kiln drying wood

ComptonCustomCues

Quality Handcrafted Cues
Silver Member
I think you have a very 'sound' grasp on the subject (pun intended). You will likely build some of the best playing cues ever. You seem to be educated in an area that the majority of cue makers ignore or discount. I have for years studied & experimented in attempt to educate myself and find patterns in harmonics that equate to playability. I have done pretty well & built some great playing cues. But your experience & knowledge is another level altogether. I'll be interested in seeing how you progress as a builder, and hopefully someday get a chance to sit down & have a beer with you if our paths ever cross.

Perhaps i'm biased. But I don't think so. I have a problem solving train of thought, always have. The trigger to my "discovery" of how harmonics relate to playability was that I wanted to solve the problem of building two identical cues that played nothing alike. I had my dimensions down, components were consistent, but every cue had it's own character. I didn't simply accept that it's because there are variances in wood characteristics. I wanted to know how & why. Why isn't a piece of maple the same as every other piece of maple? Years of accumulative experience & knowledge revealed the only major factor is harmonics. It's not grain count or color or straightness of grain, or even weight. It's pitch of tone & strength of tone, and nothing else. Once I had that little fact figured out, I could then begin building around it and note patterns in the results. Almost immediately my cues were better, far more consistent, and playing better & better. It wasn't anymore wondering if the cue would play ok or not, making an educated guess as to how it would likely perform, then having to hit balls with it to know for sure how close I got. Nope. I could now know exactly how the cue would perform before I built it, how it would feel, the hardness of the hit, etc. Every piece of wood's harmonics are considered & factored, matched with other pieces to create a specific tone & resonance that I believe is paramount for playability. Regardless of wood species, taper shape, dimension, etc., the cue will play just like every other cue that has the same harmonics.

Sorry for the lengthy post. It's a subject I am most passionate about regarding cues. Lots of other builders, even wood suppliers, think i'm nuts. That's just fine with me.

This^^^^^^^
This is the sound of a cue maker who doesn't just build cues....its obsession for him not just a hobby.
 
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ComptonCustomCues

Quality Handcrafted Cues
Silver Member
Eric, thank you for the kind words. They are just what I needed, as I seem to be stalled in this whole pursuit at this point. Still no electric in the new shop as the young man I was paying to do this up and left, leaving me with coils of Romex coming out of every outlet. I am not an electrician. Anyway, sorry for what follows, but I just had to get it out...

You got me to thinking: "Why not start roughing shafts out by hand?"


This is the only way to make a violin bow. They do not lend themselves at all to machine production, not fine bows at any rate. Every step of the way the work is done with simple block planes, scraping planes, knives and files, guided entirely by the eye except for the very final taper, which is done with either a set of graduated gauges, with a dial caliper, or with both.

All along the way, you are constantly getting feedback from the wood, either by thumping it against your hand or just by listening to the tone of the wood as you plane it. The tools will speak to you if you listen to them. You are always holding it in your hands, flexing it and noticing how the strength and sound changes as it gets thinner. Your subconscious records all of these details, but you have to listen and feel for them. Trust me, they are there. With the "traditional" method of cue making with machinery, it's kinda hard to do that over the sound of the lathe and a screaming router, very far removed from your sensitive fingertips.

Another thing that I intend to carry over into cue building is to avoid any semblance of mass production. All of the great bow makers made only one stick at a time. This is the only way to keep these tiny details that each stick presents to you fresh in your mind.


Bow making is fiendishly difficult. There is 0.000% room for error as you reach the last stages, and any mistake - even one careless stroke of the file - will quickly send the stick out to the garden to stake up your tomatoes.

You start out with about 1/4 pound or so of pernambuco wood, and spend several hours roughing it out, leaving it oversized in all dimensions. If there is anything that feels wrong with the stick at this point, is goes in the scrap bin. Then you have to put a substantial bend in the wood using heat. About 1/3 of all sticks break at this point, revealing hidden shakes and checks that "healed" themselves to the examining eye (you guys all know how frustrating tropical hardwoods can be). These go into the wood stove. You get about 17 seconds worth of heat from a cracked $150 bow blank.

