessing that dry, punchy tone acoustic players love.........how many of those were humidified in the way it's done today? I'd venture to say very few of them had a wet sponge shoved down their throat when winter rolled around, and few of them were babied through the long hot summers before there was air conditioning. They just were there.......the players played them, took reasonable care not to break them, leaned them in the corner at night and just let mother nature take her course with the wood. And look at 'em now!

They're the ones that survived, at any rate, which could depend upon geography, "genetics," and any number of other things. Maybe we lost a lot of good ones to poor care. Or maybe the ones from gentler regions are what survived. Central heat and central air are probably the biggest guitar killers, more so than nature, and those are relatively new inventions.

 

One thing I would be concerned about is…..who knows what torrefied tops will do in 20 years. Dana, said some of his first attempts resulted in bridges coming off……Who knows? Maybe these tops will last 100 years like old Gibsons and Martins….maybe they won't……there isn't any research…..just wait, and trust, and see…..

I don't think so. It should behave like any old wood. If you take an old guitar and put a new bridge on it, does the bridge come off? Not if you've got a good luthier. I think with an old guitar, or torrefied wood, it's a little harder to get glue to stick, but once it's stuck, you should be good to go. Not that I know that from experience, but surely Gibson/Martin/etc would. Anyway, new wood is what changes over 20 years. Torrefied wood has kind of been "killed," and it's probably done changing. The rest of the wood on the guitar, on the other hand, assuming it's only the top that's torrefied, will still move around for a while. But it's the soft wood, the spruce, that would have moved most, and the bracing (also spruce) is in small enough chunks and covered in enough glue that its aging and movement shouldn't matter much.

 

Just speculation on my part.

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I have asked on a few forums if all guitar tops and wood are kiln dried, and I am fairly sure Martin Gibson Taylor are not going to wait 3 - 7+ years for wood to dry enough naturally for guitar making.... but I have had not one answer.

 

I saw the guitar tour videos showing the kilns at Martin and Gibson, so... for torrefied tops, just bake a bit longer.

 

Here is a thread or 2 I read :

 

http://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=392410

 

http://www.woodweb.com/knowledge_base/AirDrying_Versus_KilnDrying.html

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_drying

 

 

 

BluesKing777.

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Recently I was talking to a pal who is carpenter by profession. He makes his living since 26 years furnishing houses of very wealthy people. This also includes finishing woods by demand using all polyesters available, from synthetic resins to nitrocellulose. Sometimes he uses thermally modified wood – this is the correct term - and educated me on thermal wood treatment. He also recommended me some good reads which all are German, so I will link the English Wikipedia articles here providing a nice overview, too:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermally_modified_wood

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torrefaction

 

I have to say it all was quite enlightening for me.

 

Then after the resurrection of this one http://forum.gibson.com/index.php?/topic/123719-experiences-with-torrefication-thermal-aging/ this topic came up, and I read the Reverb article linked by the OP https://reverb.com/news/are-torrefied-tops-the-new-industry-standard-dana-bourgeois-weighs-in further helping to open my eyes for the context. I also read the comments on this article where lots of good points are mentioned. One contains a statement by a reputable luthier from Pennsylvania – quote: "Natural aging changes the responsiveness and characteristics of a soundboard. Torrefaction changes the wood into something different." - end of quote.

 

Thermal modification of wood and torrefaction are two completely different processes. Anyway, either do 'change wood into something different.'

 

To avoid being too comprehensive here, I just want to give attention to the three points that made me doubt if Dana Bourgeois really knows what he's talking about.

 

First, none of the substance groups he mentioned is volatile at environmental temperatures except humidity and the small and in hardwoods negligible share of essential oils. This clearly sets thermal wood treatment apart from natural aging.

 

Second, he stated that the chemical-physical reactions caused by "torrefaction" would also happen naturally over a very long period of time. This is definitely not the case. Would he try hatching an egg through boiling it? [scared]

 

Third, he talked about heat treatment of mahogany. This is complete nonsense. As a luthier he should know that all the desired aging of heartwoods is already done by nature before the tree is felled. Anymore of that will be too much for any heartwood. There's nothing more to do than bringing it to the appropriate equilibrium moisture content.

 

It is best to do just the latter to sapwoods, too.

 

It would be best doing that as gently as possible, but today kiln drying produces lots of sapwoods being tonewise unpredictable for decades. Now guitar makers obviously jump from the frying pan into the fire. <_<

 

Fortunately heartwoods will overcome kiln drying practically unaffected - except for humidity, of course.

 

From a chemical-physical point of view the guitar-wise erratingly so-called torrefaction is destruction and has nothing in common with aging.

 

A last word from here to those of you owning guitars comprising synthetical former timbers: Enjoy them, they might outlive you, as well as those three of mine with baked maple or Richlite fretboards will outlive me. [rolleyes]

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The questions keep comin' and most of us seem to be more mystified the deeper we get.

I sincerely think we could learn a lot from the violinists, bratch and cello-people - both the average players and the nerds, builders and historical wizards & scientists.

 

Calling The World ! Can we borrow a classical expert please ? - the Board needs it.

Apart from that, let's not forget this recently revived thread -

 

http://forum.gibson....-thermal-aging/

 

Which contained the following exchange.

 

 

I would like to add that torrefaction doesn't and cannot prevent wood from absorbing moisture. Wood cellular structure, whether or not cooked, allows for the absorption of moisture. You can confirm this by leaving your guitar in a very humid environment for some time. That top will expand as it absorbs moisture. Or, dip it in the bathtub. It will absorb water. Conversely, place it in a very dry environment for some time. It will crack.

 

There may be something to cooking the resins in the wood. But, again, that won't make the wood impervious to moisture.

 

Ahaaaa, , , that's worth a thought.

 

Especially as consensus tells us that the cells in vintage or torrefied wood has passed the stage where they react to humidity/temperature and is now somewhat 'dead' -

or too old for exercise.

Could it be that the absorption/dry-out happens on a more limited level and things therefor seem more stable.

Admit I didn't get the precise answers regarding how, why and if the wood continues to breathe after torrefaction. Maybe the article was too technical.

Thanx anyway

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