Jump to content

Entry for August 2020's Guitar Of The Month is open - ENTER HERE!

86barettaguy

Alternative Woods?

Recommended Posts

while much is written about the mainstream materials for solid guitars like maple, alder, poplar and mahogany, I find it hard to find information on the less orthodox materials such as birch, pine etc.

What materials would be suited for what components and what effect should they be expected to have on tone? I'm sure the information is available on the net, I just haven't been able to find it...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've successfully built a chambered pine body with birch plywood top and back, and that sounds a little... soft. It's a superstrat-looking thing. It's not as bright as my cheap plywood body strat, though, but that one works fine as well.

I think there's more input to the sound in how you make it, and the craftsmanship, than the wood you choose. Which is why I'm so surprised mine turned out well... :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
while much is written about the mainstream materials for solid guitars like maple, alder, poplar and mahogany, I find it hard to find information on the less orthodox materials such as birch, pine etc.

What materials would be suited for what components and what effect should they be expected to have on tone? I'm sure the information is available on the net, I just haven't been able to find it...

Sorry no compendium on alternatives. It is hard fought knowledge gained through experience.

You are probably not going to find a site that explains alternatives to norms outside of Pine Teles and a few one off builds.

A better bet would to be start digging through build threads and see what others have used in the past and start experimenting. You will be amazed at what the guys on this forum alone use to build guitars. Our very own Avenger has used some of the craziest combos you can imagine.

The other piece of advice I would give is that the European woods of the same name are different from the US woods and have different characteristics while the Aussie woods are a mystery to all but the natives (if someone down under wants to ship some Australian blackwood for experimentation LMK).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Our very own Avenger has used some of the craziest combos you can imagine.

:D

BODY - NECK - FRETBOARD

mahogany/flamed cedar - flamed maple/chechen/putpleheart - birdseye maple

walnut - canarywood - ebony

poplar/bloodwood - (bought the neck)

goncalo alves/poplar - maple/chechen - bocote

white pine - (dough tthe neck)

basswood/maple - walnut - bloodwood

white limba - wenge - wenge

mahogany - maple/makore / canarywood

poplar - (bought the neck)

maple - (bought the neck)

sapele/maple/quilted maple - (bought the neck)

ash - maple - oak

limba/cherry/spalted maple - teak - slamed maple

limba - spanish cedar - makore

mahogany/cherry - maple/purpleheart - maple/purpleheart

maple/flamed maple - mahogany - chechen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Poplar is likely too soft to use as a reliable neck.

CF would probably make it doable... but if you were gonna add the expense and time of CF... *why* bother using poplar? No cost savings, and more time than a traditional hardwood neck. Unless you like making laminated necks... you could use poplar and something nice and dense to give the ridgid/strength and be fine.

For solid poplar neck, I wouldnt do it. (but I do like very stiff multi lam necks.... I broke a truss rod trying to move a 9 layer wenge/zebra neck)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For a neck, I agree that it's not stiff enough to be a good choice.

There's a lot of voodoo and tradition flying around out there about what's suitable to use and what's not. A LOT of it revolves around what the companies use to make an electric, and have been using for decades. They're all about production efficiency and cost effectiveness. They don't use a rosewood for anything but fretboards not because it doesn't sound good, but because it'd be too dang expensive.

With that in mind, consider the comparitive cost of poplar to maple. Maple is more expensive, yet they choose to use it anyway. THAT'S the sort of "voodoo" you should take serious note of.

So ask yourself why they wouldn't use a particular wood for a function. That will probably tell you if it's suitable or not.

What you look for in a neck wood is 1) strength to withstand the tension of the strings, 2) stability (no/little movement, twisting, warping), and 3) tone balancing against the tone of the body wood. So long as #s 1 & 2 are met, the rest is up to you.

For a body, you want it to be able to be shaped well and to be able to hold the screws tightly. Low weight is a plus.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As far as using poplar as a neck, that has pretty well been covered and I agree with what has been said.

As to ash, poplar and basswood being the same, poplar and basswod are similar. Ash is different. Ash is much harder, usually heavier and tends to have a brighter tone than the others. I say tends to, because it does depend from piece to piece of wood. Poplar and basswood are about the same in tone, some people say that poplar is a little more prone to being either muddy or sterile. But some people prefer the tone of poplar to basswood. Poplar in my experience needs to have the right pickups matched with it to get the best tone from it. Poplar and basswood are both soft with basswood being a little more so. So they will dent easily. The plus side is that they are very easy to work with and easy on tools. Where as ash can be very hard and wears tools very fast and can take a while to sand.

This is not the bible of tone woods, but it lends some help and guidance to the tone you'll get. But it still varies from piece to piece of wood.

http://www.warmoth.com/Guitar/Bodies/Optio...oodOptions.aspx

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

About pine...

Select pine can give you great results...