After heating and bending, the bow blank will be horribly twisted. You make no effort to prevent this, in fact, you want it to happen since it relieves hidden stresses in the wood which would just cause it to warp in the future. There are fine bows in existence that are over 200 years old and are still straight as an arrow and twist free when viewed from the top, in spite of them being under tension from the hair all the time they are being played (the depth, of course, has a substantial curve as part of the design). Makes me wonder how a cue can get a serious warp in it after just being laid at an angle against a wall.

The twists are all planed out by hand and eye, forming the initial octagonal cross-section of the bow. These initial lines will guide you throughout the slow graduation process. The beauty and flow of these lines as they develop will be reflected in beauty of the final bow... even though the facets are planed off of about 90% of finished bows, leaving a round cross-section. The curve and taper of a fine bow is so profoundly beautiful to an experienced expert that their eye will be instantly drawn to it upon entering into the workshop as it rests against a wall amid inferior bows.

All this time, you are constantly weighing the stick and balancing it on the fly. The finished bow must be as close to 60-62 grams as you can get it, or no player will buy it. There is about 37 grams of stick in a finished violin bow, give or take a gram or two. The rest is the adjusting frog, button, hair and grip. There are no "weight bolts" allowed in a bow, the stick must be carved in such a way that it arrives at artistic perfection at the same time it arrives at functional perfection.

As challenging and rewarding as bow making has been to me, it is ultimately kinda boring. They are supposed to be simple, unadorned tools, and no individual artistic freedom is accepted by the profession. Even the accepted models are rigidly defined, with only copies of the styles of masters long deceased being tolerated.

Imagine if every cue you made just had to look like a particular Rambow or no one would want it? And then there is the matter of there being only one hardwood in the world that is acceptable for a modern bow, and only a very tiny percentage of this wood being suitable for an artist grade bow... and all of this wood being both CITES protected and subject to the importation rules of the Lacey Act. There is no first quality pernambuco available for sale in this country that I know of, and I am all out of first quality wood.


Anyway, sorry for the very long, odd rant on a kiln-drying thread in a cue building forum, but Eric got me thinking, and this info seems relevant to cue building to me. There may be more than one way to skin a shaft, and this might be a great time for me to investigate this. I'm told that most of the great snooker cues are made by hand, and they seem to shoot pretty straight for guys like Ronnie O.

BTW Eric, I would definitely love to share some brews and conversation with you. I am saddened that you found it necessary to halt your cue building, but the river of life takes us along in its powerful currents like leaves on the surface. We are lucky enough if we can even influence our paths, but inexorably, we are all eventually washed to the sea.

Good luck in your future endeavors, Eric, and I sincerely hope that life will carry you back into cue building. If for no other reason, I would really like a Sugar Tree of my own some day.

You sir have talents that would be wasted on the cue world. You will have other builders belittle you. Players wont understand the toils and heart you put into every cue. 1 out of 500 people will every be able to understand the difference. No sir. You should be building find musical instruments. The musicians of the world spend every day listening for that perfect tone. It flows from their fingers and hearts. They can hear and feel the perfection of a great instument on a another level from most people on earth. I wish cue buyers took the same approach and appreciation but they don't.:(
 

whammo57

Kim Walker
Silver Member
Be careful.............. you must keep in mind that all the true artists were dead before they were appreciated.

