Bubinga, zebrano, amazaque, padauk - working properties

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by yoshi, Nov 19, 2015.


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  1. yoshi

    yoshi

    Jul 12, 2002
    England, London
    What are the properties of bubinga, zebrano, amazaque, padauk in terms of cutting, rasping, and specifically hand planing them? Also weight generalisations. The wood will be body blanks (not necks).

    In my limited experience I've worked with swamp ash, wenge, iroko, maple, ebony and walnut. I really like the way walnut and iroko plane/rasp/sand. Ash is ok. Maple and ebony are a bit troublesome...and wenge, oh dear...! With walnut being my fav and wenge being sent from Hades himself, where on that scale do bubinga, zebrano, amazaque, padauk fall? If you can only answer one wood please do so.

    I don't believe in tonal properties at all so don't worry about that minefield.
     
    blindrabbit likes this.
  2. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Maryland
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    all of them have interlocked grain and are dense and hard. most similar to wenge, unfortunately.
    padauk is probably the least troublesome. zebra probably the worst.
     
  3. yoshi

    yoshi

    Jul 12, 2002
    England, London
    Oh no, nightmare situation :) What's a nice dark wood for a body that's similar workability to walnut? I used Indian walnut, which is a lot paler than the walnut you tend to see in axes...maybe I can try a different species like black walnut?
     
  4. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Maryland
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Black walnut is nice. Claro walnut will probably be expensive across the pond but it is nice, too. I don't really like the way Nogal (juglans neotropica) works but it is very dark too. Most of the darker woods tend to be heavy but if you can get into the brown range than things open up. There is no more pleasant wood to work with than genuine mahogany. Limba is nice, too.

    Padauk might not give you too much trouble. It's softer than wenge but interlocked on radial surfaces. If you can find imbuya that is dark and more like iroko.

    The reason I say zebra is the worst is because it can splinter along the grain lines.
     
    Lonnybass likes this.
  5. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Padauk is not a difficult wood to work with at all, but it will look like an Oompa Loompa exploded in your shop with the orange dust. That being said, I never found wenge to be all that difficult to work with either.
     
    thebassbuilder likes this.
  6. Lonnybass

    Lonnybass

    Jul 19, 2000
    San Diego
    Endorsing Artist: Pedulla Basses
    All are a pain in a the ____ in their own unique way! :thumbsup:

    Zebrawood can tears out during planing along the lighter (softer) streak lines, and can require some heavy handed use of the orbit sander.

    Wenge, I haven't managed to be able to work one single time without a nasty splinter. Now, I don't even move the stuff out of the woodpile without gloves.

    Padauk, not bad, smells kind of like flowers, but as Hopkins mentioned, your entire shop will look like it has been used to store cheese balls.

    Bubinga (and some of the other super dense tropicals) can have a blunting effect on tools, so be ready to sharpen!

    With regards to weights - All of these can be VERY heavy for body slabs. I think your Thumb bass is all wenge, if I'm not mistaken. If you were to start to get into larger body sizes, like the kind of stuff I like, I think weights might become prohibitive using these kinds of woods rather than something a bit on the lighter side.

    Lonnybass
     
  7. PDX Rich

    PDX Rich

    Dec 19, 2014
    Portland, OR
    Peruvian walnut is quite a lovely dark brown and is pretty user-friendly to work with (IMO).

    I have a wenge neck-thru coming up...not looking forward to the splinters!
     
  8. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Maryland
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    It's hard to find thick because it's tough to dry. I don't know why but I also found it stringy. Others seem to like it.
     
  9. PDX Rich

    PDX Rich

    Dec 19, 2014
    Portland, OR
    I had no issues with 4/4 stock but it was just the one time and I enjoyed working with it. However, I find it cost-prohibitive so will not likely seek it out unless requested.

    Pretty stuff though!
     
  10. Rôckhewer

    Rôckhewer Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 28, 2015
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Owner/Builder- RockHewer Custom Guitars LLC
    If you want a nice dark chocolate colored wood, (but there's not much color variations or figure)

    You could go with Thermally Modified Ash.
    it is ash that has been heat treated in a oxygen free environment etc...etc...blah blah technical blah...

