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Hi everyone. I make Lap Steel Guitars, basically they are a plank of wood with strings on the top!. I am about to receive a piece of Canadian Hard Maple for a new project (36" x 8" x 2"). I am assured that it has been thoroughly air dried but how can I ensure that it will be dry enough not to move. How can I improve it? It will be clad in Formica (I can hear the groan but it resonates better) so does it have to have a super low moisture level?. I know absolutely nothing on this aspect of timber conditioning and need an expert advice.
Thank you. JG
What a waste of a piece of Maple? :twisted: :shock:

You'd be better off asking the specifics of your question here:

Usenet Group: ...
Usenet has been around for a long time. Users are largely interested in guitar issues, but will also respond to any subject. In general, the Musicians and Instrument Makers Forum (MIMF)<> is a more useful place to start.

I think you'll have problems with almost any solid wood and a complete covering of formica. As soon as the moisture level changes in the atmosphere, it'll find a way to get through to the timber and expansion/contraction is likely to cause separation from the formica. It sounds like an ideal situation to use a man-made board material like a good quality plywood instead.

Asleitch's suggestion of the guitar making forum makes a lot of sense too - the specialist techniques involved aren't known by many around here (myself included). And of course, you face the wrath of the woodworking gods for suggesting veneering over a nice maple board with formica. Ye gods, Norm's paint-like stain finishes were one step too far, but formica is just too much for me at this time in the morning, mutter mutter mutter....


Hi Bazil

You must under no circumstances use the hard maple in guitar making.

If you send it to me I will, by return, send you a voucher for a replacement piece of timber from B & Q that will be far more suitable.

Now you can't say fairer than that, can you? :wink:

Thank you for taking the time to reply to my posting. I suppose I knew that I would probably be the butt of a few jokes. It is a common mistake by people who don't understand the amazing resonant and acoustic qualities of Hard Maple. That is why the leading Peddle Steel and Lap Steel guitar manufacturers in America and Canada use this method of construction, I would suggest that anything B&Q market wouldn't even be good enough for the flight case. However, thanks to Afterglow for the links , that is appreciated, but as you probably realise I already subscribe to quite a few ,but enthusiastic local information is what I was after. Oh well ,thanks for the laugh, I'll get back to my music and you can get back to sawing your tressels in half.Have a good year.
Mr Moderator, please close this thread, it 'aint going no where.
There's me providing what I thought were spot-on links, and AG gets the glory and Bazil's taking the p*ss.

Sorry , it was asleitch who gave me the links, thanks to all anyway.
Now getting sarcastic doesn't help anyone really, does it? If you were aware that the average woodworker doesn't understand why maple should be used, perhaps it might have been useful to mention it in your original post? That way jokes would have been kept down to a minimum and some people might have learnt something too. There's altogether too much assumption when people ask questions that all the members here are clarvoiyant. If you don't tell us that you've already tried the lutherie fora then how are we to know? Putting yourself in the other fellows shoes is the key to successful posting, and something we all need to try and keep in mind. <End of homily>

But back to the question; some of us are very aware that the type and quality of wood is vital in luthiery, we just couldn't be bothered to answer :oops: . However, if it's from a reputable supplier of musical instrument making timbers then A. They should be able to tell you the moisture content, and B. I would hope they wouldn't supply anything that wasn't ready for use. (Well I'd hope, but these days...) But to be sure, I'd keep it in warm dry conditions for a month, maybe two, before using. Better yet, buy a moisture meter.

Cheers, Alf
Not actually wearing a moderator's hat this morning, but expressing a personal view point.
Hi Bazil, I'd be interested to know a bit more about your lap steel. Are making this as a hobby?.
I play bottleneck (Dobro 33H) but upright rather than lap - couldnt find a decent steel to use and do additional finger picking too.
I'd be interested in any designs from the point of possibly having a go at building one..... one day.
Any chance of a photo in the gallery section?.
Bazil":22feso8z said:
(36" x 8" x 2"). I am assured that it has been thoroughly air dried but how can I ensure that it will be dry enough not to move.