Kim
 

Sloppy Pockets

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
You sir have talents that would be wasted on the cue world. You will have other builders belittle you. Players wont understand the toils and heart you put into every cue. 1 out of 500 people will every be able to understand the difference. No sir. You should be building find musical instruments. The musicians of the world spend every day listening for that perfect tone. It flows from their fingers and hearts. They can hear and feel the perfection of a great instument on a another level from most people on earth. I wish cue buyers took the same approach and appreciation but they don't.:(

Thanks, but I've been living in my world for a long time now, and I can tell you, there is every bit as much or even more belittling and ridicule and ignorance in the field of instrument making as there is in cue building. The field is totally saturated with folks who are highly skilled and are asking big dollars for their instruments, but if you don't sell an instrument to a major player, forget about getting universal respect or demand for your work. There are about a couple dozen makers (like Linda Manzer) who vie for the top honors (and top prices), and everybody else ain't selling squat, especially in this economy. For every Manzer guitar or Monteleone mandolin that goes for $20K, there are thousands that are failing to reach players hands at 1/10th of that price.

The parts and materials alone puts most prospective buyers out of the market. There is about $600-1000 worth of tonewood and parts in a first rate jazz guitar. A single set of Brazilian rosewood (if you can get it) for classical guitar back and sides alone will set you back over $1K. Most of the established makers have years worth of primo wood stockpiled because the stuff needs to sit way longer than cue wood does.

Kilns kill tonewood, so the wood needs to air-dry and season for a very long time before you can even consider using it. I have several Adirondack spruce billets that are over 20 years old that I bought when they were first cut and are only now IMO ready for fashioning into first-quality guitars. I can probably sell them for a good part of what a finished guitar made from them might bring me. Makers like John Monteleone bought entire spruce logs back in the 70s and are still working off their original stock. How can I compete with that?

Then there are the players. It's a romantic notion that musicians are endlessly seeking tonal perfection. It's an MP3 world out there, and young musicians are listening to this crap through iPod earbuds. This new generation has basically no concept of beauty of tone. These days 99.9% of them are playing on imported junk. These third world countries have gotten it down, in part due to American makers selling out and teaching them, and they don't have the same Lacey Act restrictions on imported wood that American makers face. They usually sound OK enough to make music on, just like a Players cue hits good enough to play 9-ball with. And they are ¢¢¢¢¢ instead of $$$$$. Just maybe, the same 1 out of 500 players can tell the difference. They buy Greenfields and Olsons and Somogyis and Traugotts.

Besides, I just turned 60 this spring. My wife makes good money and wants me to do what I want at this point. I think that thing is cues. I'm falling in love with them more and more each day, in spite of the fact that I've had little exposure to the real deal. But I am getting a sense for the spirit of the craft, and if I do proceed I fully intend to throw myself into it with all of the obsession that you and others say that Eric has for it, and just like I did with my own trade. There is no other way as I see it.


Now, to find a source for great shaft wood. Hope it ain't as elusive as pernambuco has been for me.
 

Murray Tucker

Just a Padawan
Silver Member
I have well over a million dollars in wood and equipment and I build about 10 cues a year.

When it comes to wood I am right near the top when it comes to quirky.

Feel free to call if you wish to talk. 352-551-7171 between 7am to 5pm EST.
 

QMAKER

LIVE FREE OR DIE
Silver Member
Guitars & Cues

A single set of Brazilian rosewood (if you can get it) for classical guitar back and sides alone will set you back over $1K.
Now, to find a source for great shaft wood. Hope it ain't as elusive as pernambuco has been for me.

Interesting point of view. I also was a guitar maker (luthier) as a more-or-less hobby for about 20 years and know exactly what you are saying. However, you will find the same can of worms in cue building. You can build a cue as good as, if not better, than a Southwest bit I doubt you will ever in your lifetime command the price or respect they do. It takes just as long to build a rep in the cue making as it does as a luthier. As a luthier, I could make a decent guitar with about $5,000 worth of equipment. As a cue maker, I can build a decent cue with about $40,000 of equipment. And the same applies to wood. You might, by now, be aware that good shaft wood
is getting almost as rare as pernamabuco. The same goes for Brazilian RW
and other woods (except the top plate woods--tone woods). I personally
wish you great success in your new endeavor.

