Woods

What are the different woods used for the Grand Stick?

We use five different woods for the Grand Stick at the present time and they are:

tarara padauk rosewood maple purple heart

I think there are pictures of all the above woods on our Website. I have listed them in order of weight, lightest to heaviest. The differences in weight are not great, maybe from heaviest to lightest 3/4 of a pound. There is some difference between the 10 and 12 string instrument, and whether or not you have standard pickups or active ones, whether you have MIDI or not installed, etc.

I just weighed a Grand Stick with The Block active pickups made of padauk and it weighs 7 1/2 pounds. Also please keep in mind that we use many woods but we don’t always have all types in stock and there could be a wait depending on your choice of wood.

Emmett, www.Stick.com

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I'm waffling about wood. Emmett said in a message in the archives that since the choice of wood affects the tone so little, he would consider things like complexion and clothes in choosing.

I believe the current design for wood Sticks is a seven-layer laminate with nice attention to the grain: it’s stable as heck, and good-looking. I wouldn’t worry about maple warping. Remember a guitar neck is a) a lot thinner than a Stick, and b) (as I understand thing) under higher tension from the strings.

Woods: I like rosewood. Personal taste. I don’t like maple Sticks, but then I don’t like anything maple except pancake syrup: personal taste, again. I’ve seen two maple Sticks and they both looked great, honestly. The tarara Stick I saw looked much more attractive in person than the picture of tarara on the Stick website, so if you ruled out tarara on cosmetic grounds already I’d say put it back on the potential list. Purpleheart is impressive and striking: Wayne Leechford is local to me, and he got a ten-string purpleheart when he sold me his (now mine) rosewood Grand. This isn’t helping you narrow anything down, though, so I’m sorry. :) (What would I buy? I plan to order a graphite one, myself.)


Certainly wood choice does not have a huge effect on tone like it does in acoustic guitars. That said, a number of Stick players feel the heavier woods (like purple heart) have a slightly better tone and sustain than the light woods. Larry Tuttle has expressed this idea to me a couple of times. He plays a purple heart Stick.

One of my favorite guitars was maple, an Aria strat copy. But, the Aria’s neck became horribly warped. I also am concerned that maple will look really dirty in a few months.

I don’t know of any problems with warpage for a Stick with an adjustable truss rod. The earliest Ironwood Sticks did not have an adjustable truss rod and a few of them have had warping problems (including my Ironwood instrument). But a correctly-adjusted modern Stick (like my Grand Stick) can maintain a very precise level in the action allowing for the optimal tapping experience. Also Emmett uses a wood treatment that should prevent a light wood from getting dirty-looking. He used to use Watco, but now I think he is using something else.

I’m also considering durability, weight, resistance to warpage, and (last but not least) the environmental impact of using tropical hardwoods.

I can’t really help you with which hardwoods provide the least environmental impact. But if this is important to you, you should also consider where the wood originated. Sometimes a particular wood is harvested responsibly in one region but harvested irresponsibly in another. Yuta (Emmett’s wife, who often answers the phone at Stick Enterprises) often knows the country of origin of the wood, which should be helpful in making a determination.

I am not aware of any durability issues. A few ancient Sticks that have been treated badly have degenerated, but all the instruments I have seen that are treated well (not left out in the rain) do fine. A friend of mine has Tony Levin’s Ironwood Stick he used on the King Crimson Discipline album and used for much of the 80s. That instrument has probably been played as much and has traveled as much as any Stick in existence. It shows some signs of wear, but even that instrument does not show durability problems.

As far as weight, my opinion is that the Polycarbonate Sticks are too heavy. The old Ironwood ones are a little lighter, but still pretty heavy. I do not mind the weight of my Ironwood, though I do not play long sets with it. All the more recent instruments are a fair amount lighter than the old Ironwood. If it was me I would get one of the heavier new instruments.

The purple heart is kind of impressive, but I’m a bit afraid I’ll be embarrassed to play this big purple thing in public. It isn’t like a Stick doesn’t attract enough attention as it is. My wife likes the purple idea, though.

I think purple heart is a good choice. It really is purple, but not Barney purple, if you know what I mean. It is just purple enough to stand out but not purple enough to be the least bit absurd or embarrassing. And it looks particularly good with gold hardware.

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Graphite Sticks

A comment about graphite Sticks

Hmm, let’s see, the graphite instruments have all the capabilities of the wood instruments but with the added benefits of being more resistant to climatic conditions, and more difficult to damage through accident. Plus they look great, incorporate The Block, add an extra fret of room at the nut side, they’re apparently Emmett’s instrument of choice, and you’ll be the envy of every other Stick owner who doesn’t have one. If you’ve got long fingers the 12 string is a perfect fit, and if you want to shave off a few hundred clams, the 10 string is every bit as good. I don’t know what further arguments you’re expecting to get, go buy one already!!! :-)

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Wood to Graphite?

