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  #1  
Old 06-14-2008, 05:25 AM
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Arrow Smith Woods "The Vault"

About 30 years ago I bought my first batch of wood to make the first run of The Smith Electric Bass. Ever since then I have searched out the best structural and most beautiful tone woods I could find. I think that my initial hunt was a success as the Basses made from that purchase have held up beautifully after about 28 years of use.

After passing 25 years in the business of producing handmade Basses I stepped back and took visual stock of my wood supply and realized that we had accumulated a fantastic collection of some of the most beautiful woods we have ever used.

At that point I decided to make a conscious effort to kick the figured woods up a notch on the grading scale.

Curly/Tiger Maple used to start with low figure on the J and M models with book-matched low-medium figures on the MW Bolt-on series. All of these models had an up-charge fee for AAA grade Tiger figure. Now, the lowest Grade used for any model is a AA-AAA combined piece on average (AA+) with many Basses shipping out at AAA at no extra charge. Only the AAAA Grade Tiger figure is up-charged now so there is no question as to the visual value of the added beauty.

On the Walnuts, the main laminated models are the MW and GN with the Black Tiger getting that rare figure found in and around the Black Walnut Crotches. With 10s of thousands of board feet or Black Walnut produced from Logs we purchased and had cut-up we constantly hunt for that rare Walnut figure. While making up Body Wings and searching for suitable pieces for the Black Tiger models we find many border line Tops that end up being down graded for usage in the GN and even MW models. Almost every MW Bolt-on Walnut Bass today has an attractive Walnut Top with at least some figure present or presence off an attractive Book-matched Crotch patterned grain. The Grade seen in our Walnut Tops today is above the Specs in which the models have been advertised in the past. The single page Brochure we produced about a decade ago shows only the minimum grade wood seen on our latest Basses.

The Black Tiger was started when I decided to pedestal this rare natural beauty that comes from the Black Walnut tree. We did not sell this model by Grade in the beginning. We used what we would call 3, 4 and 5A figure pieces for each Oil Finished Black Tiger model without any grading distinction. Then, we decided that the 5a Grade was too rare to use at random and developed the Black Tiger Elite model. Earlier Lacquered Elite Basses with Figured Walnuts prior to the inception of the Black Tiger name were produced at random as well. Now though, it was time to conserve this rare part of nature and use each Grade accordingly. The 5A figure was to only be under Lacquer where all the various and mixed figures within a piece of wood could be seen thru our transparent high gloss finish. The 4A grade are the pieces that do not appear to make 5A so these are made up as 5-piece wings as well but used in the regular Oil/Varnished Black Tiger series and an up-graded body wing.

Back in 1998 I found a small batch of Flamed Shedua which I used in place of Figured Walnut. It was a hard sell and finally we had used it all up. A few years later customers started requesting it. Now, we have a small supply of Figured Shedua once again. When the BMT model came out in 1993 we used Shedua for the thinner strips in the 7-pc laminated Neck. Last month we brought in another load of Shedua and have decided to use it as Neck Strips in place of Bubinga for the GN and Black Tiger models.

The 25th Anniversary Model is another example of the 'open vault' syndrome where no piece of wood be hidden from our Top model purchaser. Pieces that I thought were unique and rare are now used each time with make one of these timeless works of art. From Quilted Maple to Figured Claro Walnut we have picked out the best from my private collection for the 25th models.

This is just some of the slight and maybe un-noticed changes we have made in providing the attractive woods seen on todays Smith Basses. I will update this Thread as News becomes News. In the mean time, feel free to post and discuss this amongst yourselves. Direct questions are welcomed as well.
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  #2  
Old 06-16-2008, 11:18 AM
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Very interesting. I'm hoping to put in an order for a fretless BSR5EG or BSR5TNE with some of that exhibition grade walnut.

I think it will make a great compliment to my BSR4EG lined fretless which I ordered with AAAA quilted maple top, but I swear I can't fathom how this isn't exhibition grade.. 7 years later and I'm still in love with this quilt as is everyone who sees it!

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Old 06-16-2008, 12:24 PM
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Thumbs up 4a, 5a?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Faulkner View Post
Very interesting. I'm hoping to put in an order for a fretless BSR5EG or BSR5TNE with some of that exhibition grade walnut.