BTW I have a set of BRW sides and backs that I have had squirreled away
for over 20 years. If you know anybody interested have them contact me.
Bob Flynn
 

pescadoman

Randy
Silver Member
Someone once broke a cue over my back.

The only sound I heard was OW.

The only color I saw was red.

They wished they had hit me over the head with it.....

True story in San Diego at the Captain's Quarter circa 2000's...
 

Sloppy Pockets

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Someone once broke a cue over my back.

The only sound I heard was OW.

The only color I saw was red.

They wished they had hit me over the head with it.....

True story in San Diego at the Captain's Quarter circa 2000's...

Interesting.

How would you describe the hit?

Did it feel vacuum kiln-dried or conventional kiln-dried?

Do you remember what pitch it made when it struck you?
 

ComptonCustomCues

Quality Handcrafted Cues
Silver Member
I have a set of book matched Adirondack top pieces and a complete set of Brazilian rosewood back and sides for when I build a good enough guitar to know how to use that wood. I probably wont use it for twenty years as building a good guitar is a complex and artistic thing. And I think building cues requires less equipment and more knowledge than anything. Murray don't you have a boat business though??? A million dollars.... Jesus I haven't made half that in my entire life...hell a quarter of that.....:frown:
 

Murray Tucker

Just a Padawan
Silver Member
No, I have a machine shop and steel fab business. Most of the machines I use for cues are also used for my real job. Guess the million dollar comment was kind of not needed because it does not really matter. Not sure why things pop in my head sometimes.

Murray don't you have a boat business though??? A million dollars.... Jesus I haven't made half that in my entire life...hell a quarter of that.....:frown:
 

Blue Hog ridr

World Famous Fisherman.
Silver Member
Let it flow, it floats back to you.

Same thing happens when you have a Poo in the pool.
Certain things, ya just don't want floating back to you.

I have a UTube vid up now and about to watch a bow maker.

I've watched many Tube vids on violin makers. Absolutely amazing.
 

Sloppy Pockets

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Same thing happens when you have a Poo in the pool.
Certain things, ya just don't want floating back to you.

I have a UTube vid up now and about to watch a bow maker.

I've watched many Tube vids on violin makers. Absolutely amazing.

Cool! Yeah, you can learn a bunch from watching other tradesmen do their thing. I'm always looking for new things to understand, even if I never actually use any of the specific techniques in my own work.

Here's a good one on bows I found:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKxORtebqYU

This guy makes them basically the exact way I was taught. I can almost feel how the wood and plane feel in my hands watching this. He is French (sorry, I don't speak so I can't translate) and, of course, he makes in what is known as the French tradition. Everything is done by hand and eye, without jigs or machines. You mess quite a few sticks up along the way.

What the clip doesn't show is all the work involved in making the frog (the ebony and silver component that holds the other end of the hair) and the tension adjuster. They are fully half of the work and have zero to do with the sound or playing characteristics of the bow, except for minor changes in the balance point.

It also doesn't show his palms, which are likely stained purple since the wood contains a very potent water-soluble dye. It fact, most of all the pernambuco ever harvested was used in the textile industry before the advent of coal tar dyes. Shades from the palest pink to deep purple are possible. It's said that there was once a field outside Paris that had several acres of pernambuco logs stacked as high as they could be piled. Very little of this premium old-growth wood ever made it into bows. But I imagine a lot of it went to dyeing sexy Parisian lingerie, so I guess all was not lost.

Kiln-drying? Oh, yeah... pernambuco for bow making is NEVER kiln-dried. For cues it probably would't make that much difference, but I could be wrong about that. It's a very special wood with high density (SG up to 1.2), great resilience and resonance, and a very high modulus of elasticity. I have no idea if that is an important attribute to cue wood, but the right stuff sure is pretty.
 

GBCues

Damn, still .002 TIR!
Gold Member
Silver Member
That is a pretty cool video!!!