NO WAY is this wood usable for a musical instrument (unless it is going to be kept out of doors. For any type of woodwork that is going to be kept and used indoors you need KILN DRIED wood.

Even maple that has been kiln dried and then kept in what amounts to a covered yard will need to be kept indoors for a while before using.
EG if a conventional guitar neck was made for maple as soon as the maple was purchased, it would only be a couple of weeks of being kept indoors that the wood would have shrunk enough for the frets to poke out fronm the edges of the fingerboard

Going slightly OT here.... I used to make guitars (solid electrics) and got quite good at it. I offered some advice once on the MIMF referred to above about why intonation adjustment is necessary, and got seriously flamed by the t**ts that inhabit that forum. There is more b******t talked by so called pro guitar maker/repairers that there is in most subjects, probably because it is so difficult to quantify the results of their work

Air-dried wood is not inevitably going to have a high MC, anymore than kiln-dried will be guaranteed to have a low one, surely? What I mean is, I presume you're not suggesting KD = good, AD = bad? AD has virtues of it's own, after all, and there used to be nothing else but that to use indoors anyway. Perhaps I've read more into your post than you intended though, if so I 'pologise. Personally I don't trust the way any timber I buy has been stored so always treat it to a nice long stay in the guest room. You can imagine how popular that is... :roll:

Cheers, Alf
Alf":wwdypxzl said:
What I mean is, I presume you're not suggesting KD = good, AD = bad? AD has virtues of it's own, after all, and there used to be nothing else but that to use indoors anyway.

Not at all, I would be happy to use air dried for external joinery etc. I agree that if wood is incorrectly kiln dried or stored that's no good either

As you say, there used to be nothing else, on the other hand there used not to be central heating either! The thing I like about correctly kiln dried timber is that it will have been taken below the required level of M/C and then allowed to come back up, thus overcoming its M/C inertia if that's the right expression, whereas air dried will approach indoor levels of dryness but not actually reach it until it has been indoors for a long time. That's not a value judgement BTW

I thought amongst high-end furniture designers they much preferred air-dried timber as it is "relaxed" i.e. no forced drying. Certainly the two I know, prefer the use of their own cut and air dried timber. Perhaps it depends on availability of timber, it's easy to justify having a load of stacked oak in the backyard, but the same can't be said of teak - I don't know whether cash flow would allow it!

I can well imagine that one could find furniture makers who, having access to green or air dried timber, but no kiln, would express a preference for air-dried timber. The vast majority of furniture makers AFAIK (which is quite a long way) prefer kiln dried

The thing is, if you read John Arrowsmith, the virtual inventor of small scale kiln drying, and a very experienced and clever man, he explains that wood needs to be forced to give up its moisture. He explains that the only way to do this is to raise its temperature until it releases its moisture and then to remove that moisture from the air surrounding it.

Naturally as has already been mentioned above, kiln drying is not the only way of conditioning wood to make it suitable for use in furniture intended for centrally heated houses. It is, however, IMO, the only practical way unless one can accomodate that wood in the environment in which it is to be used for a long time


From what I've read and heard, many of the designer makers actively prefer air-dried. Walnut springs to mind as a good example if I'm remembering my facts correctly; kiln dried the sapwood in walnut takes on the same colour as the rest, losing some of its character in the process. I get the impression that many bespoke makers get some of their commissions from people who want tree X from their property made into a durable piece of furniture. They don't kiln dry it; they wait. The only benefit of kiln dried, as you say, is that it gets to the required MC much quicker. If speed is all, then it wins hands down, no argument. But air dried is much nicer to work in my - very limited - experience. And just to be cynical for a moment; a manufacturer of kilns would say it was the best way, wouldn't he? :wink:

We're obviously not going to agree on this one, but that's fine. It'd be a boring world if we all did. :D I've not used an awful lot of air dried timber to be fair, but I think it would be a disservice to other members not to argue the case for the defence. I wouldn't want someone to turn down cheap wood just 'cos it was air dried f'rinstance :shock: :lol:

Cheers, Alf
As you say, Alf, we are not going to agree on this one. My advice to anyone buying timber to be made into furniture for a centrally heated house, and which will not be stored in that house for a couple of years before being used, is to buy kiln dried from a reputable source.
Often (nearly always) air dried will be less expensive, but add the cost or time of your own labour, is it worth the risk to make something which later splits or twists?

