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 "Grainy" wood
Author: Musikat 
Date:   2023-06-18 20:33
Attachment:  Eb 1.jpg (73k)
Attachment:  Eb2.jpg (99k)

I bought a brand new top of the line Yamaha about three weeks ago. It seals like a coke bottle and plays like a dream. But it has exceptionally grainy wood, some going into tone holes. I actually examined it under a microscope because I was worried they might be cracks. They appear to just be deep natural grains in the wood.

My question is are these type of grains any more or less likely to develop into cracks? Is it anything to worry about? If so, is there anything I or my tech can do?

Pictures of a couple of spots attached.

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: pukalo 
Date:   2023-06-18 21:39

If I had to guess, I would assume the "graininess" of the wood means the wood has lower density, and thus the grain isn't as tight. My old Amati 315 had loose grain like that, while my R13 has much tighter grain. Whether or not this can lead to cracks down the line, or if it is an indicator of inferiority, I'm not sure.

Keep the wood oiled well, don't play the instrument when it is cold, all the preventative maintenance, etc to keep it from cracking as long as possible.

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2023-06-18 22:28

I'm pretty sure its just fine. I had seen more "grainy" Selmer 10Gs back in the 70s. In fact mine was too but I did not hold onto it for more than ten years. Folks back then told me it was just a natural quality and it did not have any affect on playability or longevity.





..............Paul Aviles



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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: Julian ibiza 
Date:   2023-06-19 09:46


The good thing is it's not new , so the wood has likely done everything it was planning to do already .

Julian Griffiths
Tel. 34 696 798 853

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: marcia 
Date:   2023-06-19 09:57

>The good thing is it's not new , so the wood has likely done everything it was >planning to do already .

My first R13 cracked after only a few weeks. [frown]
My current R13 Bb cracked after about 20 years. [huh]
My R13 A is even older, getting close to 30 years, and has not cracked. :)

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: Julian ibiza 
Date:   2023-06-19 10:16


Trees do indeed tend to have a differing idea of their purpose in life than that which we impose upon them . Ho-ho....Aaaarg !

Julian Griffiths
Tel. 34 696 798 853

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: Musikat 
Date:   2023-06-19 18:16

I have two R13s. The Bb (vintage 1977) didn't crack until about 5 years or so after I picked it back up after a 9 year break. I didn't know anything about "re-breaking" it in, and I probably didn't even break it in properly to begin with. I marched with that thing in high school! dumb, I know. I don't know what caused it to eventually crack but it could be any number of things (air conditioning in a theater, dryness, blowing into it when it was too cold because I didn't know not to. who knows? The A (1978) has never cracked.

The wood on both Buffets is so dense it looks almost plastic. My Uebel Superior is a little more grainy than the Buffets, but the Yamaha is definitely way more grainy than any of the others. I will have my tech look at it, but from what I can tell in pictures online of the same instrument and other Yamahas, it may be that they just have grainier looking wood in general and mine just happens to fall naturally at a couple of tone holes. I'll just have to keep an eye on it.

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2023-06-19 19:13

It only looks like that as it hasn't been polished to a high gloss finish where the polish fills in the open surface vessels. I've seen Yamaha oboes and piccolos that look like that and they still sealed like a Coke bottle.

Yamaha tend to do an oil finish on their instruments rather than going for a high gloss finish as you'd get with some other makes (either though polishing or even lacquering the wood), so they tend to have a dull and grainy look to the wood as a result. Some may call it a 'natural look'.

Any vessels crossing the tonehole crowns will need to be addressed if using pads that won't take the imperfections into account (eg. firm skin pads and cork pads) as that will cause leaks.

Chris.

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: Julian ibiza 
Date:   2023-06-19 19:51


From the photos it looks like the tonehole one is definitely just wood grain .
The one from the post looks more like a little crack, but if so...superficial .

Can wood grain cracks become real cracks ?

Probably , as they are weak points in the outer skin which gets stretched by the moist bore expansion .

But the real weak spots in the wood are probably hidden to the naked eye.

(And may they stay that way...Amen !)

Julian Griffiths
Tel. 34 696 798 853

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2023-06-19 21:20

Wood will naturally want to split following the grain lines.

Chris.

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: Musikat 
Date:   2023-06-19 21:30

OK, so given this is the top model for Yamaha Eb's is this an acceptable level of wood grain? The problem is it was the last one and they are backordered everywhere I looked (particularly in Europe, where I ordered from to save $1500) so it isn't like I can just demand a different one. And it plays great.

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2023-06-19 21:40

Wood is wood and by its nature is massively variable. It's the same wood as used by other woodwind makers, yet as I already said, they all finish it differently.

You can always have the joints on this clarinet polished to make it look all perfect should you want it to - I've done that with a Yamaha piccolo I once owned.

If it plays well, then put it down to what it is - a purely cosmetic or aesthetic thing. At least you can see the wood as it is in all its natural glory rather than being artificially coloured or polished to give it a mirror finish.

Chris.

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: Julian ibiza 
Date:   2023-06-19 23:22


My wife had a Yamaha with that natural wood grain finish and it was very nice looking I think .

The problem is that this finish can lead to a sort of obsessive compulsive disorder, because in certain lights the wood grain lines look like cracks . My wife would rush outside to examine it in the daylight, and I would join her in the examination. Fortunately we didn't have neighbors close by to observe this our strange and all too frequent ritual .

Julian Griffiths
Tel. 34 696 798 853

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: Musikat 
Date:   2023-06-19 23:39

Julian,

"The problem is that this finish can lead to a sort of obsessive compulsive disorder, because in certain lights the wood grain lines look like cracks."

