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Post new topic CLINESMITH - Wood or Cast Aluminum?
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Author Topic:  CLINESMITH - Wood or Cast Aluminum?
Steve Cunningham


From:
Atlanta, GA
Post  Posted 12 Jan 2022 11:20 am    
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I'm ordering a long scale 6-string, horseshoe-equipped Clinesmith, and driving myself nuts trying to decide between the wood Joaquin Model and the cast aluminum. Any thoughts/suggestions from Clinesmith owners, especially those of you who have/have had both? Various degrees of overdriven sounds are just as important to me as the beautiful clean tones his instruments are known for. Thanks y'all!
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post  Posted 12 Jan 2022 11:40 am    
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You know my thoughts on this: cast all the way. However, you can’t go wrong either way.

I love both sizzling distortion/fuzz and woman-tone fuzz, just not a ton of it. With some guitars, dialing it back makes it sound gnarly, almost ring mod-ish. I find good clarity and cutting power with both my walnut and Aluminum, but they both have blade pickups as opposed to the horseshoe. My main fuzz is a Fuzzface.
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Rob Fenton

 

From:
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Post  Posted 12 Jan 2022 12:35 pm    
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Hey Steve,

Really enjoy the videos you post. You've got such an original style!

I have an 8-string version of each. I haven't spent much time playing them with a dirty sound but I can give it a try later today.

I would say the horseshoe really sounds at home in the cast steel.
I had a cast Joaquin with a horseshoe and sold it because I wasn't bonding with the short scale. If I had ordered it long scale I'm sure I'd still have it, and maybe wouldn't have ordered the other two!

I currently have a long scale frypan and it has a huge, full frequency sound. It's the best I've ever had for single note playing, but also has great note-separation for multiple notes. I got it with only a tone control which I usually roll down about a quarter or third of the way. I imagine adding a volume control might attenuate the highs somewhat.

I've also got a torrified maple Joaquin with horseshoe and it really sounds great, but a tiny bit less 3-dimensional(?), and not as bright. It's another keeper, but the thing to keep in mind is that Todd can't do string-through-the-body with these as it interferes with the placement of the output jack. Not a huge deal, but the design offers a lower break angle over the bridge and there is a slight difference in the feel for the right hand. I may experiment by going up a string gauge across the board.

I feel like the horseshoe might not sound as good with dirt as the blade style pickups, which I have on my console. I usually play that clean too, but sometimes use a dirt pedal. Lately it's been a Nocturne Jr. Barnyard for an octal tube breakup sort of sound. Responds well, but has its limits as those pickups are quite microphonic.

I'll report back after some overdrive experimentation.
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Steve Lipsey


From:
Portland, Oregon, USA
Post  Posted 12 Jan 2022 1:47 pm    
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A thing I (and others) noticed about my long-scale aluminum 6-string frypan was that, if you play it on your lap, it really changes tuning (and not evenly across the strings) as it goes from room temp to lap temperature...it just really bothered me as I tried to stay in tune, only to stabilize just as we took a break and then have to start again.
The sound was amazing, of course, but I eventually just decided that the tuning movement was so annoying that I sold it...my 1954 Oahu Diana with string-through was a less complex, but similar type of sound, and tuning is completely stable...and I had an archtop thin-body CooderNator built, so I have a really special sound once again (parlor size resonator with Fishman Nashville and string-through on the cover plate).
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john widgren


From:
wilton CT USA
Post  Posted 12 Jan 2022 2:56 pm     Clinesmith
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Since I got my Clinesmith SS-8string Frypan, My wood and guitars are not being played as much. That cast aluminum really speaks to me. A wide variety of tones are available..I reach for the Clinesmith first, then my cast Trotmore, and then the wood guitars. How lucky am I?

John Widgren
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Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post  Posted 12 Jan 2022 3:38 pm    
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Disclaimer: I own a cast Joaquin-style Clinesmith with the Horseshoe pickup and have never played the wooden model or his frypan.

I too agonized about the decision and eventually went with the cast aluminum and I've never regretted my decision. The one thing Todd told me about the Horseshoe vs the Joaquin blade is that the shoe is very hi-fi and tends to lay bare everything you play - clams included. I agree with Todd on this!

