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A good wood to start on

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Basschair, Mar 31, 2005.

  1. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    I ran a few searches, but didn't get the right word combination (I'm assuming)...anyway, I wanted to ask for suggestions:

    What are some examples of inexpensive woods (types and sizes) to use when practicing my bass-making chops? This would be not just for the body, but for necks as well. I'd like to get some time and mistakes in on less expensive woods...thanks!
  2. teej


    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    I'm not quite sure what's being asked, but MDF (not quite wood) is pretty cheap. I use it to make templates for the body, neck, etc. Home Depot has an 18"x48"x3/4" board for about $4.00. I can easily get two body templates from a piece.

    As far as actual wood goes, gallery hardwood had 3-piece unglued alder body blanks for, I believe, $35.00. Also, Warmoth.com and StewMac.com have single-piece alder blanks for $45-50.

    I hope this helps!! :smug:
  3. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    It does help, thanks! I was wondering about actual pieces of wood that I can work on to creat a mock-bass before tackling the real thing, but the info on the template wood helps as well. I didn't realize that Gallery Hardwoods did blanks as well...I got some turning blanks and pieces for marimba keys from Larry last year, before they moved. That was a sweet shop to visit.

  4. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    MDF is good for making templates and practising sawing and grinding.
    When it comes to routing, and even hand shaping, you need wood. And if you are going to work with hardwood, conifer wood will not do! The fibers act very differently...

    I suggest you start on alder and maple, one soft and one hard, the same as Leo Fender practiced on (and his business still does...). Then, if you start working on another species, you should cut off a piece and try some moves on, just to be aware of the differences in fibre behaviour.
  5. I like Sub's suggestion of working a hard and a soft wood to see the differences. It was a shock to lay into my first piece of poplar after working a bunch of maple, ash, and walnut in my first builds. Which leads me to my suggestion for a lesser expensive but good tonewood for "practice" - poplar - or tulipwood as it's sometimes called. It's a staple at Home Depot. It's finely grained, straight and cuts/carves very cleanly with either HSS or carbide tools. It isn't outrageous in price - certainly less than alder, and it makes a very good instrument. That's good just in case your practice comes out nice enough to keep! :)
  6. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    I'll second poplar. Basswood is also going to be inexpensive and agreeable as a practice wood. Neither one is very stiff and so you'll need to use something else for the neck. You could save a few bucks by practicing on soft maple or white ash for the neck. I think that if by chance you end up liking your first cut you'll want something that will work out in the end.
  7. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    One thing about poplar: you need sharp tools, otherwise it may strip into thin threads. And when sanding, it may go "wooly" if you don't change sand sheets pretty often.

    Different variants are more or less prone to this, but it's nice to know the possibilities in advance... I learned the hard way, and was quite annoyed. :mad: