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Ash...

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by mark beem, Sep 2, 2004.


  1. mark beem

    mark beem Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    New Hope, Alabama
    ....as a body wood.. What are your thoughts?? Ash has always been somewhat of a "blah" wood to me because of all the basses I had ever owned/played made of it, I never found one with a sound that really floored me...

    A couple of weeks ago I took a road trip to Nashville to try out a Sadowsky (had to see for myself what all the hype was about). It was a Metro model with an ash body and maple neck/fretboard. The bass was incredibly light (8/8.5 lbs or so) and sounded fantastic. Not sure how much of that sound was due to the pre/pup set-up, but it did instill in me a belief that with quality electronics (pup/pre) an ash bass can sound very good and make an incredible difference in overall weight.

    Are there different "levels of quality" for ash.. I know there is swamp ash and northern (?) ash which is substantially heavier...

    Thoughts?
     
  2. I think that the difference you've mentioned of the lightness of various pieces of ash makes most of the difference.

    I think it was Larry of Gallery Hardwoods on the MIMF that said that there isn't a species called "swamp ash". As I recall, he said that what we know as swamp ash is the same species as Northern ash but because it grew in damp, soggy places, the wood was less dense and lighter. He said that once it's established that the wood in question is lightweight, it's given the monker "swamp ash"

    I've used ash in a g****r body with stellar results. I've also use it as a top and stringer laminate. None of it was the light stuff but it worked very well. I'll soon be building an ash body with chambering and that would eliminate any weight prob.

    I have a DeArmond Pilot Pro 4 with a "swamp ash" body. It has killer grain and is very light - even for a 35" scale. I always have liked the even response across all the strings this body gave me.
     
  3. fiebru1119

    fiebru1119

    Mar 2, 2004
    Orlando, FL
    Is there any tonal difference between the heavy and light pieces of ash? I imagine the heavier ones are denser (and therefore brighter) and the lighter ones more mellow. Is this assumption correct?
     
  4. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    There are 3 basic Ash species in North Americe. American Ash, Pennsylvania Ash (both Hard northern Ashes) and Black Ash (Fraxinus Nigra) which is the lightest of the 3 and grows in the southern states. It is from this variation that the get the "swamp" Ash from. In large loads, it is weighed by the 1000ft bundle which will contain from 2lbs/bd ft-4lbs/bdft. In individual selection we like to stay under 3.2 lbs per bd ft.

    Ok, does that clear things a little?.. Northern Ash, which I call Baseball Bat Ash is one of the cheapest hardwoods to buy with the exception of Poplar. I think it's too heavy for Guitar/Bass bodies and soaks up more sound than it lets out. I would prefer Maple if I was going heavy.......

    Just my 2 cents.......... and you get it free!!
     
  5. mark beem

    mark beem Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    New Hope, Alabama
    So Ken, you're saying you use the black ash (Fraxinus Nigra) for your bodies??
     
  6. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    From what I have been told and from where it comes from I would have to say yes.

    It is not Black in color. Red maple is not red. Tree species are named for it's fruit, nut, leaves and bark. Maybe Purpelheart is the exception.
     
  7. As has been the rule lately, my mouth has taken control of my brain and I've made a mistake. This was concerning this thread:

    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=142140

    I offered an explanation of the differences in Ash by citing a post on another forum by Larry Davis of Gallery Hardwoods. My recitation of Larry's explanation was fundamentally wrong and could give the impression that Larry doesn't know his busiiness. That isn't the case, I assure you, as Larry does indeed know his business. Here is the clarification directly from Larry himself:



    I hope this clears up the misunderstanding.
     
  8. tdogg

    tdogg

    Jan 17, 2001
    Brooklyn Park, MN
    go play a marcus miller jazz bass. swamp ash body
     
  9. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    I have been amazed recently by the weight difference between the types of Ash. I have built 2 bodies recently using the same template. The one using the light weight Ash weighs exacly 3 lbs. the one using the hard Ash weighs a bit over 7lbs. they aren't finished yet 1 will be a fretted 4 and the other an octave 8 so I won't be able to comment on sonic differences.
     
  10. VS

    VS

    Jun 6, 2002
    Mountain City, Tennessee
    Discounted Gear: Peavey

    Definately. -Luke
     
  11. hard ash (white ash, northern ash) is certainly heavier than swamp ash (black ash), but I prefer it. If you take precautions during the build and design stage you can make the weight a non-issue (or less of an issue), for example, when using hard ash I usually thin the body considerably.

    To me it's more attractive as well. I dislike swamp ash very much.
     
  12. eleonn

    eleonn

    Aug 24, 2006
    Lima - Perú
    And this is because... its lighter and I guess it would be easily scratched?
     
  13. first and foremost, it's OOGLEE! it also dents too easily, usually has a lot of imperfections, way too expensive as it's being sold as 'tone wood', often creates balance issues with longer scale lengths and larger number of strings. I guess they're ok for Fender type instruments, but if I had my way, I wouldn't use it. But of course there are many players that are concerned with weight and they specifically ask for it.
     
  14. radii

    radii

    Feb 16, 2007
    I love it for the same reasons wilser hates it , except cost of course :smug:
     
  15. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
  16. I wouldn't know what George uses, but yeap, those pics confirm that it's ugly ...not your work, just the grain.
     
  17. Mr. Majestic

    Mr. Majestic Majestic Wood Supply Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2005
    From Louisiana/In Arkansas
    Majestic Swamp Ash
    I know I am a tad biased on this, but here are my .02.
    I really like the look and sound of ash. I like the pop the wood has escpecially when paired with the right neck wood. It has very defined lows and amazing attack. I think Wenge has the best "Tap resonance", but Swamp ash is definitly not a dead wood; it truly rings. I personally like the grain structure on ash also. Like all wood, there are some patterns I like more. Here is a pic of the grain structure I prefer.
    [​IMG]
     
  18. Mr. Majestic

    Mr. Majestic Majestic Wood Supply Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2005
    From Louisiana/In Arkansas
    Majestic Swamp Ash
    Here are 2 pics that of the body that was made from the wood above.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Thanks Tom for the pics.
     
  19. I personally love "Swamp" (or Nothern) Ash. I love the grain, I love it's general tonal properties.
     
  20. VS

    VS

    Jun 6, 2002
    Mountain City, Tennessee
    Discounted Gear: Peavey
    Something I don't see much is natural ash. It seems like it's always stained or painted. It's not an ugly wood by any means. I wonder why this is. -Luke