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  • New Antique Wood Build.

    I'm starting a new project with a body made out of antique purple heart. Its a beautiful wood that comes from brazil, and antique piece like this is very expensive. The one chunk I have is worth about $800. My drummer restores antiques for a living and I get some great chunks of wood from him for building one of a kind guitars. I'll be using lacquer on it so I wont tint the woods natural purple color.
    I'm just deciding on a body shape. I have to go with a thin body design because the stuff is so dam heavy at 54 lb/ft^3. It is ranked one of the hardest and stiffest of the woods in the world so my power tools routing this stuff will likely burn them out. I'll probably have to buy carbide bits for my router too.

    A normal les paul shape made of this stuff could easily weight 20+ pounds so I'll likely stick with a Rickenbacker thickness of around 1 1/4" thickness. I don't know if I'll wear it on stage much but the sustain should be incredible. I'll likely use the Tele neck I bought about a year ago. Since the neck pocket will be fairly shallow, I'll likely have to use a taller bridge. I'm thinking I might use a wrap around bridge this time.

    For pickups I have several sets of mini humbuckers and a set of Rickenbacker pups. I may wait and decide on what might be best after I get the neck and bridge set and can hear its acoustic tones. Routing holes is going to be a bitch so I may just go with the Rickenbacker pups which are top mount. I'll only need to drill holes for the wires then.

    I'm just not sure of the shape, I can likely cut down on weight by thinning the edges like a strat, or I can use and arched top but then I'm dealing with different pickups. The chunk is just shy about an inch from being the width of a tele but I do have length. I might try a Firebird shape. I always wanted one of those and with the mini humbuckers it might give me some of those tones. I'll likely take my time and it will easily be 6 months for this one.

  • #2
    Lovely wood. Here are a couple of thinlines made of it to get your imagination going:


    Images courtesy Becker Guitars: http://www.beckerguitars.com/custom/.
    Official HCAG “Theory-Challenged Hack”
    Member of the IBANEZ ACOUSTIC ASSASSINS
    Proud Member of The Alvarez Alliance
    Person-2-Person on the Web

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    • #3
      Thread needs pics!

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      • #4
        A Rickenbacker design would look good with the purple heart. I've worked with purple heart quite a bit, in fact I have a big board of it that I'm trying to decide what to do with. Yes, it is very hard and brittle... rough on tools, but also very stable. When freshly cut it is the bright purple color, but oxidizes to a purplish brown fairly quickly.

        I would use something better than nitrocellulose lacquer if you want to slow down the oxidizing process. Despite our love for nitro because its use in vintage guitars, it is really an inferior coating in most respects. It yellows much faster than acrylic lacquer or poly, and I would think you would want to avoid that with purple heart. And its ability to allow the wood to "breathe" that some claim would also be an undesirable characteristic if you want to avoid oxidation.
        Please visit my website www.treeguitarworks.com

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        • #5
          Originally posted by cx04332 View Post
          Thread needs pics!
          ^This

          Love to hear what purple heart sounds like as a tonewood. Some folks deny it but I always feel like I can hear some characteristic tonal differences.
          The most important thing I look for in a musician is whether he knows how to listen --Duke Ellington

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          • #6
            Is that wood not very heavy and hard?

            The piece I had was so hard it would chip when you cut it.

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            • #7
              Here's a few pics. Its still a rough chunk as you can see. My buddy split the rail for me and glued the three pieces together for me. It looks like 4 in this pic but its simply an illusion from the saw cut. Its got some burn marks from where his blade was heating up. That will disappear of course once I've decided on a shape I'll cut it with a band saw, plane it down and route my neck pocket and control cavity etc. I'll likely have more of that before I'm done and yes, as DaleH mentioned, without proper tools this stuff can chip or crack.

              Its not only that hard, but when it gets to be this old the wood petrifies and its more like cutting through rock then wood. The sap hardens and it does gives the wood much better tones then green wood. Its one reason vintage guitars have sweeter tones and people seek them out. In my case its like taking a short cut to getting those tones.

