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shagird

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Reply with quote  #1 
Hello everyone,

Am a new member and am looking for info on the aging of wood used for sitar.

What is the age of the wood used by Hiren, Hemen, Rikki Ram, etc and is there an ideal age of the wood so that there is no warping etc. Also how do these makers treat the wood (I mean with chemicals)?

Since there is no way one could make out the age of the wood (unless maybe you carbon date it) by inspecting a sitar, is it therefore safer to go for a well known brand (Hiren, etc) assuming that their wood have been aged adequately than other less known one's? Sound wise I have seen a few RK Sharma sitars sound as good as if not better than Hiren's.
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AbdulLatif

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Reply with quote  #2 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "shagird"
Hello everyone,

Am a new member and am looking for info on the aging of wood used for sitar.

What is the age of the wood used by Hiren, Hemen, Rikki Ram, etc and is there an ideal age of the wood so that there is no warping etc. Also how do these makers treat the wood (I mean with chemicals)?

Since there is no way one could make out the age of the wood (unless maybe you carbon date it) by inspecting a sitar, is it therefore safer to go for a well known brand (Hiren, etc) assuming that their wood have been aged adequately than other less known one's? Sound wise I have seen a few RK Sharma sitars sound as good as if not better than Hiren's.
Well no one else is jumping in so here goes my opinion and slight knowledge on the subject.
An established sitar maker of good reputation is likely to have a stockpile or source for well cured timber, it is generally air dried for a number of years until it stabilizes to reduce the liklehood that it will warp, bow, split or check, the best wood available and becoming a rarity is salvage from old colonial buildings, palaces etc.
The wood is not treated with preservitives insecticides etc but of course does get sealer and finish coats for durability and appearence. An exception is Tony Karasek who treats the gourds with a fungicide/insect repellent to prevent gourd and wood loving worms. Well seasoned wood adds a great deal to the acoustic resonance of an instrument this being one reason people talk about instruments "settling" or "mellowing" in after some years.

As far as some RKS sitars sounding better than a Hiran Roy, well beauty is in the ear of the behearer but set up is probably the defining factor in what you describe. RKS has made some very nice sitars in years gone by and Hiran Roy has made some dogs but IMO a well set up HR or RR etc will be well above a RKS of recent vintage in all aspects and especially playability. I play my students 10 year old RKS frequently and it is in my judgement a "Student" grade sitar although it is sold as a "deluxe professional" model. Its like a mid level Fender flat top compared to a Martin.

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shagird

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Reply with quote  #3 
Many thanks AbdulLatif.

My question is, is there a basic difference in the wood quality that different makers use? Is it not possible that all major makers have a common source of wood, gourds, horn, etc. They buy from one source and then stock it, let it age and then use it? Or do they buy aged blanks at a premium which they only use for their most expensive models? Or is the age and quality of the wood the same for all models and the difference is only in the extent of carving and trim pieces?
Quote:
An exception is Tony Karasek who treats the gourds with a fungicide/insect repellent to prevent gourd and wood loving worms
Maybe Tony Karasek can enlighten us with the true "behind the scene" story.

Any info on the minimum aging required to prevent warping, etc of toon and teak would be highly appreciated.
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trippy monkey

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Reply with quote  #4 
While in India recently I found out a few interesting 'facts'

Most 'bodies' come from a special village/site near Kolkatta either finished or, as in the case of my surbahar, with no frets, strings or any kind of attachment at all. Not even fully polished. Blanks as you say.
2 to 3 years seasoning seems to be regular, certainly at the place I got mine from.
My surbahar was already 2 years old seasoned & just ready for me to have it built. Sitars tend to be sent out fully made but usually need some kind of adjustment as Tony knows from my black gayaki he so lovingly made twice as good.

There are bodies from further south, Miraj etc, as Tony K knows but not so many as above.

Nitai in Varanasi makes his own totally on odd occasion. I saw part of a Rudra Vina he himself was carving.

