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Bubinga or Swamp Ash?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Techmonkey, Jun 29, 2005.

  1. Techmonkey


    Sep 4, 2004
    Wales, UK
    Well I'm building a bass that I'll probably use for plectrum and fingerstyle use more than slap.

    Must be versatile, very versatile, as I'm using Schaller Double J pickups with different wiring combos.

    I'm using a grizzly bridge for it, and it's 4 string

    I've never built a bass before, but I've got two years to make this one, and access to all the powerful workshop machinery I could want.

    1: Should I use bubinga or swamp ash? The body blanks are roughly the same price. I'd love something with growl, that I could hit the E-string with and make it brown your trousers!

    2: Are the Mighty Mite necks any good? I was thinking about getting a P-bass style neck with maple fretboard?

    3: For a 34" scale length bass, does that mean it's 34" from the nut to the ball end of the string?

    Thanks in advance, and sorry for all the newbie questions, I'll learn someday!!
  2. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    One thing to consider is that bubinga is most likely going to be quite a bit heavier than the ash. I also find that it is considerably harder to work compared with ash.
  3. Okay, here we go!!!

    Bubinga vs. Swamp Ash...

    Bubinga is a heavier wood than ash. Therefore you'll achieve a lower tone. Now, for an example of Bubinga bodied basses, look at Warwick. (www.warwickbass.com) They use alot of Bubinga on Corvettes and I believe some Thumbs too. Now, Warwick DID use swamp ash for the 2004(?) Corvette FNA Ltd. Looks beautiful with the Koa top. I say bubinga will allow you to achieve a better growl... but, I can make the exact same argument as above favoring swamp ash, and using Tobias and MTD basses an examples... preference really. keep in mind, Bubinga is heavy!!!

    I cannot say anything about Mighty Mite necks, never built a bass... Looking to start my first too.

    I believe 34" scale refers to the distance from the nut to the twelfth fret times 2 (or, doubled) I could be wrong, but that's what I think it is.

    PS, if you want some serisous growl, you might want to check out wenge on wenge necks and maybe some Bartolini elecronics... Just a suggestion though.

    Good Luck!!!
  4. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I had a bubinga corvette and I was ohhhhhhhh sooooo sorry I didn't get it in another wood. I'd have completely loved it weren't bubinga. Way too heavy for my tastes, and while the sound was undoubtedly deeper than any other bass I had, it was also kinda muddy and lacking in mids. Don't know how much of that is attributed to the wood, and how much the electronics but I love the sound and feel of my much lighter basses.
  5. Techmonkey


    Sep 4, 2004
    Wales, UK
    Hmm, so bubinga is deeper, but also heavier and harder to work with... However, I do like the look of the Warwicks...

    Wenge on Wenge neck might be a better way to get the growl I'm looking for though. Wish I could afford a set of bart pickups, but I'm a fair bit short! If I hate the schaller pickups then I could try using a couple of genuine fender jazz humbuckers without modification, and if that fails then I'll just fill in the gaps, stick in a set of jazz singles and refinish over it.

    Thanks muchos for the help so far people, I knew TB would be able to help! I'll check out those wenge on wenge necks now...
  6. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    My experience with wenge necks is that any fretboard on wenge gets a nice and unique growl. I had a wenge/wenge Elrick and it had a great mid growl to the tone. I later had a wenge/stabilized black palm JP and it growled in a very similar way. I would like to build myself and all wenge necked bass in the near future.
  7. Techmonkey


    Sep 4, 2004
    Wales, UK
    Wow, for a pretty damn cheap price I can get a wenge neck blank
    36" x 4" x 1" - Just under a tenner! Is this the kind of thing I should be looking for?

    A two way truss rod is about £12, and the fretboard (Slotted but not fretted or radiused) is about £15 for Amazaque, Bubinga, Purpleheart or Wenge, and £18 for Cocobolo.

    At that price, for a neck complete with everything except frets, I could get away with paying £37. Is the neck blank the right size for my 34" scale length bass?
  8. Techmonkey


    Sep 4, 2004
    Wales, UK
    In retrospect, that was a stupid question. Of course it's long enough, because if it's 34" from the nut to the saddle, the neck isn't going to need to be longer than 36". Also, I've never seen a 4 string bass with a heel 4" or larger, so that's safe too...

    But what I mean was is it big enough depthwise? How big should it be, from the thickest point (Heel?)?

    Thanks muchos once more,
  9. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    It's plenty big enough for the heel, but it depends on your headstock design. If you use a scarf joint or a non-tilted headstock then it should be plenty.
  10. Techmonkey


    Sep 4, 2004
    Wales, UK
    I'm liking the sound of a non-tilted headstock, it would be much easier to build, but how would it affect sound/tuning?

