One piece body? Now with pics!

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Fishheadjoe, Jan 30, 2013.


  1. Fishheadjoe

    Fishheadjoe

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    Hey folks,
    I have a solid piece of curly maple that I intend to use to make a body, using tracing from a Gibby Explorer. The maple is large enough to make the body in one piece, but I seem to see here that many, if not most bodys made, are more than one piece.
    What advantages, if any would one piece have over laminations or vice versa?
    Just curious as I begin planning my build.

    Thanks for you time!

    Fishheadjoe
     
  2. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member

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    There is no structural advantage either way. Many exotic woods are expensive and impossible to find big enough to use as a one piece body so they are used as a one piece top.
     
  3. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member

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    The big risk with a one piece body is that it's far more likely to curl, twist, or crack over time. The larger and thicker a board is, the more difficult it is to get it dried out thoroughly and evenly. If it isn't dried out evenly, then the board is going to move and change shape over time. Curly maple is one of the toughest woods to get stabilized. The dense, tight grain is difficult to get dried out, and the wavy grain makes the movement very unpredictable.

    What do you know about the history of that particular board? How long has it been sitting around and how much movement has it shown so far? How symmetrical are the rings around the centerline of the board? You have to look at those things and evaluate the risk.

    Bodies are laminated to minimize the distortion of the body by "balancing" the movement of the wood. You select and flip the boards so that, looking from the end, the rings are as symmetrical as you can get them. The most stable way to make a body is to make it up from four boards, left and right, top and back. The four boards are flipped so that the rings are symmetrical both up and down, and left to right.

    This does two things to help: First, because each board is thinner, the internal forces trying to bend it will be less. And, a thinner board is easier to get dried out evenly. Second, any movement will be counteracted by an opposing movement from the board opposite to it. They balance each other.

    Attached is a picture of the four boards arranged for building one of my Scroll Bass bodies, to show you what I mean about making the rings symmetrical. These bodies are particularly nasty to make, because so much is routed away with the F-holes and all the internal chambering. If I made them from one piece, they would twist like pretzels. I have to go to extra trouble to make the body blanks very stable.

    In your case, you've got make a judgement call on how stable that particular board is going to be. If you doubt the stability, the safest thing would be to slice the board horizontally, into a top and a back of equal thickness, flip one of them, and glue them back together. Of course, that requires access to a big resawing bandsaw. Or, you can first saw it down the middle into two halves, then saw each half into a top and back, which is easier to resaw. Then arrange them all symmetrically like I've shown.
     

    Attached Files:

  4. Fishheadjoe

    Fishheadjoe

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    Thanks Bruce, much appreciated.
    I bought the curly maple from a supplier who told me it was fully dried and ready to work with. They specialize in dryed, ready to work wood.
    I just took another look at the board...
    -1 1/2 inches thick
    -9 1/2 inches wide
    -54 inches long...
    So my thoughts on it being big enough for a one piece body were way off! I am definately going to have to cut it to make a two piece body. As I plan on spraying it a solid colour, I am not concerned about grain from an appearance point of view, just stability. The end grain on the board looks similar to the wood in your pic.
    So, with this new info, I am assuming that a properly cut and planed two piece body should be stabile? Would I be wise to perhaps use another piece of wood as a top to help with stability. With the curly maple being 1 1/2 inches thick, I am a little concerned that adding more wood to the body is going to push the weight into boat anchor territory!
    Unfortunately my knowledge of wood is limited to 2x4's and fire wood! LOL
    Again, thanks so much for your advice...
    Fishheadjoe
     
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  6. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member

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    Do you have a picture of the board? If you are going to spray it a solid color, why waste a piece of curly maple on it. Poplar or basswood are lighter, and are just as easy to finish.
     
  7. Fishheadjoe

    Fishheadjoe

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    I chose maple because I like the brightness that maple brings to the table. The board only cost me $25.00, so I'm not worried from a cost perspective. I like the sound of my Pedulla Rapture (maple body and neck) as well as my Ric 4003. I plan on putting a maple Jazz style neck on it... yah, I like maple!
    I'll work on getting a pic...
    Fishheadjoe
     
  8. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member

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    Okay, back up! Why would you want to use curly maple if you are going to paint it a solid color? Curly maple is expensive, heavy, difficult to machine and finish, and notoriously unstable. It a bad choice for a body wood, unless you specifically want to show off that beautiful grain under a transparent finish.

    We seldom build bass bodies out of solid curly maple, for all those reasons. Usually, curly maple is only used as a thin cap for decoration, on top of a body made of alder, mahogany or some other wood.

