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Warning Warning Warning - Buying a new guitar?

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Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921

How can a company make a profit by shaving an ultra thin piece of beautiful quilted maple. That would cost more than making it a solid top

Actually, it's dirt cheap. I've seen it done... they place a section of log in a machine that rotates the log, and a blade 'peels' veneer. I'ts sort of like those pencil sharpeners that have a razor blade in them.

The peeled part is sliced to width as it comes off, and then stacked. All done by machine.

Once they get to the laminating part, it doesn't make any cost difference... you're set to glue x pieces together for a thickness, and it doesn't make a hill of beans difference to the laminator if he's working with quilted maple or shoe leather.

So maybe the quilted maple log they cut up is worth $400 or so, and your run of the mill pine might be $80. I'll bet they get several thousand - maybe tens of thousands - of square feet from the log, so the cost of a guitar-top sized laminate might increase by a buck, probably much less.

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Trusted Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 63

I think I understand where blutic is coming from.

There are so many factors to consider when buying a 'quality' guitar: wood, construction, pickups, machine heads, bridge, etc, etc, etc. The experienced buyer knows what to look out for, and has learned about the pitfalls and jargon used in the industry (Nick falls into this category, I assume!). The beginner, going into a shop and buying his/her first guitar does not ned to know about these things - they are not going to spend a fortune on their first guitar, unless they have money to burn.

The guys that live in between these two levels are the ones at risk of being misled. Those that have decided that the guitar is definitely for them, and want to get a guitar that they can grow and improve with, but have not been around the block enough times to tell the difference between a laminate and solid body (for example). They may know that a solid body is the preffered choice, but not how to tell the difference.

The honest guitar dealer (of which there are a lot, fortunately) will explain the difference, and the shortfalls of the cheaper option. It is in his interests to do so, as he wants to sell you the more expensive model (fair enough).

The unscrupulous dealer (of which there are also a lot), will just want to sell you anything, as their only concern is the bottom line - take their money and get them out of the way is the store credo. Salespeople seem to think that bullsh*tting the customer is standard practise, and perfectly acceptable. And anyway, they're not lying, they're just being 'selective' with the truth. In these money-driven times, the latter of these two dealers is becoming prominent, and the former is a dying breed.

The honest dealer is usually trading on a small scale (in the UK anyway), and word of mouth is the key to keeping its customer base - if they gain a reputation for talking cr*p to their customers, they will not last very long. The less honest dealer will tell you anything to get the sale. I wonder how many Squier Strats are being sold right now with the assurance that 'they are just as good as the real Fender, just made in a different country', or that the mountain of Encore Strat starter packs in the warehouse 'will do everything that a £600 guitar will do'? It doesn't matter that it is not true, as most of these guitars will end up in the attic, or the player will think that it is their fault that they cannot get a sweet sound out of it, rather than the guitar being inferior. When you're in the world of big business and big money, honesty doesn't pay. And business people think that's ok.

I went to my local shop a few weeks ago with some meny to blow. I had my heart set on owning a real American Strat, and had my eye on a metallic blue one. That was out of my range, but they showed me a second-hand sunburst for £399. The guitar was pristine, with no marks. All the plastic bits on it (pickguard and rear plate) still had the protective film on it. It was in mint condition, and seemed like a great deal, so I went for it.

Now, how do I know it is the real thing? Not by playing it - my standard is nowhere near a level to be able to discern, and besides, I am still using a Fender Frontman practise amp. It sounded pretty damned good in the hands of the salesman (I made him play it for about half an hour). Oh, and it says 'Fender' and 'Made in USA' on the peg head. Oh, yeah, and the salesman told me it was the real deal. Other than that I had no idea. Perhaps there were some tell tale signs to look for, that a more experienced player would be able to spot, but my regular guru was in bed with a hangover that morning, so I had to take my chances.

In the world we currently inhabit, it was highly possible that I could have been ripped off. Maybe the guitar was so cheap because it had a twisted neck, or inferior pickups and bridge, or was an outright fake. Is it right and fair that I should run this risk? Is this really that different from a salesman using an expression that suggests that a guitar is better than it actually is?

...and to finish the story about the Strat - after I bought the guitar and was given a free strap and cheap soft gig bag, the salesman called me back as I was leaving the shop, as he had just found the actual bag that the guitar had come in - a proper Fender bag, with all the tags, manuals, allen keys, tremolo arm, and even the original Fender cleaning cloth, still in the bag!

So I'm pretty sure its the real deal...

