Roasted Poplar guitars

I had a request to build a guitar for gigging that wouldn’t be as maintenance-free as possible. While guitars are reliable instruments, they do need a certain amount of upkeep and this is especially so on the road. Changes in air moisture depending on the area, environment and the temperature will cause the wood of a guitar to expand or shrink, and critical adjustments not to mention tuning can suffer as a consequence as the guitar acclimatises. As wood is an inherently unstable material, especially when subjected to the hundreds of pounds of pressure of six steel strings, a guitar will always be unstable to a degree.

However the use of roasted woods in the neck and body can greatly reduce this environmental instability. Roasting is a secondary drying process whereby the wood is heated to a high temperature and its cellular structure collapses. As a result it takes on less airborne moisture and doesn’t shrink or expand significantly when exposed to moisture. Roasting is a delicate process. Too much time in the kiln and the cell structure collapses to resemble a honeycomb, rendering the wood weak and brittle. Roasting darkens the wood in colour too which can be desirable in some circumstances, but there is an importance in balance between maintaining strength and achieving the ideal colour.

These guitars feature a roasted poplar body and a slightly roasted maple neck with a dual-action truss rod. The fretboard is an engineered rosewood made from basswood bark. This is an environmentally friendly alternative to Rosewood with the look, feel and tone of the real thing. The frets are 1.6 mm copper fret wires cut for easy playability with a thin crown.

The hardware is pretty standard. A six-saddle tremolo bridge, 3 single-coil pickups with five-way switch and standard tuners that could (and probably should) be upgraded to locking tuners. The tone is reminiscent of a Basswood or Alder Strat, with a little more sustain. Crucially it can withstand high air moisture content with minimal shift in its setup.

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