As far as the original question goes, a 2inch thick piece of maple, to be used in a musical instrument, air dried, no way jose.


BTW, Bazil mentioned that Formica resonates better, my question to him is, since I presume he is building a solid, electrically amplified lap steel, why does he want it to resonate?
I had,nt intended to return to this thread but in consideration of Alf's efforts to calm the situation and because of the excellent discussion which followed I felt that I should show my appreciation. The information has been invaluable. I'm not sure I agree with Alf's reprimand re sarcasm , I still feel that my perfectly clear and sensible question was met with unfounded "micky taking". BUT I'm prepared to accept that I didn't receive the comments in the spirit in which they were intended and wish to draw a line under it all and move on :oops: . Alf also suggested I should have given more info.Well, here goes, I will try to keep it brief and to the point. I play a commercially manufactured Lap Steel Guitar but I make them as a hobby. The Lap Steel Guitar in very basic terms is like a solid body electric guitar except it is literally an oblong board ,no shape,with 6, 8 or 10 strings across the top. It is played laying on your lap, it has no frets (bit like a Violin) and the notes are selected using a Tone Bar on the strings.I would post a phot in the gallery but I hav'nt figured out how to ! :? The top and edges are usually clad in laminate to (A) Add decoration, (B) Reduce wear, which is high and (C) It aids the hardware to achieve good contact with the base board.The bottom is only covered with baize. The type of wood is all important e.g. Hard Maple gives a "bright" tone and very good sound sustain qualities, mahogany gives a "warm, mellow" tone like a classical or hawaiian guitar and Ash (depending on origin) usually gives an "edgy, sharp" tone favoured by some musicians but there are endless opinions about which is best. My project is to rebuild a 10 stringer Lap. The original base board, which needs renewing, is Hard Maple. This has been confirmed by the original maker. This brings me back to the original question which I believe had been adequately discussed here. I have posted the same question on a few musical forums but because they are mainly in the US or Canada where the temp and RH conditions vary so much according to state, you can understand that the replys are of equal variation. I was after "Local" UK expert opinions. It has been suggested to store the board in our spare room in a constant RH of around 40 to 45% for 3 months or would it would be prudent to have the board kiln dried to make sure?. (Johnelliot "needs to be forced")
If anyone is still awake after this, thank you for your replies they are much appreciated and I hope you found this of interest.
To morrisminordriver, I will contact you with info within the next few days.
Bazil":18i7a0zf said:
It has been suggested to store the board in our spare room in a constant RH of around 40 to 45% for 3 months or would it would be prudent to have the board kiln dried to make sure?

I think that would be adequate, especially if you are confident that it has been adequately air dried. Have a look at the gowth rings at the end of the piece, and figure out which part of the tree it came from. If it was cut on or near to the quarter then you are pretty safe. If it came from the middle of the tree or if the growth rings are very curved then leave it in the warm room for as long as you can.
BTW, I wonder what the source of this maple is, usually maple is obtained from North America where it is kiln dried near to the source. I would think it would be quite difficult to purchase such a large piece in this country air and not kiln dried
Hi Bazil

Bazil":gn5job31 said:
I still feel that my perfectly clear and sensible question was met with unfounded "micky taking".

I had assumed that Adam had given you a link that would satisfy your search for information and also opened the way for a little fun. If I offended you then I'm sorry. :oops:

Welcome back, JG. I was sufficiently interested to Google for Lap Steel Guitars, and came up with a whole gallery of them. Definitely the winner of "you learn something new everyday" for me today :D I must say my uneducated reaction would be that what wood was used would make no difference, but it obviously does. Fascinating stuff.

As regards the drying, I agree with John that the 3 months should be okay. Prop it up or else put it on stickers to ensure maximum airflow natch, but I expect you're way ahead of me on that one.

John, I suppose it's not impossible that it could be native grown? I hope it's not the old confusion between maple and sycamore, 'cos I bet the acoustic properties are different... :shock:

Cheers, Alf

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