Active Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 12

anyone know if the ibanez pf5nt ( ) is a solid top? my cousin lent it to me but he didnt really know what he was buying and he only played with it on the first day he got it. its alot better than the oscar schmidt one that my friend let me borrow though. ^-^

Estimable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 114

Uhhh.... Hmmmm..... Alot of times the employee at a music store
is really clueless about what a particular guitar is made of......
they might not know if the guitar is plywood with a veneer or a fancy
flame top decal.
What is NATO wood? Is that real wood? I seen this on a bunch of lower end guitars.
I mean remember, most people working in Music Stores get paid
only so much.
Alot of music stores don't pay employees enough to be knowlegeable about what they sell. So half of what comes out of their mouth is BS
by default.
So when they try to sell that Dean Evo off by saying
a Mahagony body, they might be saying that because on
the distributor brochure it had that written on it some where in the
description and over looked the basswood part.

Heck if I didn't know better, I'd think that they meant Mahagony was a BASS Wood - not Mahagony WITH bass wood....
So I'd sell it as a Mahgony guitar too....
You know like Hard wood, soft wood...Bass(?) wood....

LOL the guitar descriptions that take the cake are on E bay

Next time I go to Vegas, I think I'll trry to visit Ed Roman's place.
From his site, he seems like the type that will debate ANYTHING all day long...Plus anyone that knocks PRS the way he does, can't be too bad.

I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, but when
you're a 22lb sledge, do you really have to be?

Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 5381

That's true.

You have to be an informed buyer. No matter what you are buying you don't want to be a sucker.

A guitar is a bad thing to pick up as an impulse buy.

No, the PF5NT is not a solid top.

It doesn't matter much though. Does it sound good to you?

Famed Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 2849

A guitar is a bad thing to pick up as an impulse buy.

Did you really say that Nick :lol:

On the other hand all the guitars I have bought on impulse (mostly real cheap ones) I have since gotten rid of..

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Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 5381

Do as I say, not as I do.... :D

Actually, I almost never impulse buy. Like you, the few times I have I got rid of the guitar pretty quickly.

Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 5381

Okay, It's experiment time. I don't buy laminate guitars, but I don't think they get a fair shake often. So.....

I bought a 1986 Oscar Schmidt Prototype guitar. I have no idea what it's made of. Since I paid less than $50, I really doubt it's a solid top.

Really there is nothing wrong with it. It's a dread and has good intonation. The action is pretty good and it has a pleasing sound. I take it back, it is missing the end pin, the tuners are cheap Chinese knock offs and the nut and saddle are plastic.

Just for fun I'll take some pics and do the following:

clean it up
change the strings - EJ-16s -(nothing fancy, just middle of the road strings)
record it using my standard test songs, Blackbird, Melissa, Just a closer walk with thee
loosen the strings
change the saddle to tusq
re-record it with the same songs
If I can find a corian saddle in time, I'll try that too.
(sorry but I'm not springing for Ivory on an Oscar Schmidt)
then I'll record the same songs on my Breedlove for comparison.

If I can make that old Oscar Schmidt sound good, then I think I will have made the point that you can have a decent sounding laminate top guitar.

Whether or not that statement is true or not is yet to be seen.

I'll wrap it up in an article and send it in.

Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5038

I doubt you will wish to test this, Nick, but I'm betting many lam-top acoustics actually do quite well as slide guitars. Granted this is not necessarily a style that elicits a lot of nuance from a guitar, but the ability of the lam-top to take extra stress (higher gauge strings) would seem a plus.


-=tension & release=-

Reputable Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 280
Topic starter  

NATO is Eastern Mahagony. It's an Asian hardwood. Used in Yamaha acoustics and others.

Let me clear up why I made this post. I'm not saying laminate guitars are not good guitars. I said before I have a middle of the road Yamaha that I think sound great. The point is that things are not always what they seem and people need to be aware and investigate before spending their money.

Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 5381

I know. I'm digressing, sorry.

Here is the info I got back from Jon at OS:

The model number "12345" tells me it was a proto type. I think the
serial number may be from 1986. The head stock "Oscar Schmidt" is
completely different from anything Oscar Schmidt has ever manufactured
in the past 20 years.

So this is a unique beast in a sense, I have nothing further on this


Honorable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 653

So, the moral of the thread is: "Research before you buy."


Prominent Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 959

So, the moral of the thread is: "Research before you buy."

3rd party reviews rule. Sometimes it's the only way to get a reasonable specification on a piece of gear. Abuse Harmony Central.

Do something you love and you'll never work a day in your life...

Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 7833

My preferred term for laminated wood is plywood. That's what it is. That doesn't mean it's bad. Plywood guitar bodies are stronger and more stable than solid ones, won't easily crack with humidity changes, and can sound very good indeed. (The bracing's more critical to the tone than the top material itself.) The main differences are (1) that the bending strength of the plywood is usually more or less equal parallel to and transverse to the grain you see on top, while it's very different in the two axes with solid wood. That leads to different favored vibrational modes. (2) Plywood sounds just like it's going to from the beginning. It doesn't "break in" or "open up" much with playing. Solid wood may, as the vibration flexes the lignin binding the cellulose tubes together and it becomes more flexible as it's worked, enhancing the anisotropic bending stiffness characteristic I mentioned above. That may or may not sound better. Lots of crummy solid top guitars have been sold with the promise that "it'll sound better after it's played for a while." Maybe it will, maybe you'll get used to how it sounds. But with plywood you know how it's going to sound from the beginning. Plywood's the preferred material for making things like Gibson semihollowbodies and dobros. Nothing's to be gained tonally by using solid woods in those constructions. Plywood's rather consistent, being made from 3 or more layers of thin slices of wood oriented at crossing angles. The characteristics of the different layers average out. Solid wood planks are highly variable in their characteristics depending on the individual tree they were cut from, where in the tree and exactly how they were cut out of the ring structure of the tree. Like the early Gibson humbuckers that varied wildly in how many turns of wire each coil was wound with, every solid top will sound different, even in the same model of guitar. Some will be far better than others.