I’ve been playing a purpleheart Grand since 2001. Now I’m considering a 12-string XG.

I played one for a few minutes at a seminar two years ago. I liked it more than I expected to, though I was not interested in owning a nonwood instrument then. I think I was subconsciously trying not to like the graphite too much.

My mind is slightly more open than it used to be, so I’m thinking again. I’d love some thoughts from those of you who have gone from wood to graphite.

I’m wondering primarily about two things:
1. Overall precision and stability
My 4-year-old purpleheart has Fret Rails plus all the modern adjustable stuff. It’s normally pretty stable and precise (occasional exceptions are when I travel to different climates). Could I expect even more stability and precision from graphite?

2. How the strings feel and sound on an extended scale compared with on a 34-inch scale
I know the 36-inch models use the same strings and gauges as my older 34-inch, only tuned down half a step (per stick.com). Does this affect their feel? Does any given gauge feel looser because of the lower tuning? Stick.com says string tension is not affected, but I’m having trouble understanding the physics of this. Finally, does the extra string length audibly change how notes resonate?

Thanks for any thoughts. John http://johnedmonds.net

I had some time with both a 34” and 36” scale instrument and don’t think there is any difference in tone that I could tell between the scale lengths. It’s possible that there is a slightly slinker feel to the extended scale length but I didn’t notice it much.

One other option to consider is the pressed bamboo, when I picked it up at NAMM it felt like graphite to me, very smooth, which I assume has to do with the pressurized resin used to compact the bamboo. I think this is what I would choose if I were ordering a new Stick since I prefer the look of wood. Rob http://robmartino.com


Going from a 34-inch to a 36-inch model Stick the main difference I noticed was in string bending. The 36-inch model requires a little more movement than the 34-inch to reach the same pitch. However, the extra movement required of the 36-inch scale Stick makes the bends much smoother.

I also think there is a little more sustain with the 36-inch scale Stick.

The 36-inch scale Stick was a very good move for Stick Enterprises. David Parr


Hello John

Being the happy owner of an old ironwood Stick (short scale) and a new graphite Stick (10 strings XG) I can give you following answers:

1. Overall precision and stability
Old ironwood Stick is very stable but I have to tune it more often than the graphite which stays in tune for WEEKS (and I play at least one hour a day). Graphite Sticks are VERY stable and VERY precise, actually SO stable and precise that one can just forget about it and concentrate on the music (which is what really counts after all)

My 4-year-old purpleheart has Fret Rails plus all the modern adjustable stuff. It’s normally pretty stable and precise (occasional exceptions are when I travel to different climates). Could I expect even more stability and precision from graphite?

2. How the strings feel and sound on an extended scale compared with on a 34-inch scale Slinkier and more sustain on the high notes. I know the 36-inch models use the same strings and gauges as my older 34-inch, only tuned down half a step (per stick.com). Does this affect their feel? Does any given gauge feel looser because of the lower tuning? Stick.com says string tension is not affected, but I’m having trouble understanding the physics of this.

Finally, does the extra string length audibly change how notes resonate? No, nothing changes exept you have one more fret and can play even lower notes (YUMMY!)

Hope this helps. And if you want to try out a graphite Stick, just come over to Switzerland for the Swissstick05 seminar (sept. 16/17/18). I’ll be glad to lend you mine! ;-)

(Now that was the seminar spam part of the post... http://www.swissstick05.ch) Olivier


Hi, now that I’m used to my 36” Stick, I find myself missing the extra fret a bit on my old 34” Stick. The main reason for me is that the bass notes at the first dot have a fuller sound. For example: if you’re playing a bass part, and you go from the G on the low C string to an A on the G string, the difference in tone is less than on the 34” Stick. My old Stick has Fret Rods, and my new one Rails, and I think that this is a bigger difference in feel than the fact that the strings are longer. Regards, Jaap


John, Something else to consider when considering Stick materials: weight.
I would seriously consider the new XBL with the Moses composite bodies. MattRogers got one (of the 2 prototypes), and the sustain and dynamics aregreat. I have tried his instrument on several occasions and think it’s wonderful.

My impressions of the 12 string XG (graphite) was that it was pretty heavy compared to wood. The XBL seemed a lot lighter in weight, and had many of the same sonic and physical characteristics of the graphite, if not better ones. Someone is likely to point out that “The Graphite only weighs 2.1 lbs more than the wood!!” or something, but it was just my impression that the graphite seemed pretty hefty. The XBL, due to it’s hollow body construction, felt lighter. I don’t know what SE’s availability of the XBLs is these days, but I’d look into it.

