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countrygypsy S@nderV MaxGuitar

why walnut on the selmer necks?

hi all, simple question actually. wondering why the neck of the selmer guitars was made out of walnut (juglans regia). i guess it was a "wood of opportunity", being cheap and easily available, but still i wonder... in my country walnut (and poplar) are the woods of choice for low-budget student and popular string instruments and aren´t considered premium in any way.

i suppose that in the 30s, mahogany (switenia spp.) should already be the wood of choice for the neck. mahogany is lighter than walnut, but is structurally very stable and easy to work, as you all may know. since the selmer corp. had to import braz rosewood from roughly the same region, the logistics could be simplified when importing both woods. and by that time mahogany wasn´t scarce in any way...

and what about now? are there any reason for the selmer replicas to be made with walnut necks, rather than that of historical faithfulness? or, to put it differently, does the walnut neck impart any specificities to the overall "selmer sound"?

thanks in advance,
Miguel.
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Comments

  • klaatuklaatu Nova ScotiaProdigy Rodrigo Shopis D'Artagnan, 1950s Jacques Castelluccia
    Posts: 1,665
    Can't say anything about the sound quality, but walnut is described on one site as "somewhat softer than maple though stiffer than mahogany," and on another site a builder says that walnut is "an absolute joy to work, although good quality mahogany isn't bad either.'

    Bob Holo uses walnut in some of his necks, sometimes with a rosewood stiffener, and Rodrigo Shopis recommended walnut for the neck of the guitar he is building for me (my current Shopis has mahogany). I don't think either of them is trying to slavishly emulate Selmers.
    Benny

    "It's a great feeling to be dealing with material which is better than yourself, that you know you can never live up to."
    -- Orson Welles
  • noodlenotnoodlenot ✭✭✭
    Posts: 388
    thanks for answering. interesting thoughts. so maybe here we don´t care for walnut because it´s too common?

    since rodrigo doesn´t - to my knowledge - post around here, it would be cool to know bob holo´s take on this. i really appreciate his clarity of exposition, and it´s always nice to learn.


    Cheers,
    Miguel.
  • noodlenotnoodlenot ✭✭✭
    Posts: 388
    sorry, but i had to bump this one. anyone else has an opinion on this?


    Cheers,
    Miguel.
  • ShawnShawn Boise, Idaho✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 296
    Hi Miguel,

    You might want to check this site out:

    http://www.jemsite.com/jem/wood.htm

    They provide a pretty thorough base, upon which wood is selected for each purpose. Granted, the site is geared more toward solidbody guitars, but has some pretty good information regardless. If I may quote their section on Walnut, "A darker wood with Ash-like grains, but like mahogany, the density is uniform. It is harder and denser than Mahogany so the tone is brighter, but the open grains make for a complex midrange that seems to be compressed in some frequencies, but dynamic in others. There’s a nasal response to rhythms, while solo notes jump out."

    Hope this resource helps, but I'd definitely say I would consider Bob Holo the supreme authority on wood choices. Hopefully, if he's not too busy, he'll chime in on this subject.

    Shawn
  • Michael BauerMichael Bauer Chicago, ILProdigy Selmers, Busatos and more…oh my!
    Posts: 1,002
    The very late Selmers made by Pierre Roulot had solid one-piece rosewood necks without the separate headstock that earlier Selmers had. These guitars feel heavy, but the weight is all in the neck. There's no explanation for the switch, and I'd be tempted to guess it was just because they had lots of rosewood around, but Roulot was a real innovator who modified the Selmer design in significant ways (most notably a taller pliage on the top), so maybe he had a better reason for doing it. It makes me wonder if other acousic luthiers ever used rosewood for more than the occasional one-off.
    I've never been a guitar player, but I've played one on stage.
  • Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
    Posts: 795
    ..... It makes me wonder if other acousic luthiers ever used rosewood for more than the occasional one-off.

    Luthier's Mercantile company, a supplier of guitar making parts sells wood for necks and includes two different rosewoods in their offerings, saying "Those who have been able to get pieces large enough for necks have reported a dramatic contribution to the tone of the instrument." I can believe that though I haven't tried it, yet.

    Regards walnut for necks, to me the question is more like why not? Walnut is a good tone wood, very stable, abundant in clear straight grain, easily machined and carved, glues well and is attractive. Walnut is highly under rated for guitar building. French walnut has some cool looking greens and reds that creep in along with the chocolate brown. American walnut is more homo genius in color.

    I like walnut for laminated backs and sides, a poor man's rosewood. Nice grain, dark, rich color at a tenth the price of rosewood. Solid walnut backs and sides are not uncommon on a wide range of acoustics, both low and high end, both historically and today.

    Craig
  • noodlenotnoodlenot ✭✭✭
    Posts: 388
    Thanks for the replies, they´re very informative. Some thoughts, though:

    Regarding tone, i believe the effect of neck / scale material should be of more direct effect on electric than acoustic guitars, which have stronger influences from top, back, sides and saddle materials, helmholtz resonance and bracing design that may dilute the contribution of the neck. Still, every element adds a bit, as they say.

    Personally, i don´t believe much in the effect of neck material on tone, or at least, not in a dramatic effect of it. Still, i only have contact with a limited number of guitars, so i guess further experimentation is necessary for a more robust judgement.

    The main concern with walnut (which i´ve seen used numerous times, so OTOH, it has got to have something going for it) is it´s not as stable or durable and is more prone to shrinkage than mahogany, which, on top, has an optimum (for wood) strength-to-weight ratio. So i guess my question would be was walnut chosen in spite of mahogany? (which i guess is a difficult question to answer and, besides, quite an ocious one).

    just my two cents, always nice to exchange thoughts on this subject.

    once again, thanks!
    Miguel
  • Ken BloomKen Bloom Pilot Mountain, North CarolinaNew
    Posts: 164
    One of the reasons why walnut is a preferred wood for furniture is its wonderful stability. Maple on the other hand, is very hydroscopic and moves around like crazy unless you take precautionary measures. Since walnut is much denser than mahogany it is an excellent choice for a neck. Mahogay is indeed very stable and strong but much more porous and much less dense than walnut. I'm sure that walnut was chosen for the neck of the Selmer guitars for its availability and stability. Walnut would be domestic. Mahogany would have to be imported.
    Ken Bloom
  • noodlenotnoodlenot ✭✭✭
    Posts: 388
    yeah, that all makes sense... but what about nowadays? people still tend to use walnut in the premium models, right?

    thanks and merry xmas!
    Miguel.
  • noodlenotnoodlenot ✭✭✭
    Posts: 388
    hi again (and sorry for going back at this)!

    on re-reading the previous post, i found i wasn´t exactly clear to where i was getting at, let me rephrase the question:

    the cheaper duponts have mahogany necks and the most expensive ones have walnut necks (IIRC). this is because of historic accuracy of the premium models, not because walnut is a "nobler" / "better" (disclaimer: terms used with a pinch of salt) wood, right?


    cheers, and merry christmas!
    Miguel.
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