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Any difference between normal and curly ash?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by fish man, Apr 30, 2006.

  1. fish man

    fish man

    Nov 14, 2005
    Ontario, Canada
    Hey all,

    I put in some request to local hardwood vendors for a one-piece ash body blank, and one has said that they have curly ash. I'm not familiar with whatever curly ash is, so I'm wondering if it has the same or similar tone properties to regular ash. I googled it and i guess it is just figured ash, but I can't be sure. I'll have him send me some pictures, but I obviously won't be able to take the tone for a test drive.

    thanks againnn

  2. mahrous


    Aug 13, 2005
    is it swamp ash? if so, i can tell u the differences. i only used swamp ash in my basses so i dont know tonal difference.

    i can tell you density/weight, origin differences
  3. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Curly just refers to the figure. It says nothing about the species. Should not affect the tone w.r.t. the species of ash.
  4. fish man

    fish man

    Nov 14, 2005
    Ontario, Canada
    Yeah, thats what I figured (no pun intended). I have yet to see a pic, so I can't be sure how nice the figure is, but it should be cool.


  5. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    It should not affect the tone either way, but curly ash can really be beautiful.
  6. JoeDeF


    Apr 15, 2009
    I can't speak to any tonal differences (which I doubt would be greater than the tonal differences between two pieces of plain ash with differing densities, but that's just speculation).

    However, you can expect some machining differences; the curly ash has grain that changes direction constantly, which often leads to tear-out with both power and hand tools. We tend to want to use planes and gouges/chisels working "downhill" to minimize tear-out, but downhill and uphill change constantly in curly wood. In addition, the hand tool work can tend to want to "follow" the curl in some instances, making it a bit harder to get perfectly flat or uniform surfaces.

    I don't want to overstate the problem; you probably know that violin (and viola/cello) backs and ribs (sides) are made of curly maple. They are proof that these problems are definitely manageable (by taking light cuts, and/or wetting the wood right before making problem cuts, planing at a skewed angle, etc.), but I wanted to make sure that you knew that you might be getting into a bit more work with the curly wood. Visually, curly wood is often worth the effort, IMHO.
  7. My Jazz has a curly ash body. There is a real light flame to it, but it is difficult to capture with a camera. Not a major amount of figuring, just different than your usual swamp ash. I like it. :)

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