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Ash vs. Alder

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by supermetroid, Feb 23, 2003.


  1. I've been thinking about building a custom bass for a while now. I'm a short guy, however, and weight is a very important factor when playing long shows. I own a 'Ray with an ash body and it seems much heavier than my alder P-Bass. As you probably know, it does have a wider body than the P-Bass. Even so, I'm concerned about this considerable weight difference.

    I'll probably go with either alder or ash for my homebuilt. Originally, I wanted a natural finish, but I'd be willing to do a sunburst or opaque finish on an alder body if I thought it would save me some back pain.

    Please give me your thoughts on this.
     
  2. Brooks

    Brooks

    Apr 4, 2000
    Middle East
    There are two types of ash - Northern Ash which is usually very heavy, and Swamp Ash, which can be very light. Alder tends to be somewhere in between these two weight-wise, but I have found some pretty light alder bodies too (my Warmoth alder body weighs 5lbs).

    So, if weight is your primary concern, look for light swamp ash.
     
  3. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Maryland
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Or use spanish cedar.

    You will pay a premium price for lightweight swamp ash. Even then, it varies in weight and depending on who you buy it from, it might not be lighter in weight than your typical chunk of alder, and probably not lighter than your typical board of spanish cedar.

    In any case, it would serve you well to work out a somewhat smaller body shape to cut down on the weight and to use lighter weight parts.
     
  4. Suburban

    Suburban

    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Or use poplar.
    Which is one of the lightest woods in the world.
    Otherwise, I second FBB's advise.
     
  5. xush

    xush

    Jul 4, 2001
    mobile AL
  6. Two things:

    Xush, that bass of yours has some pretty impressive tone. I can't resist asking what kind of electronics package you've got in there, besides the Barts.

    Also, what is a good source for finished Spanish cedar bodies?
     
  7. xush

    xush

    Jul 4, 2001
    mobile AL
    It's a Bart NTBT preamp, but the sample is the passive tone.
    thanks for checking it out.

    Hopefully Matt can suggest some sources for the wood.
     
  8. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Maryland
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    I buy spanish cedar at local wood yards.

    Do you want to buy the body shaped and routed, or just surfaced blocks?

    It should be pretty easy to find the latter, probably even local to you. If you are thinking that you'll go the warmoth route, then that changes everything because they might not do spanish cedar.
     
  9. I'm reasonably sure Warmoth doesn't offer Spanish cedar. Since my intention is to buy more or less everything I need from Warmoth, I'll need suggestions for other woods.

    Just from an aesthetic standpoint, I think I'd like an alder body with a flame maple top, maybe with a tobacco sunburst finish; however, I don't know if this wood combination will necessarily help me achieve the tone I want.
     
  10. Brooks

    Brooks

    Apr 4, 2000
    Middle East
    Three things. One...two days back I contacted Warmoth about building a jazz body from a chunk of wood that I would supply, and they gave me a qualified yes - meaning, depends which wood, and it will probably cost me extra.

    Secondly, I built a Warmoth fretless (see link in my sig). Body is alder with maple cap, 5lbs and it sounds great combined with an all-wenge neck.


    Finally, check Warmoth's thrift shop. They have several tobacco burst alder bodies on sale right now. You might want to consider their Dinky Jazz (smaller, lighter body), combined with one of the lighter necks for good balance.