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Tempered Woods

NECKSBlanksTemperedBirdseyeMapleWNBT500“Tempered”, “Roasted”, “baked” or “cooked” woods are exposed to temperatures of 350° to 425° Fahrenheit (about 180°-220° Celsius) over a period of many days. They are "cooked" in a vacuum chamber with the help of steam so that there is no burning. The computer controlled process raises and lowers the temperature slowly to avoid cell collapse. The end result is a tonewood that resembles the naturally aged woods in the most treasured instruments. There are number of positive results, each of which enhances the wood's application in lutherie:

  1. Enhanced stability. Exposing woods to high temperatures removes almost all the water from them and hardens the natural sugars in the wood. Some water is re-introduced to the levels found in well cured, uncooked woods - about 4%. The end result is a wood that is less likely to take in or release moisture down the road thereby reducing expansion and contraction. This is especially advantageous for the figured woods as the figure normally is detrimental to stability.

  2. Weight. The thermal process removes cell content. This results in woods that will be lighter than before treatment.

  3. Tone. According to renowned electric maker Juha Ruokangas (a pioneer in using cooked woods), "resins in the wood cells vaporize or crystallize during thermo treatment. This is one of the crucial reasons that the sound velocity in the wood increases - resulting as a better resonating guitar.” Lighter wood that is stiffer, with less damping material in the core of the cell with exhibit stronger fundamentals, faster attack transients and more harmonic overtone content. There is louder acoustic resonance  and more sustain.

  4. Feel. A darkened Maple fingerboard does not need to be coated in finish in order to stay bright in color as they are on Fender guitars. The wood has the natural wood feel found on guitars with unfinished fingerboards (such as found on virtually all Gibson electrics and all acoustic guitars).

  5. Darker color. Purely an aesthetic enhancement, but in general people are more attracted to darker woods. With tempered wood, the color change penetrates the blank evenly so it's not only present on the surface and will not sand out. Many woods that are stable and have excellent tonality have been passed over because of their bland or light coloration. Darkening them helps us to include these valuable tonewoods in our offerings for the first time.

  6. Variety. Cooking and darkening woods will help us maintain a broad array of options for guitar makers as we see more and more woods grow endangered (and their import / export restricted correspondingly).

  7. Environment and Sustainability. None of the woods we are using are endangered and all are sourced in the USA or Canada. No chemical additives are involved in the thermal enhancement process. As mentioned in point #5 and #6 above, cooking (and therefore darkening) these fine tonewoods increases their desirability.

 

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