I think it will make a great compliment to my BSR4EG lined fretless which I ordered with AAAA quilted maple top, but I swear I can't fathom how this isn't exhibition grade.. 7 years later and I'm still in love with this quilt as is everyone who sees it!

Well, when I pick the woods it is in the Raw, unfinished. I spray it with quick drying Naphtha to get an idea of how it will look under finish. More often than not, they look better especially when Lacquered. In your case as with other Basses, I would rather give a grade slightly higher than slightly lower. If a 4A, turns out to look like a 5A, then that's ok. If it is less than expected it's not good. Enjoy your Bass, she's beautiful..
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Old 06-16-2008, 07:40 PM
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Been enjoying her for 7 years.. It still amazes me that after all this time, no matter what bass I play, I always find myself wanting my Smith..

I just noticed on the woods page that Koa has been discontinued! I would be interested to know why.. I've been very happy with my koa core in my Smith.. It actually has a flamed figure to it which really makes it stand out.

It saddens me to know my bass will have no future brothers and sisters made with koa cores..
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Old 07-01-2008, 06:43 PM
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ken, can you give us a little insight into the discontinuation of koa as a wood option? Just curious..
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  #6  
Old 07-01-2008, 10:20 PM
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Lightbulb Koa..

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Faulkner View Post
ken, can you give us a little insight into the discontinuation of koa as a wood option? Just curious..
Well, I bought some Koa in the '80s and early '90s. The wood was anywhere from plain for nicely figured with a few high figured pieces. Koa to my ear is no better sounding than Maple. In fact, I think Maple sounds better. Somewhere along the line, the people that have Koa or sell it decided it was as good as gold.

This is where I get off that train. Koa is nice and a flavor that sits on the shelf along with Maple and Walnut which are of similar densities.

Imagine having an Ice Cream Shoppe and suddenly the makers of 'Butter Pecan' decides it's worth 10x the price of Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry. Don't you think it would slide off that menu as fast as it went on it?

I get tons of requests for figured Maple and Walnut but even when I had Koa it was a hard sell or at least for me it was. The little I had left I used as requested and now the last few pieces which are mainly only long enough for the BT models have been ordered. Cut for BTs you ask? Yes, because this stock predates not only the BSR (1996) but even the BMT (1992/3). The BT was the only shape we made then in all of our models that we offered.

Koa is pretty wood. Nothing to get bent out of shape about. I will not miss it at all.
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Old 07-02-2008, 11:08 AM
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I'll admit my koa core wood is pretty, and appears to be some of that figured stock you mentioned as it has a flame figure to it.. I wasn't planning to order koa on my next Smith, but I am a fan of the wood. I figured you just burned through the stock you had and decided not to order more due to the price..

I remembered you seemed a little shocked when I told you I wanted a koa core for my BSR4EG.. I was worried on the phone that you would refuse it because of the way you were talking but when you said it would be no problem it made my day.. I'm still a little sad that there will be no more Smiths with a koa core made though. When I'm filthy rich (not from music!) years from now I was planning on getting another Smith with koa, but alas it seems that will not come to pass..

Thanks for the response!
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Old 07-02-2008, 09:41 PM
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Default BMT Wood Stringers

Mr. Smith,

Can you help me id the wood strings on my 1993 BMT?




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Old 07-02-2008, 10:13 PM
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Thumbs up sure...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Christopher Rhodes View Post
Mr. Smith,

Can you help me id the wood strings on my 1993 BMT?




Top and Back; Acer Macrophyllum
Core; ...........
Swietenia Macrophylla
Laminates; ....
Juglans Nigra & Acer Saccharum
Body-to-Neck Feature:
Guibourtia Demeusei
Neck woods; ..
Acer Saccharum, Guibourtia Demeusei & Guibourtia Ehie

Did I miss anything?
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Old 07-03-2008, 12:09 AM
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Default That explains it all

That definitely is a very correct answer. Thanks for the quick response. Now, I have to pronounce all those words and explain what it means to non-bassist musicians. This is going to be interesting.
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Old 07-03-2008, 12:49 AM
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Cool Wood strings?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Christopher Rhodes View Post
Mr. Smith,

Can you help me id the wood strings on my 1993 BMT?
Chris, I didn't know you played with wood strings. : ) (sorry, couldn't resist)
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Old 08-15-2012, 11:54 PM
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Arrow 2008?