There is a basic difference even with the same wood used. It so often depends on the maker & how they do the 'inside bits' so to speak.
It's not unheard of for a gourd to be taken off & the tabli inside 'changed'.

Tun & teak seem to be the most popular woods but I've heard of mango wood too.
Just a bit of 'insider info'

Nick
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Sitarfixer

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Reply with quote  #5 
Wood in the Miraj shop is garaged throughout a 1/2 block area - houses and rooms all interconnected by the "sitarmaker" clan. Talk about an extended family. These rooms full of boards, blocks and planks are at least five years old. The "LIFO", last in first out, inventory system insures that every instrument made has wood well aged. The teak stock, lower in demand due to extreme cost and value just gets older and older and even more valuable. All the scrap bits, chips and sawdust are used to either mix with glue for budget axe filler, serve as punches or other makeshift tools on the spot or get sent to the kitchen for firewood. The kids cut their teeth on scraps as well. Generations ahead - looking forward. Block ends in storage aren't waxed which surprised me, especially given the climate extremes. Split wood is not a problem. The standard of acceptance is the only real problem. What I consider firewood is often considered acceptable for an instrument. Lighter colored parts of a plank that end up on the edge of a neck or soundboard are not even considered. You often see this situation on pegs - the distinctly lighter area that just don't belong. To that end, I've reserved a wood pile that has proper grain, density and all color matched. Amazed eyes all watched as I spent hours going over the inventory. Things seen differently by different eyes.
Also, to note, a soundboard is lightly glued to the body and all the preliminary work is done. Prior to French polish being applied, the sound is double checked with the classic tap test. This is passed around to at least three workers for approving nods. After coffee and conference, the soundboard is knocked off and final chiselling and scraping is done on the inside. It is then signed and dated (on the inside) and final glueing done to the body. After final approval, the French polish goes on. Standard procedure.

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rex@sitar.co.za

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Reply with quote  #6 
Does anyone happen to know why the age of the wood improves the sound of the instrument?
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shagird

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Reply with quote  #7 
Quote:
Wood in the Miraj shop...[]...the French polish goes on. Standard procedure.
Wow Sitarfixer! Superb stuff.

Do they do something to prevent moisture getting into the woods during rains? Kolkatta is so humid! Miraj I would say that way, has an edge . Well to be frank, I had fancied much better treatment (pun intended) to the wood, like at least wrapping it in wax paper or cellophane paper. With the conditions that you described, I am sure molds and algae would have formed. BTW, did you not intend saying FIFO and not LIFO?


Quote:
Does anyone happen to know why the age of the wood improves the sound of the instrument?
Rex, I am hazarding a guess - The wood probably shrinks over time, ridding itself of air and moisture; being thus compacted, is a better medium for conduction and resonation. I guess this would be more dramatic in the early years and the improvement would taper off as the years pass.
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Sitarfixer

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Reply with quote  #8 
"FIFO"! "FIFO"! First in, First out. Jeeez! I must up my dosage of coffee! I'm not even close to knowing how wood works. Seems to me that as the inevtable aging process runs its course, the actual drying, grain compression or whatever happens with the wood would be most dramatic early on in that process. Any warping or other dynamic changes would set in and be either cut around, cut down or just plain rejected. Dried wood is more stable in instrument construction, that we all know yet sound travels better underwater. HMMMMMMM! Technophyle input would be most welcome here.
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rex@sitar.co.za

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Thanks guys, that's very interesting
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povster

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Reply with quote  #10 
"FIFO"! "FIFO"! First in, First out. Jeeez! I must up my dosage of coffee!

Then it will be CICO!!!!

As always, tanks for da tips!