That definitely made me laugh! That is the best description of this. I am sure with time I will relax and not think about "is that a crack?" Unfortunately my close-up eyesight isn't what it used to be, so there are several spots that look like they "could" be cracks until I examine them closely under magnification. I'll try not to alarm any neighbors in the process! LOL

I guess the obvious follow-up question would be, did your wife's instrument ever crack along those grain lines, or was it purely cosmetic?

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: pukalo 
Date:   2023-06-19 23:49

marica wrote:

>My first R13 cracked after only a few weeks. [frown]
>My current R13 Bb cracked after about 20 years. [huh]
>My R13 A is even older, getting close to 30 years, and has not cracked. :)

Buffet's quality control and wood quality has significantly declined in recent decades. They don't even age the wood naturally anymore, instead they dry them in kilns because demand is so high. My R13 is from 1973 and it doesn't appear to have cracked luckily.

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: Julian ibiza 
Date:   2023-06-20 01:24


Hi Musikat,

I think it was just cosmetic in as much as my wife got a few more grey hairs .......but non of us actually cracked .

Julian Griffiths
Tel. 34 696 798 853

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: clarnibass 
Date:   2023-06-20 08:30

Statistically speaking, I don't see more cracks on clarinets with more grainy wood than less grainy wood. That is, ratio of cracked grainy clarinets vs. non-grainy clarinets is more or less the same as ratio of grainy clarinets vs. non-grainy clarinets I see.

>> The good thing is it's not new , so the wood has likely done everything it was planning to do already. <<

It's the combination of the wood itself and the conditions that cause cracking. It's more likely that an old clarinet was already exposed to the conditions that could cause it to crack, but not necessarily, and I see more than a few clarinets that suddenly crack after years or decades.

>> They don't even age the wood naturally anymore, instead they dry them in kilns because demand is so high. <<

It's not clear cut that air drying is necessarily always better than kiln drying, and often both methods are used.

Also there are a lot more cracked clarinets in the last few decades because a lot more clarinets are made than in the past. Using Buffet professional models as an example, I don't have exact numbers, but in the 50s they made about 2000 to 3000 clarinet per year. In the 90s they made over 10,000 clarinets per year. I imagine student/intermediate models increased by at leas the same proportion. Simply from being much older it's fair to assume more of the "bad" (e.g. severely cracked) clarinets from the 50s didn't survive.

I don't have very accurate statistics, but from just seeing many clarinets from every decade, I don't see what I would consider a significant rise in cracking (in proportion to the number made).

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: Julian ibiza 
Date:   2023-06-20 10:22


There are two sides to seasoning wood . One is lowering its moisture content to the desired level and the second is just letting the timber sit for years allowing tensions within the wood to relax . This second part is where standards tend to have dropped, although it is obviously against the manufacturers interests to cut corners here too much .

I won't work with Iroko anymore, because typically you can pass a dead straight length of it through the saw and what comes out are a couple of bananas, so the hidden tensions within poorly seasoned timber can be quite something .

But even if the wood has been well seasoned and is relatively free from flaws,
making it into a tube and wetting it on the inside is just a lot to ask of it .

Julian Griffiths
Tel. 34 696 798 853

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: Julian ibiza 
Date:   2023-06-20 20:26


Wandering on with my reflections from the last post ,to compare the wooden body of a clarinet to an athlete is probably quite apt . Clearly it gets subjected to significant physical strains even if these are invisible to us( untill it cracks that is)

If it's new ,or has been unplayed for some time, then it needs to be progressively exercised to loosen up its fibers or it will do itself an injury. Also, it needs warming up before activity same as an athlete ,and sudden changes of temperature aren't going to do it any good .

Yup !......definitely like an athlete .

Julian Griffiths
Tel. 34 696 798 853

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: JoeRomano 
Date:   2023-07-06 00:11

Just had my first crack on a 30 year old instrument

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: donald 
Date:   2023-07-06 02:47

I was told many years ago by more than one USA College professor that they deliberately looked for the clarinets with grainy wood because they sounded better.
My experience confirms this prejudice, in fact the best Eb clarinet (tone wise) that I have ever played, AND the best R13 Bb both had quite grainy wood. On the flipside, I've twice been disappointed by clarinets with mirror smooth bore and quite dense wood.
Of course, this is just my experience- but even if it doesn't prove "grainy wood is best", it at least proves "grainy wood won't hurt"

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: Musikat 
Date:   2023-07-08 06:45

Donald, I don't know if it's true or not, but that's an interesting theory and this "grainy" Eb certainly fits that profile. I don't have a wide experience but have played a Noblet, a new RC Greenline and a vintage Selmer Series 9, and this is hands down the best of those four for both tone and tuning. I am loving it!

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: Julian ibiza 
Date:   2023-07-08 15:21


Ruben is making the same claims as you Donald, over on the " To bore oil..or not........" Thread ( not sure why he's there not hear )

This is an interesting debate !

Julian Griffiths
Tel. 34 696 798 853

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: donald 
Date:   2023-07-09 06:08

I didn't make a "claim", I just repeated what I had been told, and my experience with the 20 odd clarinets I've owned. People can make of that what they like, but I didn't "claim" anything.

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 Re: "Grainy" wood
Author: Julian ibiza 
Date:   2023-07-09 09:25


Hi Donald ,

What you said was very clear and I apologize for using the term " claim" which clearly misrepresented your position .

Careless choice of words on my part ...Sorry!

Julian Griffiths
Tel. 34 696 798 853

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