Now, MY clams are a whole different world from YOUR clams, Steve (if you even ever play any). The wood models to my ear are slightly warmer and slightly less focused than the tight sound of the cast guitars. How could you go wrong with either? You're playing is unique and brilliant and I'm in awe over most of the stuff you post.
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Gary Meixner

 

From:
New York, USA
Post  Posted 12 Jan 2022 6:18 pm    
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Steve,

I have a wood and cast Clinesmith Joaquin. Both are blade style pickups and the cast model is a short scale. These are fabulous guitars and I love them both.

The cast model has a little more drive, sizzle and sustain than the wood model. The notes really jump out of the speaker. The tone is more transparent but still with a lot of character. The wood model I think has more depth and sweetness. Not a harsh note to be heard from the wood model.

I don't use a lot of effects. I usually play clean or with a little overdrive. I have attached a link to a recording I made a few years ago at Holt Studios in Mt Morris NY, playing my then brand new Joaquin wood model. It does feature a little more distortion than I normally use. Maybe it will help.

I do agree the cast model is more unstable than wood from changes in temps. That can be a problem here in western NY in the winter. If I had to choose, I think I prefer the wood model, but am blown away every time I play the cast Clinesmith.

Good luck.

G. Elwyn

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David DeLoach


From:
Tennessee, USA
Post  Posted 12 Jan 2022 7:13 pm    
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I have a wood 8 string horseshoe Joaquin. Love it. Dialing down the volume knob on the steel to around 7 works really great with gain/overdrive.
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Bill Groner


From:
QUAKERTOWN, PA
Post  Posted 13 Jan 2022 8:29 am    
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I do agree the cast model is more unstable than wood from changes in temps. That can be a problem here in western NY in the winter.

Plus when you put it on your lap in the winter, certain body parts might tend to hibernate! LOL........Reminds me when my younger son (4 years old at the time) went swimming in the ocean at Myrtle Beach. He got in the shower after a day of swimming and started screaming.......Mom, Mom, I lost my b*lls in the ocean........so be careful with that cold aluminum lap steel. I remind him every now and then of his awakening. He is now 49 and still gets a laugh out of it. Laughing
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David Ball


From:
North Carolina High Country
Post  Posted 13 Jan 2022 9:29 am    
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I have had both an 8 string and 10 string "plank" style Clinesmith as well as a long scale 8 string cast (not the frypan) with a horseshoe pickup. The cast steel is the one I kept--they were all great. I haven't noticed any problems with tuning, but I don't get the guitar out of my house. Other metal guitars I've had (like a 30's Rick fry pan) did give me some problems, and metal bodied pedal steels can be a real bear.

The sustain is better on the cast guitar, and it seems to play more evenly up the neck. But not saying the wood bodies were bad by any means. They are great.

But, you won't go wrong either way. I prefer the cast metal guitar though.

Dave
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Steve Cunningham


From:
Atlanta, GA
Post  Posted 13 Jan 2022 12:23 pm    
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Thanks so much for sharing all of this information...you guys have definitely giving me a lot to think about! One of my takeaways from all this is that whatever direction I go in, I'm likely to get a great sounding instrument.
As compelling as the Joaquin aluminums sound, I'm a little concerned about outdoor gigs, especially being in the South. I would imagine they would have fewer issues than the frypans though, correct?
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Noah Miller


From:
Rocky Hill, CT
Post  Posted 13 Jan 2022 12:44 pm    
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I don't want to get into an argument with anyone, but my experience is that aluminum steels - whether Clinesmith, Rickenbacker, National, Gibson, Vega, or whatever brand - are no more unstable than wood-bodied steels. I think it would be a shame to discount the metal bodies just for fear that you might have to tune them every few songs.
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Bill Groner


From:
QUAKERTOWN, PA
Post  Posted 13 Jan 2022 3:58 pm    
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I can tell you from 2 aluminum lap steels I built there is a lot more expansion with metal than wood. I can tune my metal guitar (after it sat on my lap and up to temperature for say 20 to 30 minutes), put it in it's stand and it will be flat the next time I play it. (once it goes back to room temp)and I put it on my lap for the warm up period and it's dead on. The whole thing is 1/2" 6061 aluminum. My maple lapsteels do change a bit, but no where near as much as the metal ones do. So Noah, I am not arguing, I am just telling you and anyone who reads this post how it is with both the metal guitars I built. Mine are not cast, but I'm pretty sure that does not have much to do with expansion. I had it sitting on my bed one day with the sun shining trough the window on it and it got pretty warm, it was sharp from it expanding.

