I need at this point to diverge with a small story……will get back to the Resonators…..By the way any sound board by definition is a resonator:
About 15 years ago I visited Steve Gilchrist. He is the most highly regarded F5 mandolin maker and he lived at that time less than a hundred kilometres from me. He was generous with advice with a big focus on fine tuning production processes. At that stage in my career design and materials were a bigger concern for me. One of my questions must have hit a raw nerve as the response was very emphatic. I cant remember it word for word but it went something like this:
Me: “I have been thinking of doing some experimental work designing sound boards with carbon fibre composites. What is your opinion on this?Steve:” Look, when it comes to sound boards there is Spruce and Spruce and Spruce. If you want to use something different use Spruce. Use Spruce!!”
I guess most individual’s response to such advice from a master would be to use Spruce. Since then I have acquired master grade samples of Sitka, Engelmann and Adirondack Spruce. The comparative mechanical tests that I did with this timber clearly showed to me that Spruce has excellent strength across the grain. My conclusion from this is that shock or string vibration would get out onto the sound board much more than other timbers.Spruce also has delightful tonal properties.
The reason why I have chosen not to use Spruce is that I simply prefer the “road least travelled”. It is for similar reasons why I chose to experiment with carbon fibre and its composites when building dobros.
Although the Resonators have some wonderful qualities their tone lacks the warmth and variety that timber can give. This was probably the main motivational reason behind why I chose to attempt designing timber Resonators. It has turned out to be a very long and interesting journey which I continue to travel…..more about that next week.