    It works like a dream...easier than walnut, ...I was just trying some hand planeing....even against the grain it shaves clean & smooth.

    part of this board is wet with mineral spirits.
    20151120_085350.jpg

    at my shop we affectionately call it "toast".
    but it has a pungent coffee/burnt wood odor when cutting.
    Here's a description from Wikipedia :

    In the guitar-making industry, this process is called "Thermo Curing", "Baked" and "Roasted", among other names. Some guitar manufacturers have begun using acoustic sound boards and electric guitar fretboards that are thermally cured in order to help prevent the typical warping and cracking that often occurs from seasonal humidity swings. As a secondary benefit, acoustic guitars tend to sound like well-broken-in aged instruments much sooner than do non-thermally modified guitars
     
    thebassbuilder likes this.
  11. Rôckhewer

    Rôckhewer Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 28, 2015
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Owner/Builder- RockHewer Custom Guitars LLC
    I work with bubinga and wenge....a LOT during my day job.... and I honestly haven't noticed that much excessive blunting on bits, blades, or knives...at all.
    I do have a sharpening service come once a week though, & dont let many tools get too dull anyway.
    The one wood I've had come through that REALLY BLUNTS the tools was TEAK ....yikes!!! That stuff killed a set of planer knives in about 4 passes!

    I talked the owner into investing in a helical cutter head after that job. ....yay!:hyper:...best $700 we ever spent!
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
    PDX Rich likes this.
  12. thebassbuilder

    thebassbuilder

    Mar 7, 2012
    Spartanburg SC
    guitar builder, Meyers Guitars
    This could be me or the wood I happened to pick. But Padauk is a horrible wood to hand plan. Every time I have tried on this current build I get gauges a chunks coming out making my life that much harder. This could be because I am using Padauk that is figured/wild grain pattern. This is not a straight grain board at all, so this could be my problem.

    I do like working with Bubinga, it seems to work easily enough.
     
  13. thebassbuilder

    thebassbuilder

    Mar 7, 2012
    Spartanburg SC
    guitar builder, Meyers Guitars
    Hopkins is not joking about the Paduak's orange/red dust that covers everything and I mean everything. I am loving the look of this wood so much but the dust is really hard to deal, especially if your like me and your Wife hates the dust guitar building makes already and add the red showing up on everything and it is not a happy time.
     
  14. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars

    I have never known padauk to be difficult to work with. Sharp tools definitely make life easier.
     
    thebassbuilder likes this.
  15. redboy1975

    redboy1975

    Apr 24, 2011
    Sorrento
    Screenshot_2015-06-13-09-57-38-1.png If you work with Padauk a lot like I do the dust is almost impossible to get out of your shop . I usually sweep then get the leaf blower . All of these woods are about equal in difficulty to work with in my opinion. Make sure your tools are sharp , real sharp . You'll pull chunks out of Padauk with a dull tool . Zebra wood is one of my favorite woods . You'll need to inspect your Padauk and Zebrawood extra carefully as they hide cracks extremely well . It's not that bad to work with these woods I have a lot of contours on my basses and as long as tools are sharp and your using a quality sandpaper you'll be good . If you get a piece of zebrawood that has a Crack you can glue it back and it hides so well no one can see it . This is a piece of zebrawood that broke late in the game and I had to repair it .the whole bottom fell off from where the contour starts .
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
    PDX Rich likes this.
  16. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    For what it's worth, amazakoue (you'll find tons of spellings) is much more commonly known as ovangkol or sheduah. It's very similar to bubinga in weight and workability though it has a bit of a greenish cast that not everyone likes. Warwick used it, at least for a while, for the bolt on thumb basses instead of bubinga like the neck thru version.
     
  17. Jonny5bass

    Jonny5bass

    May 3, 2011
    Seattle, WA
    Just about spit my evening beverage out on that one!
     
  18. pilotjones

    pilotjones

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    I like the color and smell and light weight, but also found it stringy. Good quality masking tape pulled up strips of wood from what had been a final sanded surface. ("Flatsawn" tangential surface.) After that happened twice, I put a sealer coat on it before doing any masking.
     
  19. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
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