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Author Topic: Plywood vs Solid Casework  (Read 1954 times)

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ProperTing

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Plywood vs Solid Casework
« on: May 25, 2018, 01:19:10 PM »

Just curious to hear opinions on the tonal differences between plywood and solid wood casework. I am not referring to the soundboard which is typically ply. I have been looking at Serenellini 223 Deluxe/Cloud and a Saltarelle Nuage. Both (at one point) were the same instrument, but with one key difference.. the Serenellini is made of walnut plywood.
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Andy

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Re: Plywood vs Solid Casework
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2018, 04:41:05 PM »

All other things being equal I would expect no difference, the only complication being that all other things very seldom are entirely equal.
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GPS

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Re: Plywood vs Solid Casework
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2018, 04:48:01 PM »

The only plywood box I own is the Saltarelle I have had for about 30 years. AFAIK the material used for the case has relatively little effect on the final sound of a melodeon, and decent quality veneered ply is likely to remain stable for a pretty long time. I've certainly had no issues with it; it's survived a 4ft drop on to a tiled floor, and I'm not convinced many of my old Hohners would do that.  But then, Hohners, while generally well-seasoned solid timber, tend not to be made from top-quality wood.

Graham
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Among others, Saltarelle Pastourelle II D/G; Hohner 4-stop 1-rows in C & G; assorted Hohners; 3-voice German (?) G/C of uncertain parentage; lovely little Hlavacek 1-row Heligonka; B♭/E♭ Koch. Newly acquired G/C Hohner Viktoria. Also Fender Jazz bass, Telecaster, Stratocaster, Epiphone Sheraton, Charvel-Jackson 00-style acoustic guitar and other stuff..........

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RogerT

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Re: Plywood vs Solid Casework
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2018, 05:11:49 PM »

I was at the Zero Zette/Bugari factory yesterday and they make the bodies of birch ply, because it is very light but strong.

IanD

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Re: Plywood vs Solid Casework
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2018, 05:09:30 PM »

Oakwood used to use pre-veneered "aircraft ply" which is very strong and can be used thinner than solid wood, and the boxes they made this way (like mine) did sound very good -- but I don't know if they still do this, and the evidence (as opposed to opinion) is that the case material (including that used for the so-called "soundboard", which isn't one) makes no difference to the sound -- see here under Wood (body material)...

https://www.harmonika.com/en/interesting
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Stotty

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Re: Plywood vs Solid Casework
« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2018, 12:12:59 AM »

Oakwood used to use pre-veneered "aircraft ply" which is very strong and can be used thinner than solid wood, and the boxes they made this way (like mine) did sound very good -- but I don't know if they still do this, and the evidence (as opposed to opinion) is that the case material (including that used for the so-called "soundboard", which isn't one) makes no difference to the sound -- see here under Wood (body material)...

https://www.harmonika.com/en/interesting

I'm intrigued by the suggestion that the wood/material used for construction doesn't affect the "tone".  I seem to remember a Youtube video by Jon Loomes playing a Castagnari (possibly a Tommy or a Lilly) in three different woods at the Musicroom to illustrate the differences, and even from a Youtube video you could hear the differences.  A couple of years ago I tried to two Tommys in Cherry and Walnut and there was a clear difference in the tone which I assumed was the wood.  Cherry was a softer/warmer tone and Walnut more "strident" I believe. Or are there just variations in tone for the same model irrespective of the nature of the wood the body is made of?
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melodeon

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Re: Plywood vs Solid Casework
« Reply #6 on: May 28, 2018, 05:08:00 AM »

Would that have been a 233 Deluxe AKA Cloud ?

My experience: (opinion based on first hand experience)

Saltarelle's (Dino Beffetti's)   unmatched/mismatched,  slab sawn, poorly machined, badly stained and finished, "solid" wood was no match for the extremely high quality laminated/ply wood used by Serenellini.

"Pre veneered" would that not be simply "veneered". ?

I believe it comes down to this.

Design, materials, workmanship.

« Last Edit: May 28, 2018, 03:01:04 PM by melodeon »
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Anahata

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Re: Plywood vs Solid Casework
« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2018, 06:31:51 AM »

Or are there just variations in tone for the same model irrespective of the nature of the wood the body is made of?

Yes, according to previous postings on this subject around here.
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triskel

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Re: Plywood vs Solid Casework
« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2018, 07:07:55 AM »

Plywood makes for a stronger and lighter box.

(Some of the best and most sought after guitars ever made, like those of José Ramírez or Mario Maccaferri, have had laminated ribs and/or backs.)