    By the way, I've been thinking about it, and I'm not confident enough to use pickups which I've never heard or heard much about, especially in a wiring project that I probably won't even fit in to the control cavity... So here are the changes to the project:

    1: I'm making a 5 string instead
    2: Scrapping the old Schaller pickups
    3: Thinking about a MM pickups in the bridge, and a soapbar in the neck...

    I'm still looking for a growly tone, and even deeper now it'll be a 5er, but I'd like to be able to use the soapbar for a smooth sustained tone, mainly fingers, and the MM for a more agressive metally type tone, think Megadeth or Metallica.

    At least this way I'll be able to upgrade the pickups if I'm not liking the tone!
  11. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    Well, if you put a string tree of some sort then it shouldn't really affect tuning or sound appreciably. I would want something like on a sadowsky 5 as opposed to what fender uses. The alternative would be if your headstock is quite a bit lower than the freboard. Then you could have a non-tilted headstock but still have a fairly large break angle over the nut.
  12. Scott French

    Scott French Dude

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    Why is everyone saying Bubinga is deeper/lower? Get a chunk of 8/4 Bubinga and an 8/4 chunk of Swamp Ash. Hit them both with your knuckle, Bubinga goes BINK BINK BINK, Swamp Ash goes BONK BONK BONK.

    How about a thin Bubinga top over Swamp Ash? You'll get the weight and tonal advantages of swamp ash with a good looking and tougher top. I made my first acoustic guitar with the a figured bubinga back and sides set. It can sound very good but I wouldn't want to make a solid body out of it, too heavy.
  13. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    "Why is everyone saying Bubinga is deeper/lower? Get a chunk of 8/4 Bubinga and an 8/4 chunk of Swamp Ash. Hit them both with your knuckle, Bubinga goes BINK BINK BINK, Swamp Ash goes BONK BONK BONK."

    I was wondering this too. I agree....t
  14. B.C.

    B.C. Supporting Member

    Jun 28, 2005
    On the wood issue, I have a '03 Warwick Vette FNA Jazzman and it is made out of Swamp Ash. It's lighter than most Warwicks and still achieves that growl. It also has a wenge fret board. Just to let you know...

  15. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU

    Well I wouldn't call my Corvette really deep-sounding, but those growly mids are anything but muddy and lacking...

    +1 vote for bubinga top with swamp ash back. In fact, I'll soon start building mine, I already have the wood here :hyper:
  16. oh lawd!

    I think Zons are the sexiest beasts out there at the moment. Such a simplistic shape. The Ash/Bubinga combo looks spectacular on that bass. I'm building an ash/bubinga bass right now! I'll post pics when I get home. I think it's one of the best combinations.
  17. Techmonkey


    Sep 4, 2004
    Wales, UK
    Woooow that bass is absolotely STUNNING!!

    I would love to have a body with a top, but for my first project I don't think I could pull it off. A 5 string bubinga body would be pretty damn heavy... Shame really, was looking forward to having a natural finish!

    Actually, are there any other woods which have a deep growl, would work well with a Wenge neck, would be able to resonate the low B easily & be a good fingerstyle player or a growling metal demon?

    Thanks once more, and sorry for all the questions!
  18. Dear Mr. Monkey (can I call you tech? :) ). I think you are selling yourself short. On my first bass I did a bookmatched Imbuya top. I actually had to go to the mill and try to find a piece that had some figure on it, it was hard because you can't see any figure until the wood is planned. Anyway, It came out great! even though I had to do the trueing and leveling by hand planes! I say, go for it and take your time. Believe me, If I could do it (with no previous woodworking experience apart from building a baby chair a month prior to that first bass) then anybody can do it. In fact, the only non-topped bass I have built was an electric upright (2nd bass). I even did the matching headstock veneer by hand.

    As Ben Stiller said ....'do it, do it ....do it, do it'.

  19. Techmonkey


    Sep 4, 2004
    Wales, UK
    Of course you can call me Tech ;)

    Thanks for putting so much trust in my luthiery skills! I decided to check out the 'bay for some bubinga top material but there didn't seem to be anything useful... I saw one piece plenty long but only 12" thick, would a maximum width of 12" be enough for a 5 string bass?
  20. You mean 12" 'wide', don't you? If that is what you mean, then it depends on your design. Generally, most designs for standard basses require at least 14" wide (can be 2 7" bookmatched pieces).

    For my particular design, I needed one of the sides to be 7 1/2", so I bought a 15" wide bookmatched top from larry. Quite reasonable price, considering the great figure this particular one has (the photo doesn't do the piece justice, stay tuned to see it finished, since it's still very far from done).


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