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AbdulLatif

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Reply with quote  #11 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "Sitarfixer"
"FIFO"! "FIFO"! First in, First out. Jeeez! I must up my dosage of coffee! I'm not even close to knowing how wood works. Seems to me that as the inevtable aging process runs its course, the actual drying, grain compression or whatever happens with the wood would be most dramatic early on in that process. Any warping or other dynamic changes would set in and be either cut around, cut down or just plain rejected. Dried wood is more stable in instrument construction, that we all know yet sound travels better underwater. HMMMMMMM! Technophyle input would be most welcome here.
Here ya go...."Sound absorption by water"
The adsorbed water is a major contributor to the sound absorbed by the wood of musical instruments. Adsorbed water converts some of the energy of sound vibration into heat energy7 . There is typically a 3.5% decrease in damping coefficient for each 1% decrease in moisture content8. Since hemicellulose is the component of wood that adsorbs water, and its capacity to adsorb water depend on how much hemicellulose remains in the wood, the hemicellulose content is directly related to the amount of sound absorption. Thus instrument response, which depends on the sound vibration that is not absorbed, would improve as the hemicellulose degrades. This is probably the main reason why instruments made of matured wood have more response than those made of freshly dried wood, and why old instruments seem to have more response than newly-made instruments. Since hemicellulose itself most probably absorbs sound energy, its loss increases response more than just that due to the reduced moisture content."

"The closeness of the label date and dendrochronological date of some Guarnieri instruments suggests that wood maturation was sometimes considerably shortened, probably by stewing, which greatly accelerates hemicellulose degradation. It was traditional then to ‘salt’ wood to stabilise and preserve it9, and impregnated salts have been found in Guarnieri wood10. The salt helps dimensional stability by raising moisture content at low humidities, but the main effect on stability and sound is due to the hemicellulose degradation of stewing. Some makers today are stewing the wood used in their instruments to give the effect of aged wood." (hmmmm I spent half my life "stewed" I must have marvelous resonance.)
Heres a link to the entire article this quote is from.
http://www.nrinstruments.demon.co.uk/wood.html
Heck I didn't even know adsorbed was a word.

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Sitarfixer

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Reply with quote  #12 
"Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh, that's lufflee"! Good info. Tanks!
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sitarman

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Reply with quote  #13 
Hey AbdulL- You took the words right out of my mouth :roll: Yeah, along with three fillings sand my tonsils. So, are we saying that the best sounding sitars are well aged instruments played at the bottom of a swimming pool?
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shagird

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Reply with quote  #14 
AbdulLatif, you have killed the thread by providing all that could be there to the subject Brilliant stuff! Thx
Quote:
Hey AbdulL- You took the words right out of my mouth Yeah, along with three fillings sand my tonsils. So, are we saying that the best sounding sitars are well aged instruments played at the bottom of a swimming pool?
Hey sitarman, this also explains why one sounds better after downing a couple of drinks.
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AbdulLatif

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Reply with quote  #15 
Sitarfixer is all over this, he will be equipping the Miraj homies with rebreathers and moving production to the bottom of Lake Srinigar. The wood there has not been touched since Shiva was a baby. Tony Ji will direct operations from land via cell phone. No homies will be harmed in the process. This will of course spawn an industry in "bathtub" sitars so beware of cheap knock offs.

"are we saying that the best sounding sitars are well aged instruments played at the bottom of a swimming pool?"

Actually I had to read this article a couple of times..."adsorbing" is the process of displacing water in the wood.

"There is typically a 3.5% decrease in damping coefficient for each 1% decrease in moisture content8. Since hemicellulose is the component of wood that adsorbs water, and its capacity to adsorb water depend on how much hemicellulose remains in the wood, the hemicellulose content is directly related to the amount of sound absorption. Thus instrument response, which depends on the sound vibration that is not absorbed, would improve as the hemicellulose degrades."

So you get a 3.5% increase in resonance for every 1% of drying (adsorbtion). I need to absorb a drink to adsorb my headache

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"Words are said to have a delusive nature (Mahamaya Matrika) because the word itself, although it may contain a reference to an object is often surrounded by clusters or Kulas of lesser Shaktis...."
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