              This will be my 6th guitar made from antique wood like this. My last one was my best and I play it more then all my others because its got such unique tones. My plans are to out do that one and give it my best efforts so I'm going to take my time building it. I will have thought through every aspect of the build many times over before I proceed so all the details are in order to avoid mistakes.



              The second side is browner. This is the outside of the wood that's been exposed to the air for around 100 years or more.
              This used to be part of an antique bed frame so its likely seen some action in its day. This chunk must weigh around 40 pounds. Its long enough for just about any body shape, the width is short about an inch for a normal tele body so its going to be narrower. Its also about 2.5 inches thick so its going to loose weight when I plane it down thinner. This brown color will be gone during that process.


              Last edited by WRGKMC; 06-06-2014, 06:16 AM.

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              • #8
                I used to work in a wood shop and really loved purple heart. Always dreamed of having a guitar made out of the stuff but didn't realize it was so heavy.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by stormin1155 View Post
                  A Rickenbacker design would look good with the purple heart. I've worked with purple heart quite a bit, in fact I have a big board of it that I'm trying to decide what to do with. Yes, it is very hard and brittle... rough on tools, but also very stable. When freshly cut it is the bright purple color, but oxidizes to a purplish brown fairly quickly.

                  I would use something better than nitrocellulose lacquer if you want to slow down the oxidizing process. Despite our love for nitro because its use in vintage guitars, it is really an inferior coating in most respects. It yellows much faster than acrylic lacquer or poly, and I would think you would want to avoid that with purple heart. And its ability to allow the wood to "breathe" that some claim would also be an undesirable characteristic if you want to avoid oxidation.
                  I did think of that. My thought was to try the lacquer first. If it doesn't hold up its easily removable and I could try a poly coat. If I do it the other way around removing the poly is a bastard, plus getting poly to look as good as a factory finish is no where as easy.

                  Lacquer is pretty hard stuff and it will seal the body for many years. It will likely outlast me seeing I'm 56 now. I'll let the next guy worry about a refinish if it does turn. In any case, I'll give it a shot and if it doesn't last, I will have verified your fears about oxidation. However, what I read was just the opposite, the wood stars off brown when its cut and its the air that makes it turn purple. I'll likely do some more reading of course.

                  Your thoughts about a Rickenbacker shape is a good one. I do have a Rick I can use as a template. I made the mistake of copying that body before and didn't leave a tongue that sticks out for the neck to mount. My Rick neck has a long heel that projects far under the pick guard. When I mounted this neck I couldn't get to the upper frets. I could have shot myself for that stupid oversight because it was made from a great piece of mahogany. I did salvage it by cutting more of the body away near the upper frets and it did wind up being a good player, but it could have been much better.

                  That one just didn't want to have a second life as a guitar. Wood can be funny like that. Sometimes it will go together like it was meant to be and others just fight you every step of the way. That's OK cause I like a little spunk in my instruments and once it feels those strings it will purr like woman.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by DeepEnd View Post
                    Lovely wood. Here are a couple of thinlines made of it to get your imagination going:


                    Images courtesy Becker Guitars: http://www.beckerguitars.com/custom/.
                    That guy makes some great looking guitars. They are likely much lighter with the semi hollow design.
                    Don't know if my crafting skills are quite that ornate but I do plan to make the wood grain the center of attention. I'm thinking it may be a bit more basic using a wrap around bridge like a Les Paul Jr uses. A slightly smaller body size and something that is just fun as hell to play. If the great setup and playability isn't there it just winds up being a wall hanger.
                    Last edited by WRGKMC; 06-05-2014, 08:41 AM.

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                    • #11
                      As a part time builder I'll watch this with interest. However, for some reason neither your or DE's pictures are showing up.

