Alkemy Guitares Interview 5 ToneWoods Essences
“Wood” is a vast subject… and a thorny one at that!
To begin with, there is the ecological dimension (a vast subject in itself…).
Working with composite materials and often using polyurethane varnishes, I do not place myself in an ecological “approach” strictly speaking.
I don’t have an ecological charter and, in absolute terms, I don’t forbid myself to do anything.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t have an ecological conscience for all that.
Of course, I sort the workshop’s waste, I recycle as much as possible and, if I don’t refuse to use exotic woods, I try to limit their use as much as possible.
And, in this case, I manage to find salvaged wood, which was cut a long time ago, so as not to supply this market, especially among woodworkers, or, by recycling old furniture.
Otherwise, I use endemic essences bought in sawmills or from recovery.
Then there is the famous dimension of the “tone wood”, the wood “OF LUTHERIE”…
And there, we enter in the world of the strange… of the myth… of shamanism! (if you have never been interested in “psycho-acoustics” I advise you to dig into the subject…)
What I am going to say here commits only me and is based on my personal and empirical experience.
First of all, you have to make the difference between the acoustic quality of an instrument (a guitar “that sounds” or not) and the sound “color” of the instrument (rather velvety for jazz or rather rich, screaming for metal and the whole range of sounds in between).
In my opinion, the term “tone-wood” is widely misused.
We often hear that some essences are suitable for lutherie and others are not.
From a certain point of view this is true, but at the same time it is a huge shortcut.
On two trees of the same essence, one may ” sound ” and the other may not.
Whether it is an essence traditionally used in lutherie or not.
The real wood for lutherie is not so much “this or that essence”, as “this or that tree” and especially how it is cut and stored.
Moreover, still according to my experience, when we talk about electric guitar or bass, the quality of the assembly and the fittings (in short, the whole vibratory chain from one end of the string to the other, nut / bridge) will have as much or even more impact on the quality of the sound than the type of wood used.
A “badly made” guitar in top quality wood with playfulness in the joints, zamak fittings and a hollow plastic saddle will sound less well than a neatly carved guitar in pallet wood with quality fittings.
I find it essential to raise customer awareness on the subject.
It is often complicated to get someone to break out of their preconceived ideas.
The only limit in the choice of wood essence are its mechanical characteristics: a monobloc fender type neck (neck and fingerboard in one piece) made of fir tree will have every chance of deforming.
Apart from this problem (and possibly the toxicity of some woods), all species are interesting.
I therefore focus first and foremost on the aesthetics requested by the client.
And, I then adapt the choice of wood species so that the aesthetics matches the desired sound color.
The choice of pickups will finish to perfect the customer’s requirements.
You can contact Frédéric Donval Alkemy Guitars through the contact form on his personal page of Luthiers.com here: https://luthiers.com/listing/alkemy-guitares/
We also invite you to follow him on his various social networks:
Frédéric Donval is a self-taught luthier since 1996. A woodworker and graduate designer, he likes to call himself “sorcerer’s apprentice”.
He designs and builds extraordinary electric guitars and basses, paying particular attention to the visual identity of the instrument.
In addition to a permanent search for excellence in sound, ergonomics and attention to detail are for him the values he likes to follow throughout his research and manufacturing process.
His style, far from the usual clichés, finds its sources in science fiction, drawing inspiration from the worlds of manga, cyber-punk and Marvel comics.
His passions and inspirations don’t stop there! A fan of motorsports, architecture and furniture, all fields related to design allow him a growing creativity.
Trained as a designer, he knows how to adapt to all styles and loves above all to take on new challenges in order to give life to his clients’ wildest projects.
Frédéric prefers above all to work with craftsmen and manual labor.
He shapes wood as well as metals or carbon fiber to create unique hardware or decorative elements.
He also surrounds himself well when the task requires it and calls upon talented French craftsmen who can assist him.
In the coming weeks, as for others luthiers for plucked string instruments, luthiers for bowed string instruments, amps & effects makers, wood & supplies dealers, lutherie events, jobs, schools & teachers subscribers on our site, you will be able to follow our series of mini-interviews dedicated to the fascinating world of luthiers.
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