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Sapele Mahogany or Tasmanian Blackwood


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Hey all, first time post.

I am starting a Tele project but tradtional tonewoods seem to quite hard to get here in NZ. I was planning on doing a Sapele Mahogany with a Hard Maple cap/top with a figured maple veneer on top. But after researching Sapele it seems to be a more mid/high focused wood. So I'm thinking with a maple cap it may be too bright for what I'm after.

Has anyone had any experience with this combination and could lend some advice. I also have Tasmanian Blackwood available which is apparently similar to Koa.

Any help would be appreciated.

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Ahh the tonewood debate...

For what I've learned, the wood choices on an electric solidbody don't matter that much as the acoustic sound doesn't transfer through the pickups. I'm not saying there's no effect but it's more about how the instrument vibrates i.e. related to sustain and overall feel.

Also, the properties of the very piece of wood may affect more than the species. Trees on a rocky ground grow slower and harder than trees on good soil. I just read about common alder (or black alder, many translations for it). Alder tends to rot very easily but when it's sunk into water it becomes dark and rock hard which makes it a good choice for underwater constructions!

Speaking about "traditional" tonewoods, Fender and Gibson used wood that was easily available. Fender focused more on the average Joes so they used alder for bodies and maple for necks, both in common lumber thicknesses of 1 and 2" for easy manufacturing. Gibson had already a history in acoustics so they had suppliers for mahogany bodies and maple tops and the machinery to cut them to various thicknesses.

Your local woods are as good as any imported "tonewood" if it's properly dried and the properties match the requirements regarding strength and workability. Your local blackwood becomes expensive exotic tonewood when shipped overseas as do many other species you can get from your local lumberyard.

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2 hours ago, mgarratt said:

I also have Tasmanian Blackwood

Then I hereby request that you send it back across the ditch, please :P;)

I think @Bizman62 has largely nailed it. IME you're better off prioritising structural integrity and appearance over any supposed tonal properties when chosing timbers for an electric guitar build, and enjoy the process of building a guitar for what it is - an exploration into what makes a guitar tick, the challenge of pulling together all the components and skills to make one, and the satisfaction of playing the finished instrument and being able to say, 'I made that'.

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Always love this discussion! Totally agree with @Bizman62

I'm sure there is an effect of the wood on sustain (ie, how long the string keeps vibrating) but that's all the pickups are able to 'pick up'. With all components involved in the electric guitar chain, this is something negligable.

playing it without an amplifier might make a difference in sound, but that's not the intention of an electric guitar, is it 😉

Also totally agree with the 'traditional' wood statement. It's not like Leo spent 10 years building tele's and comparing all the tonal characteristics of different wood species, he just took what was easily available (and cost-effective)

 

good luck with the build, either wood will make it a great piece once you've built it yourself!

 

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5 hours ago, mgarratt said:

Hey all, first time post.

I am starting a Tele project but tradtional tonewoods seem to quite hard to get here in NZ. I was planning on doing a Sapele Mahogany with a Hard Maple cap/top with a figured maple veneer on top. But after researching Sapele it seems to be a more mid/high focused wood. So I'm thinking with a maple cap it may be too bright for what I'm after.

Has anyone had any experience with this combination and could lend some advice. I also have Tasmanian Blackwood available which is apparently similar to Koa.

Any help would be appreciated.

I've heard that Tasmanian Blackwood is a good substitute for Mahogany

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Good advice here.

I've used the maple sapele combination, and it's wonderful.

I've also used combinations that would be considered very bright, and others that could be called very warm....and to be sure there is an influence on the tone albeit minor and nothing that a tiny tweak on the tone knob doesn't overcome. Honestly, the distance between your bridge pickup and your bridge has a much bigger influence on the tone than the wood combination.

SR

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I agree with that Scott. I've built several instruments using combinations of woods that should sound a certain way, but the build specifics took centre stage in shaping the tone. I'd go as far as saying that the neck woods are more a factor than the body in most cases. A particularly nice combination I like to visit now and again is a Khaya neck with Wengé laminates.

Beyond all the tone chasing through woods, one has to absolutely pay most attention to using well-chosen wood in terms of straight grain and growth ring direction. A stable and consistent instrument is paramount.

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Thanks guys,

Your advice on the quality of the wood rather than the type has been great. The mahogany and maple I was looking at was rough and half sawn where as the blackwood seems to be much better suited to a guitar body. I've attached some options I have. I'm thinking 2A seems to be the best.  

Sorry at @curtisa they are here now. I might as well put them to good use 😀

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