And a good application of celluloid makes for absolutely the best tone you can get... ;)

(Think Baldoni Bartoli, Walters or Paolo Soprani "grey box" button boxes.)

>:E
« Last Edit: May 28, 2018, 12:01:12 PM by triskel »
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blackdot1234

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Re: Plywood vs Solid Casework
« Reply #9 on: May 28, 2018, 10:17:05 AM »

Early paolo sopranis 1920 ish were a form of chip board but sound really  good to my ear but its personal choice  solid wood different wood wood aluminium fondo even reed block construction  wood types ect all aspects  affect the sound imha
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IanD

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Re: Plywood vs Solid Casework
« Reply #10 on: May 28, 2018, 11:02:43 AM »

Would that have been a 233 Deluxe AKA Cloud ?

My experience: (opinion based on first hand experience)

Saltarelle's (Dino Beffetti's)   unmatched,  slab sawn, poorly machined, badly stained and finished  slab sawn "solid" wood was no match for the extremely high quality laminated/ply wood used by Serenellini.

"Pre veneered" would that not be simply "veneered". ?

I believe it comes down to this.

Design, materials, workmanship.

By "pre-veneered" I meant that the veneer -- birds eye maple in my case -- was there on the plywood when they bought it, "veneered" would usually be taken mean that the veneering was done by Oakwood which would take more time. Martyn did say it wasn't easy finding a supplier who would do "exotic" veneers like this...

Design and workmanship have by far the biggest impact, materials much less -- most probably nil for the case (see Strasser link), maybe significant for the reed blocks (and how rigidly they're attached) since these should provide a rigid structure for the reeds (but see Stormy Hyde's experiences). Even with reeds it's not proven that "a mano" reeds are actually any better than "tipo a mano" due to the supposed material difference (made from narrow strips of steel instead of wide ones), much more likely is that more care is taken in assembly/setting/tuning because they're the most expensive reeds.

The problem with comparing two instruments (e.g. different wood cases) and saying that they sound different is that this doesn't prove the difference is down to the case material -- I've played two supposedly identical Castagnaris (same wood, same tuning) and they definitely sounded different to each other. By far the most likely cause in this case is the reed setting/tuning -- maybe done by two different people? -- because this certainly makes a big difference to sound and responsiveness.

The only way to conclusively prove this would be to take two identical instruments, record them several times (same tune, same player not knowing which was which), then swap the reed blocks over and record again, then do blind A/B/X comparisons of the recordings. Since I believe this is what Strasser did, I expect the conclusion would be the same.

Don't forget that with music and instruments in particular there are many widely-held opinions -- even held by "experts" -- that were proven wrong when put to such a properly conducted test. These include facts like Stradivarius violins having a sound that cannot be beaten (modern violins won, not only with the expert listeners but even the musicians who didn't know what they were playing), violin sound improving over the years with "playing in" (look up the Powertwins), and various others. And don't even get me started on hi-fi nuts with their thousand quid solid silver mains cables...
« Last Edit: May 28, 2018, 11:04:32 AM by IanD »
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triskel

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Re: Plywood vs Solid Casework
« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2018, 12:12:42 PM »

Early paolo sopranis 1920 ish were a form of chip board ...

I have several of that vintage, and have seen many more. They can be a bit "rough hewn"/un-"finished" in the woodwork department internally, but I can assure you that they most definitely were not made of any kind of chipboard! :o
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Garry Probert

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Re: Plywood vs Solid Casework
« Reply #12 on: May 28, 2018, 01:22:23 PM »

Hi guys very interested in this subject ,if you remove any consideration of cost ,workability of materials preferences or fondness of a certain sound vintage or not ,aesthetics and wanted to make a box to transmit? vibrate? amplify?
the sound of the reeds what would you use?

I have some lovely vintage black walnut but if the general consensus is the box material make little or no difference 
then the stability of ply would seem to be the best choice 
All my lilliputs are ply but my club 2 is stained maple big sound but its a bigger box 
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Tiposx

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Re: Plywood vs Solid Casework
« Reply #13 on: May 28, 2018, 02:29:01 PM »

Carbon fibre. Looks super.
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IanD

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Re: Plywood vs Solid Casework
« Reply #14 on: May 28, 2018, 02:46:42 PM »

Hi guys very interested in this subject ,if you remove any consideration of cost ,workability of materials preferences or fondness of a certain sound vintage or not ,aesthetics and wanted to make a box to transmit? vibrate? amplify?
the sound of the reeds what would you use?