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Last edited by Bill Groner on 14 Jan 2022 5:46 am; edited 2 times in total
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David Ball


From:
North Carolina High Country
Post  Posted 13 Jan 2022 5:13 pm    
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The wood Clinesmiths I had still had the full aluminum necks, so they probably behaved more like all aluminum instruments than all wooden instruments.

As I recall reading elsewhere on the forum, some of the early pre Sho Bud Shot Jackson mods involved cutting out the aluminum necks of Bigsbys and replacing them with wooden necks to improve the tuning situation. Maybe my recollection is wrong on that, but it's got a familiar sound to it. So maybe that was an issue. I've also read about problems with bakelite Ricks due to temperature problems. Bigsbys and bakelites remain in high demand...

At any rate, On lapsteels, I've never had any appreciable tuning problems due to temp changes. Pedal steels are a different situation though. They're temperamental in general.

Just a few thoughts.

Dave
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Gerard Egan


From:
Santa Cruz, CA
Post  Posted 14 Jan 2022 1:04 pm    
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For what it’s worth, I also have a long scale cast aluminum Clinesmith. It’s an amazing guitar in every way. Yes, tuning stability does fluctuate a bit when I initially set it on my lap but seems stable after a few minutes/tuning tweaks. It’s definitely not bothersome enough to get in the way of enjoying the instrument!
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Ethan Shaw

 

From:
Texas, USA
Post  Posted 14 Jan 2022 2:03 pm    
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Has anyone posted a video demonstrating the sound from the different models? I would love to see the different clinesmith models all plugged straight into the same clean amp with the same settings.
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Justin Brown


From:
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Post  Posted 15 Jan 2022 6:42 am    
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My Clinesmith Frypan is maybe slightly more prone to shifting tuning than the Cast. It’s not a problem for either and I wouldn’t worry about it at outdoor gigs. Worst cases I have experienced is having to go quickly from an air conditioned area to outdoors on a hot day or from a cold car in the Chicago winter to an indoor stage. They will go sharp a little as they warm up, easy to fix when it happens. If you have a sound check on the stage or are able to let your axe reach the ambient temperature of the venue beforehand it’s not a problem.

Having heard your playing, Steve, I think you would get along really well with a Cast.
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Steve Cunningham


From:
Atlanta, GA
Post  Posted 16 Jan 2022 11:11 pm    
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Thanks guys. Being a full-time musician doing a lot of live performances/sessions/teaching, it's definitely the live stuff that concerns me a little...I don't mind if I have to retune a little during a session or lesson while the instrument is acclimating. Lap steel probably accounts for less than 10% of what I do live overall, so I'm rarely playing it for more than 2-3 songs at a time...I don't want an instrument who's tuning will be impacted by lap temperature after spending time on a stand waiting for action.

Yeah Ethan, sound comparisons using the same gear would make choosing one a lot easier.
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Brooks Montgomery


From:
Idaho, USA
Post  Posted 17 Jan 2022 12:20 am    
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In my man-cave I have set up all the time in the open an S-10 pedal steel, an acoustic guitar, a dobro, bass, electric guitar, electric six-string lap steel, and an 8-string cast Clinesmith (short).

I’m always amazed at how the Clinesmith seems in tune after being left alone for days at a time (and how solid the tuners are, strings all consistently locked in place without slipping).

So maybe all my other guitars are temperature shape-shifters, but the Clinesmith sure seems to be the stable one in my room.
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Nic Neufeld


From:
Kansas City, Missouri
Post  Posted 17 Jan 2022 7:25 am    
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Steve Cunningham wrote:

As compelling as the Joaquin aluminums sound, I'm a little concerned about outdoor gigs, especially being in the South. I would imagine they would have fewer issues than the frypans though, correct?


Hard to get much further south in the US than the Hawaiian islands, and frypans are / were heavily seen there at outdoor gigs!

I have a long-scale 8 frypan with the shoe. Definitely became my main instrument once I got it...now, the 8 string has a bulkier, wider neck, but I haven't noticed it going out of tune, hardly at all...very very consistent day by day (compared to regular guitars especially!).

I agree with Andy about the tone...I dial the tone knob way back on mine because it feels very "hi-fi", and it really is good at capturing everything you do right, and do wrong, on the instrument. Smile
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