Are we to understand that most, if not all, of a bow can be made in one day? Or does he like that color shirt when working in the shop (hopefully not the same shirt, but he is French!!)

I was also impressed at the tuning session with the violinist - "See, it doesn' quite sound right in this section of the bow" - "Here, let me fix that real quick with my itty bitty plane."

Very cool!!

Gary
 

Sloppy Pockets

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Are we to understand that most, if not all, of a bow can be made in one day? Or does he like that color shirt when working in the shop (hopefully not the same shirt, but he is French!!)

I was also impressed at the tuning session with the violinist - "See, it doesn' quite sound right in this section of the bow" - "Here, let me fix that real quick with my itty bitty plane."

No, not in one day. Like I said, half of the work is in that little piece of ebony (the "frog") that holds the hair, and in the adjuster that tightens it. He started with a relatively complete frog. There are numerous parts and mortices in the frog, silver soldering, fitting metal to wood, pearl slide to bottom, pearl dots or Parisain eye on the frog's sides. The adjuster has two handmade sterling or gold rings that are fitted on the lathe (the only machine needed, and the old French makers usually farmed that work out), and then hand flied into an octagonal cross-section, a screw centered into it, a pearl dot inlaid in the end... you get the picture.

At the Mirecourt bow making school in the 70s, students had to be able to finish a bow in 24 hours - three work days - in order to earn their certificate. That is after three years of full-time study.

In the distant past when Mirecourt was the bow making capital of the world, a maker was expected to make an entire bow in one day, every day. But they were "trade" bows, and left a bit to be desired. The Parisian makers were slower and made a much better instrument.

James Tubbs in London made about one bow a day as well, but those were Victorian workdays, not 9-5 with a two-hour liquid lunch. And he made about 5000 bows in his life, so lots of practice. Interestingly, Tubbs made a bow every Christmas Day for most of his career... the original Scrooge.

It takes me close to an entire week (with lots of interruptions) to do everything from wood selection to final hairing, but I spend a lot of time in the final tuning stages. Flexing, tapping, looking down the shaft, taking a stroke here or there, or heating the bow again to tweak the curve. All that time the bow has a crappy hank of hair in place (one deviation I make from the French tradition) so that I can get a real sense of what is going on while the stick is under tension. A lot of intuition going on there, but I'm sure of what I'm striving for and the customer always smiles, so...

If I could get the wood again I'd be back at it for sure, fit the cue making in on the side. At $2500/bow as a minimum asking price for any competent maker's work, even one a week is damn good money. But I missed the curve way back when you could still get suitable wood, so now I have to suffer for it. Such is life.
 

scdiveteam

Rick Geschrey
Silver Member
Burls

Hi,

Do they Kiln Dry Burls or is that bad for it??

I have never worked with real the crazy burls that seems to be so popular these days by many makers. I always thought people liked it because it looks so cool!

My question is how stable is that wood concerning sound qualities and how repeatable is the tonality of something like that. I aways thought it was mandatory to core it or stabilize it because it is weak structurally.

If you have to stabilize or core it, how could one ever control the parameters of it's tonal qualities especially when you take more passes as the cue reveals itself as a whole things change. It seem to me you would have to be a kinda wood soothsayer or wood profit dabbling in the occult.:confused:

Boy am I confused. I need a vacation on the Love Boat.

Rick
 

JoeyInCali

AzB Gold Member
Gold Member
Silver Member
Hi,


If you have to stabilize or core it, how could one ever control the parameters of it's tonal qualities especially when you take more passes as the cue reveals itself as a whole things change. It seem to me you would have to be a kinda wood soothsayer or wood profit dabbling in the occult.:confused:

Boy am I confused. I need a vacation on the Love Boat.

Rick

Most burls are soft, unstable and soft sounding.
Good question.
Some people use them as cored handles. Seen em on full-splice even.
Maybe 7/8 diameter of oak ought to do it.
Or perphaps use rosewood as core.

