Which wood for you?
The Barker Vertical Bass presents a delightful opportunity to showcase one of nature's most beautiful materials.
The heart of the instrument's sonic qualities is the ReliefCore (patent pending). The veneer woods, 1/2" thick, offer some subtle shadings of tone while largely defining the visual impact of the instrument.
Most choices are bookmatched grain; that is, a thicker board, half the width of the body, is sawed in two on edge and opened like a book, yielding two mirror image surfaces.
Here are some descriptions to help you choose either from our inventoried instruments or, if you are ordering a custom bass, the veneer selection page.
If there is a wood that could be called an ideal marriage with the Barker Vertical Bass, this would be it. We use only hand selected, cherry. It is a hard wood, medium in weight, timeless in character. Its outstanding quality is its inclination to darken with age. It just gets richer and warmer as the more reddish tones mute to deeper subtleties over time.
Here is an orphan wood. It is most commonly used in frames for upholstered furniture, yet within its grain there is a beauty and color contrast all its own. It is rarely used natural because often striking green colors distract one from the grain. We have made some featuring the green, as well some without. Poplar is softer and lighter than many of our choices with shades of gray and yellow-white present.
Douglas Fir. Psuedotsuga Menziesii. Every school kid in Oregon learned that scientific name a generation ago; it is the tree you see in the forests of the Northwest. It is an unlikely candidate for a musical instrument but we have located some old growth, tight grain recycled wood which works beautifully. The grain is close and the color is golden like an October sunset on the ribboned hills of Eastern Oregon.
Figured maple is without peer in the world of dazzling grain patterns. It is difficult to work with, but the visual rewards make the effort seem minuscule. It would be characterized as heavy in weight but light in color. Under a gloss finish it can be breathtakingly beautiful with depth beyond imagining. Western maple is darker, more variegated, more likely to have "character."
Long a favorite of furniture makers, this wood pleases all the senses from the very beginning. It is wonderful to touch, aromatic in the planing and shaping, and noble in the finish. Dark. Strong. It's the stuff of the library of an estate, leatherbound volumes, a carriage waiting at dusk one Friday in autum.
About our reused wood...
Rich is a local wood lover whose mission is to travel the country to find wood which he can snatch from the jaws of landfills and trash fires, clean it up and offer it for sale.
One day he brought in a rather long board--nine and a half feet--that was three inches thick and 5 inches wide and really looked nasty. "Cut it open," he said. "See what you think."
Inside was some beautiful, tight grain fir, golden as an Eastern Oregon wheatfield in the slanting rays of a late summer sunset. We bought some. But what had it been in its prior use?
"Cherry vats," Rich said. "Huge, ten foot diameter cherry vats where they soak cherries before they're processed."
That explained the next board we cut into. It was a gorgeous, breathtaking pink. The cherry juice had seeped into the board at the bottom of the vat and wicked upward, coloring the fir.
We bought all he had of the pink, and quite a bit of the other.
The result: Two limited ediiton Barker Vertical Basses: The Cherry Imbued, and the Clear Douglas Fir.
When this material is gone, there will be no more instruments in these two lines. And we don't have very much.
At Barker Musical Instruments we strive for environmentally respectful practices and good stewardship of our earth's resources.
And sometimes there's a bonus beyond our imagining.