The last time I posted here was 4 years ago. Where have I been?

Earlier this year I started a thread on favourite Top woods.

It would be nice if more players posted here and there about woods. I would rather talk 'with' you than 'at' you so please, feel free to talk, ask, discuss woods or question my choices if you like.

Anyway, 4 years later, I am still pulling old wood out from my vast collection of maple, walnut and other woods to make every single bass we produce year round. Hundreds of basses have shipped out since I started this thread and all were made with beautiful old, aged exotic woods.

This week I pulled out some Quilted maple pieces for an order we have and in doing so, I couldn't make just one. The wood is so beautiful that I decided to make two other basses for stock rather then put the other pieces we split open back on the shelf to sit till whenever. This wood was purchased around 1992 and sat in a pile as lumber till about 1996 or so. Then, I cut all the long boards up into marked/matched pieces long enough (22-24") to make top & back sets. The set I pulled out yesterday had 5 pieces in it. Two of the pieces were highly figured so these will be the Tops as long as there are no hidden defects once we open the wood in half. The other 3 pieces ranged from nice to medium figure on the outside. We split the 5th piece as an alternate in case one of the others didn't make it. When split out today, all of the wood was just as nice inside as out. The 5th/odd piece will be split one more time, 4 matched thinner slices to make a set of maple laminates for the next time we need it.

Sometimes I feel that the wood actually talks to me. Should I see a shrink? .. "Put me in a bass" I hear it saying. "Don't put me back on the shelf to sit another 20 years", something else I also hear from time to time.

I have an old double bass with a real or forged 16th century label (the bass is 18th I think) and it says, translated from Latin something like;

Viva fui in silvis

(I was alive in the wood)
Sum dura Occisa
(I was cut by the cruel axe)
Securi dum vixi tacui
(In life I was silent)
Mortua dolce cano
(In death I sweetly sing)

So, imagine all the wood in my shop sitting from 10 to 20 years waiting to Sing. Wanna help that happen? You know what to do!

Your comments are welcomed. Lets keep this thread alive one way or another. Even if you wanna show your bass here for a brief explanation of the woods used. I will be glad to share my memories on the woods with you.
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Old 10-27-2012, 03:54 PM
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Cool whew..

I just got done moving some wood downstairs in case we have a huge flood which is possible if we get the maximum rain they are predicting, 1" per hour for a day or so at the height of the storm. I am hoping they are wrong about Hurricane 'Sandy'. We are only about 70 miles inland as the crow flies!

I had one stack of maple and walnut boards on the floor in an area that never gets wet. It was sitting next to one of the sump-pumps, one of five we have downstairs. This wood has been stacked there for about 10 years or so. I forgot already where it was stacked before. The walnut is figured Claro (25th woods), most boards about 22"w x 8-9'L or so. The Maple about the same or slightly bigger on some boards. All Tiger figure boards, slab cut across the tree so the outer 6-8" are tight straight grained high figure Tiger. I can't even remember the exact species the Log was from. We had dried it on sticks here for some time as I can see that we waxed the ends and then dead piled it to its current spot, off the sticks. Now, it's up off the floor up against a pile of Shedua that we use to make necks from.

Sometimes I move things around downstairs and find wood I barely remember but smile when I see it again. I worked up a bit of a sweat as I had to re-stack half of the Shedua to make room for the Maple beside it. The Walnut is up on the roller-feed table next to the big radial saw we use for cutting long stock before bringing it upstairs to process into neck and body woods as needed.. I dragged the walnut a few feet from pile up on to the rollers to get to the maple underneath it which I turned 90 degrees and dragged it over to the Shedua pile nest to it. The wood is all 5/4" thick on the cut so there is no way I was going to lift these boards my self. Usually it's a 2-man job to move and stack wood this size unless you are looking for a hernia.

So, when I run low on 5a Claro for Anniversary models, I know where it it!
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