                      One thing to consider for stabilizing the wood before you finish is to use a slow setting epoxy as a filler - commonly done on spalted woods. I've use Zpoxy on highly flamed woods like koa and it not only really pops the grain but does fill any voids that could be future problems. You can finish over it with almost anything - I've used both nitro and water born lacquers (I'm not set up to do poly's and frankly don't want to). Keep some cutoffs and try different ffillers and finishes before you commit.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Freeman Keller View Post
                        As a part time builder I'll watch this with interest. However, for some reason neither your or DE's pictures are showing up.

                        One thing to consider for stabilizing the wood before you finish is to use a slow setting epoxy as a filler - commonly done on spalted woods. I've use Zpoxy on highly flamed woods like koa and it not only really pops the grain but does fill any voids that could be future problems. You can finish over it with almost anything - I've used both nitro and water born lacquers (I'm not set up to do poly's and frankly don't want to). Keep some cutoffs and try different ffillers and finishes before you commit.
                        My parents were into refinishing antiques as were their parents. I had no choice but to learn it and when I was old enough I got recruited to do allot of the stripping and sanding. I hated it then as I hate it now but did learn my basics.

                        I haven't worked with this particular wood before but my drummers day job is restoring antiques. He makes some great money at it too. I'll definitely get his opinions on finishing options. I do have some of his work and it is quite impressive. Even with my experience he turned me on to a few of his trade secrets. Guess that's why we get along even when we aren't playing together because we have some common interests beyond music.

                        I do believe this wood is going to be so dense after its sanded, there wont be any grain to fill. Mahogany for example is a dense wood but it does have pores that can be filled with a grain filler. I did one recently with a dark grain filler my buddy gave me. It looked so good with the stuff I just left it with the filler only. There was some kind of oil based varnish mixed in with the powder that fills that actually made for a low gloss shine much like Tung oil.

                        Maybe there is something unique that can be done in preparation, but that's a long way off at this point. I pretty much have to focus on the immediate steps that come before finishing. Once the body is cut, routed, sanded, and built into a functioning instrument, I'll then remove all hardware do the final sanding and apply the finish. I have done finishing in the past before I had the hardware and electronics installed than had a screwdriver or drill bit slip and had to refinish over again, so I leave that as my last step after everything else is completely done. Then you buff it to a high gloss before you reinstall the hardware and electronics.
                        Last edited by WRGKMC; 06-05-2014, 02:01 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Freeman Keller View Post
                          As a part time builder I'll watch this with interest. However, for some reason neither your or DE's pictures are showing up. . . .
                          Go to the source, Becker Guitars: http://http://www.beckerguitars.com/custom/. The specific pics are on the left about halfway down below the words "Custom Guitar Gallery" and at the bottom in the center.
                          Last edited by DeepEnd; 06-05-2014, 08:18 PM.
                          Official HCAG “Theory-Challenged Hack”
                          Member of the IBANEZ ACOUSTIC ASSASSINS
                          Proud Member of The Alvarez Alliance
                          Person-2-Person on the Web

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by DeepEnd View Post
                            Go to the source, Becker Guitars: http://<a href="http://www.beckergui...om/custom/</a>. The specific pics are on the left about halfway down below the words "Custom Guitar Gallery" and at the bottom in the center.
                            I did that an they are quite stunning, but for some reason your image inserts don't show up. Is it my PC or do others have the same problem? I'm just looking forward to H...C's build thread and want to see the pics.

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                            • #15
                              ^^^^ This site is screwy. I finally figured out how I could get pics to post by linking a URL to my Drop Box site and it worked for two days then they block it. I just went back and put them up again and they are showing up properly now. If they disappear again, you can just click on these links and see them.

                              https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/...0/IMG_1162.JPG

                              https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/...0/IMG_1161.JPG

                              By the way that Becker guitar site does have issues. When I opened it I saw the guitars at the top finally but anything below didn't show up. Site took a long time to load too so its likely a site hosted on someone's home computer with firewall issues and not a professional business network.
                              Last edited by WRGKMC; 06-06-2014, 06:25 AM.

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