It's a gross oversimplification and often simply untrue to flatly state that "Solid wood guitar tops are good. Laminated tops are undesirable."

But, because guitar players tend to simply accept often irrational advice from "experts" and have accepted the above dictum, makers who want to sell their guitars use marketing terms that make them more acceptable to buyers. "Laminated wood" was the first step, instead of "plywood." When that got dissed, they turned to terms like "Natural Spruce," "Select Spruce," "Finest Handpicked Northwestern Sitka Spruce," etc. to describe their high grade plywood, which actually is good stuff. There's no lying involved, guitar players should know that if they "must" have solid wood they need to make sure that's specified (but beware that solid wood isn't necessarily going to sound better or as good as plywood.)

As for the decorative top veneers, I've got no problem with that. I just bought an Agile AS-820 semihollowbody made of spruce plywood with a "flamed" (curly) maple veneer. It's gorgeous, and sounds great. Buy a more expensive Gibson ES-335 and you'll get basically the same thing. Nice plywood.

I've had a Hamer Les Paul lookalike for several years that has fake "flame" printed on it. It looks a bit cheesy up close, not bad at a distance. This isn't a new practice; Pennsylvania rifle builders were faking "curly" figure on maple long rifle stocks 200 years ago, and there are many recipes in the books for doing it. Furniture makers have done it, too. Mighty little fancy furniture is made of solid wood. A decorative veneer covers sturdy but plain wood underneath in most cases. That's ecologically and economically sound, as the limited supply of fancy wood is stretched to indulge our aesthetic pleasure, instead of wasting it in the depths of the wood where it can't be seen. A whole art form, découpage, originated from faking hand-painted images on furniture by gluing on printed pictures and covering them with layers of varnish. I've got a steel front door on my house with fake wood grain hand painted on it. Ford station wagons used to come with vinyl "wood" panels on the sides.

Fancy figure down inside the wood of your guitar top does nothing for your tone either, BTW.

Blutic, you just may be the last guitarist to figure this out: If it doesn't specifically say "Solid wood," it's assuredly not. But IMO nobody's being harmed by this universal practice, that everybody knows about anyway.

Making every guitar or its top out of solid wood would be a great waste of limited natural resources (the really good wood coming from old growth trees), and IMO wouldn't improve the quality of low-to-medium price guitars that use laminates.

BTW, the "received wisdom" that guitar tops should always be made of spruce (or on rare occasions for strictly folkie fingerpicking, cedar) is another example of uncritical acceptance by the guitar community of irrational "expert" advice. Several other woods are useful for guitar tops, and mahogany-topped guitars were once fairly common. Washburn's recently made inexpensive acoustics with tops, sides and backs of laminated mountain ash. (Hardwood plywood.) I've got one, and it's a great sounding dreadnaught. They didn't sell well, though, because all the "How to buy a guitar" FAQs tell beginners to look for a solid spruce top, and they do that instead of trying things and seeing how they sound. Washburn's doing it again with dreadnaughts made entirely of (surely laminated) sapele, a highly figured mahogany-like wood. Bet they won't sell well, either.

Guitarists in general are such conformists. Most conservative bunch ever, where gear's concerned. And willing to accept as gospel what people they've never met who sound confident say on the Internet. Go figure!


"A cheerful heart is good medicine."

Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921

I have a mahogany topped Martin that just sings. This morning when I was practicing, my wife (a non-musician) was working in our home office behind me. I was about an hour into it when I decided to switch guitars, and went to the mahogany one. Whenever I pick up a guitar in practice, I go through a few quick scales... and she stopped me and asked how come I was so much more comfortable with the Martin. I had no idea what she was talking about - all my guitars are comfortable to me.

She told me that I play so much louder on that guitar than the other ones. It's because the tone just rings out of it, not because of any difference in my technique.

It's also the only guitar I've ever bought on impulse... I was at a shop waiting to talk to the luthier about having some work done on another acoustic, and while I waited, I played a few of the guitars they had. The shop sells only acoustics, and only high end (Martin, Taylor, custom builds, etc). When I picked this one up, I couldn't put it down... it kept whispering in my ear "you have credit cards in your wallet" :)

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