Guitar Making Tip No. 78 is about tone tapping and the secret benefits. If there is a defect burred inside a piece of wood, tone tapping can help you find it. Whenever you tap a board and it sounds lifeless, leave it behind and look for something else. Here is how.
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Tone Tapping Can Reveal Hidden Defects
Sometimes a board just looks great, but it doesn’t end that way. You tap it, and for some strange reason, it just sounds dead. This is an indication that there is some kind of defect inside the board that is preventing the transfer of vibration.
Whatever you do, don’t use a great looking board that doesn’t vibrate. There are exceptions, like finding the defect and working around it, but in general you want boards that vibrate well.
In the perfect world, you would use the wood that had the most life and vibration, no matter what it looked like. In the real world, many times looks win out over function. When you tone tap your pieces, make sure that you don’t take home anything that makes a dead sound or doesn’t tone at all. Even if you cant see the defect, this is what may be the cause…
Hidden Cracks and Weak Points
If your board doesn’t tone at all, but others like it tone just fine, there may be a crack hiding in the board. This is a separation that prevents the board from vibrating as a unit. You may not even be able to see it, but it can be the cause in a lifeless board.
Before you dump a great looking piece for lack of tone, make sure that you are adjusting your grip and toning it correctly. If you are good at this process, you have probably already done this step.
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Again, if the board tones poorly, or not at all, leave it behind.
Try Toning Wood With Visible Defects
If you want to get an idea for how a defective piece tones, just pick one up. Tone the wood as normal, and listen for the sound. If the defect is having an effect on how the wood vibrates, you will hear it.
Look for a board with an open crack or split. These typically make next to no sound. Some boards with knots will tone just fine. Other not. Most of the time it depends on the location of the knot.
Testing and listening to these kinds of boards will teach you what not to look for, which in many cases can be as helpful knowing what you need to look for. Add this experience to your tone tapping tool belt, and you will be even more equipped to make good buying decisions.
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