    Honestly, find yourself another board for your bass body. Alder, mahogany, cherry, soft maple, walnut and many others will be much more pleasant to work with and give you better results. That curly maple board can be made into necks or sawn up into thin caps for bodies. But curly maple should only be used in places where you really want it for its look.


    You guys type faster....

    If you specifically want that bright maple sound, then I'd recommend Soft Maple (most places carry Red Maple), straight grained. Almost any lumber place will have it. It's real nice to work with, easy to finish, and lighter weight than Hard Maple (Sugar Maple). That will save you a lot of grief. Hard maple is for necks; soft maple is for bodies.
     
  9. Scott in Dallas

    Scott in Dallas

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    If the grain on that curly maple is nice, you could sell it to someone and have enough money to buy several bass blanks. You could make two really nice bookmatched tops with it.
     
  10. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member

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    I have serious doubts as to the tonal characteristics of body wood. If bright is what your looking for use an all maple neck, 500k pots and SS strings. The brightest sounding bass I own has a poplar body.
     
  11. Fishheadjoe

    Fishheadjoe

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    Thanks to all for your help, I really appreciate it!
    I won't second guess any of you, I take your advice to heart.
    I also get your appreciation for wood and wanting to see it used to it's utmost, so please bare with me as I continue...

    I have no plans to do any intricate carving what so ever on this project. I have chosen an "Explorer" body style for a number of reasons including it's slab like constuction (I really don't need (I own a RIC remember! LOL)rounded off/carved edges so shaping won't be as labour intensive, I hope:bag:) and I have always loved the Explorer/T-Bird shape!
    So, with that in mind without permanently offending the forces of nature and the wood gods, I am hoping that I can get away with using this piece of wood.
    Also, as a result of all your input, I am now muling over using a center piece, like a mahogany and using my maple for side wings...
    Again, appreciate your input!

    Fishheadjoe
     
  12. Scott in Dallas

    Scott in Dallas

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    For me it's not really a matter of using the wood to its utmost or offending forces of nature, it's the value of the wood you've gotten vs what you have planned for it. If you got a really fancy piece of wood for a song and have no use for the fanciness, then you can turn it around and make money on it, still do the project you want and have some extra scratch in your pocket. Using the existing wood makes no sense at all.

    Post a picture. You might be happy with what someone offers you for it.
     
  13. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member

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    Just to be clear, we're not saying that you can't build a body out of curly maple. You certainly can if you want to. But, the curly maple is going to create other headaches in the process, in addition to the instability thing. For example, when you rout the neck pocket and pickup openings, curly maple will tend to chip and chunk and leave ragged edges. And when you try to sand the surfaces and perimeter flat, you'll get ripples and waves. Every part of the finishing process, the waving grain will be fighting against you. Things will go so much easier with any straight grained wood.
     
  14. Fishheadjoe

    Fishheadjoe

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    [​IMG]

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    Sorry about the quality of the pics... looking forward to your thoughts!
    Fishheadjoe
     
  15. suraj

    suraj

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    I understand you got a nice piece of maple at a good price, why not save it for a build which you would like to put a transparent finish on ? Your gonna paint it a solid colour anyway, so the body wood you use should be something that's easy to machine and work generally. Once solid paint is on wood, it doesn't matter whether there's flamed maple under it or pine.

    I would call myself lucky to get a piece like that at that price. I would keep it for another project or sell it and buy straight grained maple or alder, keep some money in my pocket. And it won't affect your tone one iota.. It will make your machining, sanding and finishing a LOT easier..!
     
  16. Fishheadjoe

    Fishheadjoe

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    Thanks Suraj, I am now leaning toward another body wood, other than the maple posted above...
    That said, and bare in mind my knowledge of wood, is the maple in my pic really a nice example? Looking at it as it sits, I don't really see all that much figuring...
    RE saving the wood for another project... I've kinda grown away from transparent finishes as I have a Roscoe that looks almost 3d with it's flame.
    I find myself more interested in solid colours these day.
    Thanks again...
    Fishheadjoe
     
  17. suraj

    suraj

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    Wet a piece of cloth with water or mineral spirits and wipe it on your curly maple board. Then you'll see the figure pop. If your not into trans finishes and figured woods, then there's not much of a point to use that piece of maple. Most people prefer solid colours so they use easy to machine straight grained woods, with or without knots, with 2 or more pieces glued together, hence much cheaper.

    Good luck with the project :)
     
  18. Fishheadjoe

    Fishheadjoe

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    I tried to get better pics of the board in the sun...

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    The supply shop I bought the wood at is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I think I'll toddle over there tomorrow and see what else they have in stock.
    Fishheadjoe
     
  19. Fishheadjoe

    Fishheadjoe

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    Same board, just a little water on it...

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    [​IMG]

    Fishheadjoe
     

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