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TheLowDown

A luthier's experience with tonewoods

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, BigRedX said:

IIRC some of the 60 and early 70s Japanese guitars with stripy necks are made of laminated bamboo. 

Hopefully @Bassassin will be along to confirm this or to put me right.

These older guitars were what's called 'strip mahogany' - in other words plywood - in an attempt to make cheap necks more warp-resistant. However in the early 80s Chushin Gakki launched a high spec guitar called 'Bambu' which was made with a through-body bamboo neck. Will post some pics & stuff when I'm not on my phone.

Edit: Here's a convenient link to a Chushin Bambu that went through Ebay a couple of weeks ago:

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Maya-Bambu-Guitar-Chushin-Gakki-factory-/174658482254

And the manufacturer's blurb about them. Not too high-res, so you may want your specs:

338903867_ChushinBambu.thumb.jpg.78a1605498a38bb14c79e588fa7d47c9.jpg

 

Edited by Bassassin
Pics & links & sh!t.

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On 11/03/2021 at 19:07, Beer of the Bass said:

There are very few instruments using softwood necks, even if it works for solid bodies and most acoustic stringed instruments use it for the top. So it might not be the ideal choice in that role.

Definitely, softwoods are generally knot central and you can come across pockets of sap, plus they tend to sand unevenly based on the grain. Like hardwoods (including balsa and ebony) there are quite a range of softwoods. I gather slow grown fir or pine from a cold climate tends to be very strong and stiff.

Douglas fir is traditional for masts, with excellent reason. You can make pine or fir necks with no truss rod that work. I'd still put one in though!

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On 12/03/2021 at 10:59, BigRedX said:

An the important word is "density" and not "species".

Density, stiffness, and ability to hold screws I imagine!

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32 minutes ago, PlungerModerno said:

Density, stiffness, and ability to hold screws I imagine!

IME quality instruments use bolts with inserts rather than wood screws.

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Posted (edited)
4 minutes ago, BigRedX said:

IME quality instruments use bolts with inserts rather than wood screws.

‘Should use’. I imagine the Fender Custom Shop probably just use screws unless specified differently by the client.

 

EDIT - I’ve not owned a Fender Custom Shop instrument, so I can’t comment from a user POV.

Edited by ezbass

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1 hour ago, BigRedX said:

IME quality instruments use bolts with inserts rather than wood screws.

Vigier used brass inserts in the s3 instruments (presumably in the 1,2 &4 also) for the strap buttons to screw into. I don't know if they're screws or bolts- mine are as tight now as 25 years ago so I've never touched them.. 

I don't know what's holding the bridge down,  though. It's a through-neck, so no need to good the neck on with fixings. 

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I've always wondered how good Hickory might be for necks. It's stiff and tough. Might be hard to work,  though.

If it's good enough for heavy tool handles, it ought to be good for necks. 

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6 hours ago, BigRedX said:

IME quality instruments use bolts with inserts rather than wood screws.

Indeed, for many softer woods it makes a lot of sense. For a dense piece of tough hardwood it makes no difference in my opinion, at least not the first 5,000 times

Spoiler

Actual number of screwing and unscrewing cycles may vary. Number of cycles may go up as well as down. Always consult your GP before taking a new supplement. Actual fuel economy may vary....

you screw it in and out. After that a machine bolt & threaded insert is massively more dependable!

But what does the threaded insert glue or screw into? Methinks the density, stiffness, and grippyness/bite of the pilot holes/holes wooden walls will matter a whole lot if you're using a soft wood. I know I'd want to glue in blocks of maple or a similar tough wood if I was building a balsawood body bass lol!

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, Lfalex v1.1 said:

I've always wondered how good Hickory might be for necks. It's stiff and tough. Might be hard to work,  though.

If it's good enough for heavy tool handles, it ought to be good for necks. 

A one off hickory Stingray was produced in the 80s, for a country artist I think - not sure if it was only the body that was hickory though - there are some photos on the internet somewhere - natural finish and looks vaguely similar to ash in appearance. 

1 hour ago, PlungerModerno said:

Indeed, for many softer woods it makes a lot of sense. For a dense piece of tough hardwood it makes no difference in my opinion, at least not the first 5,000 times

 

I have a basswood bodied higher end bass which has inserts for the pg screws at least (the bolts for the bridge have also got inserts) - given the rate at which people seem to swap their pickguards (well at least those who discuss it in on line forums seem to 😏) -  presumably those people making basses and guitars in, say 1960, hadn't learned the lesson of strap buttons coming loose (which i'd wager most of us here have encountered - often fixed by a broken match stick inserted in - but hardly the thing for a high end instrument).  This is demonstrated by the fact the same companies are still selling instruments without inserts........whereas many high end manufacturers do. 

And another thing - I haven't heard any response from the 'the electronics are the only thing that affect sound in solid bodied instruments' camp regarding my solid bodied bass with piezo, which works very well in piezo only mode........ any comments? 

Edited by drTStingray
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22 hours ago, drTStingray said:

...the same companies are still selling instruments without inserts........whereas many high end manufacturers do. 

And another thing - I haven't heard any response from the 'the electronics are the only thing that affect sound in solid bodied instruments' camp regarding my solid bodied bass with piezo, which works very well in piezo only mode........ any comments? 

Yup I think it's cheapness if they're using softer woods, plus they don't want to start doing it on the high end line and then roll it down to the lower end stuff if they believe can't sell the feature since it's hidden.

Who are the 'electronics are the only thing that affect sound in solid bodied instruments' camp? I've seen @BigRedX say " the choice of wood on it's own does not matter in construction of a solid electric bass or guitar" and I've said something similar when it comes to the species of the wood at least, given how much wood types overlap in density, stiffness, and other properties. I think even in acoustic construction those properties are what matter, species matters only as far as what kind of properties wood harvested from that tree tends to have. Just like the species doesn't tell you if it's a beautifully figured piece of grain, it doesn't tell you if it's a super dense example. Ash being the obvious example that varys a lot. The bass with a piezo example is, at least as I understand it, a clear grey area between electric and acoustic, since it is truly both in a way magnetic pickups aren't. 

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Posted (edited)

@PlungerModerno I may have misrepresented people in my characterisation which is possibly an exaggeration, so apologies - however I've certainly read posts with that view, as the extreme of the spectrum of views on this subject. 

Yes I agree re the piezo addition on a solid bodied electric bass - I think the point I was getting at was the resonance of the body etc will be important with the piezo, but conversely my view that body resonance (and everything else in the system eg bridge, neck, strings) influences the variation of sound transferred to the pick ups. 

Ive only once heard a piezo equipped bass demonstrated in front of an audience - it was a standard 3 band Stingray H fretless (with the optional piezo and additional piezo/magnetic blend knob) - the with piezo sound created more string sound (think upright) - was quite different - it was demoed by that chap with very prominent side burns whose name completely escapes me.....great player though. 

My own bass with it soloed creates a sort of lighter, airier sound - very interesting especially on the low B string. Brings a different flavour to hip hop type lines. 

Edited by drTStingray

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