I have some lovely vintage black walnut but if the general consensus is the box material make little or no difference 
then the stability of ply would seem to be the best choice 
All my lilliputs are ply but my club 2 is stained maple big sound but its a bigger box

For the case of a melodeon -- and the reed blocks and "soundboard" -- you don't want material which vibrates or resonates or "amplifies" the sound, because this can sap energy from the reeds and lead to notes which are reluctant to start, or where reeds which should be detuned (especially if close together like "swing" tuning) they can lock together in pitch and then slip giving a nasty sound -- preventing this is why many boxes have a metal strap linking the reed blocks together. You want everything else to be as rigid as possible, it's not like a stringed instrument where the resonance of the body is a fundamental part of the sound.

So if you want something strong and stable (unlike our government) and lightweight (like our government) ply is a very good choice, preferably one with a lot of thin laminations like "aircraft ply"; solid wood has to be thicker and heavier and is less strong. Solid wood looks nice (as does veneer) but it's more difficult to work with when building a thin-walled box, and ends up heavier.

If you have some really nice walnut you might be able to find a better use for it... ;-)
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Winston Smith

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Re: Plywood vs Solid Casework
« Reply #15 on: May 28, 2018, 02:58:49 PM »

Surely you meant "lightweight (like Her Majesty's Opposition)", that's if you really needed to mention politics at all?
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melodeon

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Re: Plywood vs Solid Casework
« Reply #16 on: May 28, 2018, 03:18:08 PM »

Triskel posted that makers such as Ramirez and Maccaferri used laminates.

In Ramirez's case , about the time he started using red cedar tops and plasticized catalyzed finishes, he began to line the rosewood guitars with cypress, the wood he used for his solid back and sided Flamenco guitars.

There are other makers to include Freiderich (sp) of France and Ray Reussner of Oregon, who laminate sides. In Freiderich's case the side thickness was substantial at about 4mm and three plies. Ramirez sides were two piece, the inner cypress being thinner.

The finest sounding accordeon I have played was Italian and likely made in the 30s . It was a 2 row  8 bass 3 voice one stop in G/C and extremely light weight and made with modest materials such as beech and pine and some unfigured maple;  some of the materials were thin laminates.  The box was plain, no ornamentation or inlaid bits. The workmanship was quite good.  The reeds were hand made and by modern standards look a bit "crude". When played you could feel the wood resonate. I have never again played such a fine piece.  I found this in a barber shop in a small town in Northern California. It was a decorative piece and not for sale, but the owner allowed me to play it.   I will never forget this instrument.
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ProperTing

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Re: Plywood vs Solid Casework
« Reply #17 on: May 28, 2018, 04:06:12 PM »

Would that have been a 233 Deluxe AKA Cloud ?

My experience: (opinion based on first hand experience)

Saltarelle's (Dino Beffetti's)   unmatched/mismatched,  slab sawn, poorly machined, badly stained and finished, "solid" wood was no match for the extremely high quality laminated/ply wood used by Serenellini.

"Pre veneered" would that not be simply "veneered". ?

I believe it comes down to this.

Design, materials, workmanship.

Yes, it would be the Cloud. Very interesting discussions all around. It’s got me thinking that the Saranellini (plywood) option would be best.. only concerns are resale. Saltarelle is far more well known.. but also for their inconsistent products.
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Pete Dunk

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Re: Plywood vs Solid Casework
« Reply #18 on: May 28, 2018, 04:28:40 PM »

Salterelle don't actually make anything though . . .
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GPS

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Re: Plywood vs Solid Casework
« Reply #19 on: May 28, 2018, 04:49:42 PM »

Salterelle don't actually make anything though . . .

Dead right.  There was a discussion a while back about the "heritage" of Saltarelle in which an assertion was made that Serenellini never made any Saltarelle boxes.  Mine is pure Serenellini in every respect, including the lightweight  and very strong veneered ply casework. I've compared it with Serenellinis of similar vintage, and if you take the labels off you really can't tell them apart. You're never going to convince me (or several knowledgeable acquaintances) that my Saltarelle isn't a Serenellini.  Nothing at all wrong with GOOD QUALITY plywood for melodeon casework.  Anyone making ABS or carbon fibre melodeons?

Graham
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Among others, Saltarelle Pastourelle II D/G; Hohner 4-stop 1-rows in C & G; assorted Hohners; 3-voice German (?) G/C of uncertain parentage; lovely little Hlavacek 1-row Heligonka; B♭/E♭ Koch. Newly acquired G/C Hohner Viktoria. Also Fender Jazz bass, Telecaster, Stratocaster, Epiphone Sheraton, Charvel-Jackson 00-style acoustic guitar and other stuff..........

Squeezing in the Cyprus sunshine
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