Would a burl handle cored with 7/8 bocote, ipe, purpleheart, granadillo or honduran rosewood be any softer than maple cored with 3/4 maple ?

Only one way to find out, mock up some.
 

JoeyInCali

AzB Gold Member
Gold Member
Silver Member
Cool! Yeah, you can learn a bunch from watching other tradesmen do their thing. I'm always looking for new things to understand, even if I never actually use any of the specific techniques in my own work.

Here's a good one on bows I found:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKxORtebqYU

This guy makes them basically the exact way I was taught. I can almost feel how the wood and plane feel in my hands watching this. He is French (sorry, I don't speak so I can't translate) and, of course, he makes in what is known as the French tradition. Everything is done by hand and eye, without jigs or machines. You mess quite a few sticks up along the way.

What the clip doesn't show is all the work involved in making the frog (the ebony and silver component that holds the other end of the hair) and the tension adjuster. They are fully half of the work and have zero to do with the sound or playing characteristics of the bow, except for minor changes in the balance point.

It also doesn't show his palms, which are likely stained purple since the wood contains a very potent water-soluble dye. It fact, most of all the pernambuco ever harvested was used in the textile industry before the advent of coal tar dyes. Shades from the palest pink to deep purple are possible. It's said that there was once a field outside Paris that had several acres of pernambuco logs stacked as high as they could be piled. Very little of this premium old-growth wood ever made it into bows. But I imagine a lot of it went to dyeing sexy Parisian lingerie, so I guess all was not lost.

Kiln-drying? Oh, yeah... pernambuco for bow making is NEVER kiln-dried. For cues it probably would't make that much difference, but I could be wrong about that. It's a very special wood with high density (SG up to 1.2), great resilience and resonance, and a very high modulus of elasticity. I have no idea if that is an important attribute to cue wood, but the right stuff sure is pretty.

I have a few striped pernambuco in stock for cues.
They are kilned dried.
Properly kilned woods are better than air dried imo.
Case hardened kilned woods are what you are concerned about I think.

I've come across several air dried maple. I've not used them at all.
 

Sloppy Pockets

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Properly kilned woods are better than air dried imo.

Case hardened kilned woods are what you are concerned about I think.

I've come across several air dried maple. I've not used them at all.

I'm more worried about getting case hardening with air-dried stuff. Lots of folks try to rush it by leaving it in a hot, dry place. The outside dries too fast and can actually pull the inner wood fibers apart in extreme cases.

Conventional kiln operators don't do that, they start out with fairly high heat and close to 100% relative humidity. The initial high humidity allows water to move from the inside to the outside while at the same time keeping the outside from getting too dry. You can't do that at normal air-drying temps or the wood will stain and/or get moldy. Well intentioned workers try to get the outside dry as quickly as they can to avoid staining. By doing so, they risk a worse problem.

I'm no authority on kiln drying, but I think every worker should get themselves a copy of "A Dry Kiln Operators Handbook", put out by the U.S. Forest Service. You can download it from this site:

http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/products/publications/several_pubs.php?grouping_id=101&header_id=p

More info than you may ever need to know.
 

Lexicologist71

Rabid Schuler fanatic
Silver Member
According to my kiln operator and freaking awesome cabinet maker, case hardening happens when you take a wood below the standard 6-8% moisture content. As wood dries, it gets harder. You can't get wood as dry by letting it sit in your shop as you can by putting it in a kiln, specifically a dehydration kiln. Heating the wood may force some of the moisture out of the wood, but if exposed to the same air, some of that moisture can just go back into the wood. By sucking the water out of the wood and evacuating that moisture out of the room, the wood can be made even dryer by continuing the process for days/weeks until the wood is at the desired moisture content. Too dry, and the wood is excessively hard and will tear instead of cut. Too moist and it will still dry and shrink in use and possibly (probably) cause movement.
 
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