Remember this Benedetto? Bob claimed that it sounded better then any high end professional model he ever built:

galleryKnottyPine1993.jpg

knotty.jpg

And Bob was cimpletely right, its more about the maker and his experience which will give the sound to the final product...

On my side I have built this experimental guitar for fun a couple years ago using a 5$ 2 piece pine board for the body :D

yet, I was incredibly suprised by its resonance...

dsc00935tx7.jpg

The most epic guitar Bob ever built was this termited spruce top archtop gutar...

ilteredo-full1.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Pine sounds interesting. It's something there's no lack of around here. The only problem is finding instrument grade stock. I'm also considering trying spruce.

I firmly believe "instrument grade" is a marketing ploy to charge double the market price. You need clear (knot & defect free), straight-grained, properly dried wood. It needs to be stable and neither warped, cupped, nor twisted. Any reputable lumber yard sells exactly that.

And if you want pine, make sure it's white, not yellow. Specify that you need molding grade or beter. Yellow pine has REALLY hard growth rings with REALLY soft wood in between. It's dang-near impossible to get it perfectly smooth & flat.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

so poplar alone isn't recommended... say we laminated it with two strips of 1/4 oak and an oak fretboard? what can i say, i like oak :D

also is white poplar (aspen) the same as your usual poplar? i noticed it has less figuring and is a rather clean looking wood.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Off topic, but that Benedetto guitar is not termite ridden. It's a type of aquatic animal that did that... some sort of crustacean if I remember correctly.

And now... return to your regular programming.

Chris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i have used imbuya (often a different spelling over here - rather than imbuia)

I like it a lot - smells ncie and can have some nice figure. not always light though

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Off topic, but that Benedetto guitar is not termite ridden. It's a type of aquatic animal that did that... some sort of crustacean if I remember correctly.

And now... return to your regular programming.

Chris

On topic for the Off Topic, but your right, and here is a link after some research, its Teredo mollusk, also known as the Ship Worm: Il Teredo Benedetto

Still a termited spruce top would also be killer.

But here is some 150 years old termite ridden walnut which I used for building this 8 string guitar neck:

Photo781.jpg

Photo750.jpg

And now... return to your regular programming :D

Pat

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

About alternative woods,

I am rather new to building Guitars, so I have a similar question: I picked up some locally cut White Oak (Texas), literally local... like right down the street lol. Once I get it dried out, would this material be suited at all for a body?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Imbuia is soon to be an endangered wood,so any guitar made with it is sure to become a collestor's item...

Sorry....old old joke..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is one of the best woods which I have ever used for building a body IMO - ELM

It looks like Ash on steroïds with much more colour... (pretty much unknown in guitar building)

Its hard to find a big enough piece for making a 1 piece body...

Here is a guitar which I built using a 2 pieces of swiss elm, I also glued a crazy maple top on it (just in case your wondering what is that insane wood...)

If you look at pic number 2 you can see that I jointed the body using a shark joint...

The sustain is out of this world, and its extremely stable but pretty harsh on the tools.

72517179.jpg

in the dark

75757967.jpg

in the sunchine

48636315.jpg

And here is an other guitar on which I used a unique piece of flamed Mukushi (Zambian Teak) for the fingerboard.... (again pretty unknown in guitar building)

35876421888294208513429.jpg

Photo632_371_361.jpg

and some intense flamed oregon myrtlewood for the top!

20850421887999208513429.jpg

37002423730409208513429.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah have a huge Elm tree in my front yard that is slowly dying.I am afraid I will have to cut it down soon before it takes out the house.Shame though,because it shades most of the yard.Hard to see in this picture because it is behind the other tree.You can see the branches spreading out though

l_a1ff2db2908a4880b077d1dba82fec11.jpg

Oh...here is a better pic

l_8c26896120b9453fa4495b74f3831ac9.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

if i may ask,......... what kind of bridge/tailpiece is that?

v

Here is one of the best woods which I have ever used for building a body IMO - ELM

It looks like Ash on steroïds with much more colour... (pretty much unknown in guitar building)

Its hard to find a big enough piece for making a 1 piece body...

Here is a guitar which I built using a 2 pieces of swiss elm, I also glued a crazy maple top on it (just in case your wondering what is that insane wood...)

If you look at pic number 2 you can see that I jointed the body using a shark joint...

The sustain is out of this world, and its extremely stable but pretty harsh on the tools.

72517179.jpg

in the dark

75757967.jpg

in the sunchine

48636315.jpg

And here is an other guitar on which I used a unique piece of flamed Mukushi (Zambian Teak) for the fingerboard.... (again pretty unknown in guitar building)

35876421888294208513429.jpg

Photo632_371_361.jpg

and some intense flamed oregon myrtlewood for the top!

20850421887999208513429.jpg

37002423730409208513429.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...