If I ever buy a new Stick, and am going to go through the wait for a brand new instrument, I’m getting an XBL. I always wanted a graphite...until I played an XBL. They’re that impressive. Hope this helps. Randy


My early 90’s vintage rosewood Stick is the most stable instrument I have ever owned...holds a tune better than I could have imagined, and has never needed a truss rod adjustment. I would spring for a graphite unit in a minute if I lived in a humid climate that was hard on instruments however. Regarding short-term temperature swings and staying in tune (being on stage in the lights, etc.), how do the stabilities of the various materials (polycarb, various woods, graphite, bamboo) compare? Jay


My padauk instrument rarely needs adjustment. I’ve found that when it does, it’s usually not so much a result of temperature change as it is humidity change. In Michigan, we have a pretty drastic swing in the average humidity between winter and summer so twice a year (right around the same time I start to notice my piano needs tuning) I’ll need to give it a tweak. That tweak will carry me through all of winter. In the summer, I might need an additional tweak going from climate control to non. Glenn


All this talk about instrument materials has got my interest piqued. Both of my Sticks, the SB8 and the 12string are pretty much second hand. Every time I call SE, they ask me what the Sticks are made of, and they have to look it up every time cuz I never remember. I’m pretty sure the SB8’s shedua, and the 12 is tarrara.

But I’m looking to trade the SB8 towards a brand-new, to-my-specifications, 12 string. The only thing I haven’t decided on is the wood. The bamboo is definitely aesthetically pleasing, and the only wood I’ve decided I’m definitely not gonna get is maple.

I never have been a fan of graphite, but after reading about the stability of graphite sticks in these posts, I’m beginning to reconsider. I travel a lot with Afroman, and you’d be surprised how much an 8, 10, 12 hour drive to the next gig will change the climate. So, stability is definitely an issue with me. How do the BassLab instruments compare to the Moses instruments? Emmett gave me a demo of both instruments when I had chance to go out to his shop last fall, but, honestly, I was so star-struck that I didn’t think to pick his brain about the different instruments, or try them out. I remember there being a slight difference in tone, I think I liked the XBL better. Maybe I just thought it looked cooler. Oh well.....

I’ve finally got a weekend off from the road, and it just so happens to be the weekend of Ann Arbor. I’M FINALLY GONNA GET TO GO TO A SEMINAR!! Maybe I can taste test some instruments there. I’m definitely gonna get a well-needed-knock-me-back-down-a-coupla-notches butt-kicking. peace D http://www.darrellhavard.com

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Bamboo Sticks

Consider bamboo

For those who like the feel and performance that graphite provides (like me), but perhaps don’t care for the look or the weight, consider compressed bamboo. Its got a feeling and performance similar to graphite, yet an appearance more like wood. Not exactly sure of the weight, but I believe it is a lighter than graphite and can apparently be stained to various colors. -Qua


At NAMM, I got several chances to play the bamboo Stick. The weight is intermediate between graphite and wood, and the “feel” is like graphite, in that it’s stable and solid and durable. Also, bamboo is a renewal resource, a grass that grows prolifically worldwide. Plus, the look of bamboo is very pleasing to the eye. I’ve been talking to Yuta about ordering an Alto Stick, and I’ve settled on bamboo as the material. -Arthur Durkee www.arthurdurkee.net


I’ve seen other like-minded comments about the stability and durability of the bamboo models. What’s the background about why this is?

The Stick site says the bamboo is “compacted to a high density with superheated and pressurized resin”, so I take that to mean it’s not pure wood like the other hardwood models... I’m assuming it’s some sort of synthetic resin. When I picked it up at NAMM it definately had that smooth synthetic sort of feel (as opposed to the subtle feel of wood grain like on the other models), kind of an organic/synthetic hybrid. Rob http://robmartino.com

How durable do you think the bamboo is? I mean, I’m sure SE wouldn’t put out anything that would fall apart, but when I think “bamboo”, I think “split”. I think I remember seeing some flooring made out of compressed bamboo before, so it’s gotta be pretty tough. D http://www.darrellhavard.com

It seemed bit heavier and harder than regular wood, so I would assume it’s pretty durable. Because of the heated resin it kind of had the feeling of being “encased” in a graphite-like material, it’s not like a raw piece of bamboo at all. Rob http://robmartino.com

Hi, the compressed bamboo that Emmett is using is much more like a compressed bamboo cutting board that you’d find at a nice Kitchen store, or perhaps Crate and Barrel. Its different than the flooring material. -Qua

Well, bamboo flooring has been available for quite some time now. Here’s a good quick link on its properties. Its rated far stronger than oak for durability. http://www.wfibamboo.com

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woods.txt (31954234 views) · Last modified: 03/02/2010 11:47