I've been wanting to get natural top Kiesel Vader for many years now and finally taking the plunge.
I've decided on: Kiesel Vader VM8 in a natural finish
Burled Maple Top
7 Piece Walnut - Purple Heart-Maple neck
3 Piece body
Abalone offset fret markers
Abalone tone knobs
Dunlop Strap locks
beyond-antares wrote:My questions are more aesthetic but:
1. Would other exotic tops look nicer such as a Poplar Burl, Buckeye Burl, Flame Koa? What's the thought process that go into choosing these? Are other exotic tops available such as redwood burl? How do I request this?
IMO, I think burled maple looks better than burled poplar. Buckeye varies more from piece to piece than just about any wood they offer, so if you have strong feelings about ones that are mostly grey vs ones that are mostly cream, or ones with no voids vs ones with lots of voids, than you might want to stay away unless you happen to catch one of Jeff's Live Stream videos where he showcases a specific top on special.
For tops, if you're going with natural woods, I'd suggest that there's no other metric to go by other than what you like. IMO the tops aren't thick enough to where the specific species of wood will have a tonal impact. At least I don't believe it would be bigger than the actual act of gluing a wood top to it in the first place, anyway.
As for other woods, there are things like flamed redwood, burled redwood, sometimes ziricote (zeer-i-KO-tay), sometimes cocobolo, sometimes monkey pod, sometimes "chocolate flamed maple" which is sort of a darker flamed maple (but only a little darker...not like koa or anything), sometimes "bacon flamed koa" which has higher-than-average contrast striping in it, and there are also sometimes "crotch" wood versions of a lot of their woods, which has a unique shape to the figuring, sort of like butterfly wings. There's also *burled* claro walnut (the normal figured walnut they carry is just flamed). I've also seen amboyna burl. I know a BBS member sent in some years back for his own guitar, but I believe I've seen some within the last year maybe. Not sure if it's something they keep around. Same with macassar ebony and wenge (WHEN-gay) tops. There's also pale moon ebony tops, and I've seen two empresswood bodies but I don't think that was a top wood. Empresswood is very light, and looks like a mix between ash and alder.
Then even for the top woods on the builder, there are usually higher "grades" you can select for more pronounced, and more uniform grain and figuring patterns. Like a 5A or 7a (aka "master grade" may have larger and more crisp-looking quilted maple bubbles than the standard 4A). Or with pale moon ebony, the standard grade may only have one or two thing black stripes, but master grade is more likely to have way more black lines and interesting grain. One tip: If standard is 4A, don't look to 5A thinking a 5A will look much better than most 4A...think of 5A more of a filter that weeds out some of the less-impressive 4A examples. Then, 7A/Master grade would be the step I'd look to for something special.
Then there's "K-top", which are special pieces Jeff keeps locked away in his own space for special builds. I imagine most are for artist builds or NAMM showcase pieces. I have no idea what the process/limitations are for getting something like that.
To get any wood you don't see on the builder, it'll take at least an email into Kiesel, but the best way would be to call.
Comparing burled maple to poplar, to my eye, maple is a bit more even. Poplar has lighter open areas than maple, and darker burls. It's open spaces are more open, and it's burled patches are more concentrated with smaller burls. And the transitions from open to burled areas on polar is more "patchy" and less...flow-y for lack of a better word. But this is a perspective from someone who really likes burled maple, so someone else can perhaps "defend" poplar.
2. What body wood would be tonally nicer and lighter? Would Swamp ask or Alder be better? I went with Mahagony because it's a darker wood and thought it would look nicer in glossy finish. It's just quite mainstream and heavier than the other body woods.
General consensus is that on a neck-through, the vast majority of any tonal effects will come from the neck, and the body wood is more-or-less just along for the ride, since the strings are anchored on both ends to the neck wood.
For those who would disagree, I believe the thought would be that mahogany and alder might round out brightness of walnut, similar to how maple and mahogany go together so well. But then there are those who believe that mahogany and maple are a flawed combination anyway and were just a result of historical availability and price...
Personally, between those two, I like the ash, visually...but the mahogany is nice looking, too. I don't think either would clash with the maple top the way black limba sometimes can since that has a bit of green in its hues, compared to woods like maple that are a little more pink. I'm not saying you look at it and see green or pink, but side-by-side, there's a slight shift toward one or the other.
Others can comment on their actual tonal recommendations between the 3 woods (alder, ash and mahogany), though.
beyond-antares wrote:3. Would the abalone inlays and tone + volume knobs look good with the body and royal ebony fretboard? It stands out and isn't available in other options.
I think so. They don't stick out in person as much as they do in photos unless the light hits them just right. Since the alternative is just a polished done on the top which is already mirror-like, the difference isn't stark.
Here's my SH6 compared to the rendering version You'll notice the color is much punchier on the rendering:
beyond-antares wrote:4. Finally, does the satin finish feel smoother than the tung oil finish?
In a way, yes. The feel is pretty similar, but the satin will smooth out and fill in any of even the tiniest grain textures. Technically those slots may actually make the tung oil neck feel more slick. A significant "con" for the satin finish is that there's no way around it: it WILL start to wear to a semigloss over time. There are lots of variable as to how long that'll take, but it just will. Tung oil on the other hand will also smooth, but it won't get as shiny...if you keep it clean and maintain it. Some #0000 or #00000 steel wool or equivalent abrasive pads can help knock down that shine in both cases. Satin is a clear polyester finish over the wood, while the tung oil...isn't. The satin finish will be better protection from minor dings and scratches (like playing it or grabbing it wearing a metal ring, etc), but if it does gets damaged it's a bit harder to repair than tung oil. But as of July, tung oil necks are standard on all models (except for the AJ6/7) so anything else is an upcharge.
I don't know of many people who've tried a tung oil neck and don't prefer it, except for people who really like gloss necks (and Keisel's is about as good as a gloss-finished neck gets, since it's polyester polyurethane), or people like me who just hate having to maintain anything, so the satin gives me 90% of the feel of tung, and much less "hassle"...although if you already properly maintain your instruments, it's really no more hassle. I...do not.