If you have spent any time perusing Matt’s Blog, or our guitar listings, you may have come across my articles about specific tone woods like Alder, Ash, Spruce, Maple, Ebony, etc. A term that comes up in all those articles is Janka Scale. In the simplest of terms, Janka = hardness. The Janka Test is a rating, or ranking system, for how hard different woods are.
On this edition of Matt’s Blog, I’m going to cover in tedious, over-bearing, nuanced detail, mind you, my latest Partscaster build! If you’ve chatted with me in the store there is a good chance I have bored you with mansplanations surrounding my various ventures down Partscaster Way. Well, get ready for one in written form!
Roasted, Caramelized, Vulcanized, Heat Treated, Torrified, call it what you want, manufacturers sure do! Heating up wood in order to change its cellular structure and reduce its moisture content is what it is, regardless of adjective! Ok, now that I have got that off my keyboard, let’s dive a little deeper.
The term Nut comes up frequently when reading about guitar specs. Every guitar has a nut, otherwise, it won’t play! The nut is that small piece of bone, plastic, graphite, etc, that keeps the strings inline on their way to the headstock. The nut is small, unassuming, definitely NOT glamorous, but is absolutely crucial to playability, tuning stability, and tone.
Ebony is considered one of the finest, most ornamental woods that money can buy. Most people think of it as a very dense, black wood that could pass as plastic from a distance. When held up close, it’s easier to see grain, and few pores depending on the direction of the cut. It’s used on any type of luxury item you can imagine, from furniture, to clocks, to frames, to carvings, to jewelry, to gun handles, to guitars! Anything that can be made from wood and is made from ebony carries a price premium compared to say Maple, Mahogany, or Rosewood. The stuff polishes up to almost a mirror shine, so seeing it as a fingerboard with some gorgeous inlays looks phenomenal over a basic rosewood and dots board.
Pau Ferro has garnered interest, notoriety, fame as of lately since Fender started using it as a fingerboard replacement for Rosewood starting a couple years ago. However, its use in the guitar world goes much farther back than many know of. One of my favorite examples is the early 1990s Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Strats. These guitars were built with either Brazilian Rosewood or Pau Ferro fingerboards.
In this blog post, I'll attempt to construct a Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Electric Guitar Pickups. Single Coil, Humbucker, P-90, Active, Passive, Lipstick, the options and related vocabulary are exhausting! There has been an explosion of new pickup winders, from cheap to boutique, and it seems like an endless parade!
Alder is a lovely tonewood for several reasons. From being easy to work with from a manufacturing standpoint to taking a finish incredibly well, to being able to run the tonal gamut depending on what pickups you have installed in the guitar, Alder is Vanilla. And Vanilla is awesome because you can add whatever you want to it to make it even more awesome-er!
Another term that brings confusion to many players is Scale Length. Nope, it’s not how many frets you covered in a scale, it’s actually the distance from your bridge saddles to the nut. This length of the string that is ‘in play’ accounts for an instruments given scale length. The number is an approximation and if you look at the individual saddles you’d see that each string needs to be compensated forward or backward depending on which string you are talking about and the string gauge for that specific string.