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Cherry as a body wood?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Ozzel, Oct 8, 2004.

  1. The wifey-poo and I recently remodeled our kitchen, and one of the old kitchen relics to be removed was a nicely grained, six foot long slab of cherry that served as a sort of countertop in a pass-through between the kitchen and the dining room. I almost tossed it, but now that I'm ready to start my first bass, I'm glad I didn't. The grain is really quite attractive, and the slab is 1.5 inches thick, perfect for an exotic top. Even though it may prove to be too heavy once it's done, it should still serve as good practice before I begin my 2nd bass. (I've got a $70 piece of swamp ash standing by for that one.)

    So has anyone here ever tried cherry as a body wood? Is it considered too heavy? More importantly, what are its tonal characteristics?

    Thanks, all!
  2. budman

    budman Commercial User

    Oct 7, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Formerly the owner/builder of LeCompte Electric Bass
    I just finished a bass with cherry on the back of the body. It's only a 1/4" thick piece though so I'm not sure how it really contributes to the tonal characteristics. It seems ok to work with. Not the tightest grain but very do-able. Someone posted a pic of the back of my bass in my "Allow myself to introduce...myself" thread.
  3. At a quarter inch, yeah probably wouldn't affect sound much, if at all. I've heard of cherry being used for necks a lot, but this is for the main part of the body.
  4. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Several small luthiers have used cherry - including Ken Smith, which would be enough to qualify the wood for me.
  5. According to Kensmith.com, he uses cherry for body cores and veneers, and the tonal characteristic is a mix between maple and mahogany. So, somewhere between bright and mellow? He says he will replace cherry soon with western maple. Maybe supply is getting low...
  6. Jean Baudin

    Jean Baudin

    Aug 27, 2003
    redwood city, ca
    Endorsing Artist: See Profile
    conklin uses cherry too... mark beem's spalted 8-string and some of the meu's come to mind.


    Nov 24, 2001
    New York,NY
    Ken Bebensee built a beautiful single cut 6 for a TB member awhile back called the Sereph 2 that used cherry wood as wings/core. Nice bass, wonder where it is right now???...


    PS: I believe there are still pics of it on his site @www.kbguitars.com.
  8. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    Cherry makes a great body wood. At 1.5" your piece is thick enough for a bass body -that's the thickness I often make. You might want to make an extra big control cavity to lessen the weight, it's a bit on the heavy side. Cheers,
  9. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
  10. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    I say go for it. It's a bit heavy, but heck, people make solid bubinga basses. I also say "tonal characteristics" be damned. Build the thing and hear it for yourself - you're experimenting! I have yet to build a bass and say "yuck, I wish I hadn't used this wood!" due to tonal considerations.
  11. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    ENVIOUS!!!!!! :bawl:

    Those planks sound like Perfect body material. And will sound great as a completed body, too.

    I'd like to strike something like that, one day...
  12. christoph h.

    christoph h.

    Mar 26, 2001
    my fretless is has a cherry body, and it sounds great.
    unfortunately it's also true that it's a bit heavy, but with a good strap that's not a real problem.
  13. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Addendum to my previous message: I have used cherry both in bodies and necks. The most cherriest basses I have built have had a slight brightness to them. Maybe it was the cherry, maybe not...

    It's a lovely wood that burns easily (use sharp tools!) but takes a great finish and has a great color that darkens over time.
  14. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    We have used Cherry for Tops in the past when we had some nicely Flamed pieces. It is a bit similar to soft Flamed Maple in that usage. The Top of a body at 1/4" DOES affect the tone of the Bass. We taylor sound for our customers based on the woods used and the Tops have been as much a sound factor as the Fingerboard if not more!

    We have had a hard time getting Cherry at a reasonable price for the Grade we need. Since we already have a huge supple of low figured soft maple (western and eastern) it only makes sense to use the closest substitute. We have used the Low Fig. Maple(AA- Grade Quilt) for cores on our 25th Anniv. model and the subtle figure is beautiful around the sides with it's light tan color.

    Cherry is scarce in Pa. due to cuting restrictions. Pa. Suppliers have been buying logs from NY state, sawing them and selling it as Pa. Cherry. Cherry has brown Gum streaks that may be excepted in furniture and kitchen cabinets but is not acceptable in my opinion in Musical Instruments. 'Blemish Free' is our daily goal. Although 100% is not always possible, avoiding a wood Species inherant with cosmetic defects is !!
  15. Thanks Ken. I was wondering about that. I figured it was a supply/quality issue, and not that it (cherry) doesn't sound good.
  16. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Cherry for us is almost the same as Maple. It's just another flavor of it. If I really need Cherry, I can get it. The point is that I don't really need it. We have other woods that work as well or better for every need that we experimented with as far as substitutes go. Cherry is just not worth the trouble we have to go through to add another flavor of Maple. The Westen Fig. Maple does fine as a Core type substitute for Mahogany, Cherry and Alder. Our initial Cherry core testing was to use it in place of Mahogany when restrictions were placed on the Tropical species.
  17. Mel Monihan

    Mel Monihan

    Mar 30, 2004
    I have a question on body woods as long as we are on this subject.I did a search and didn't find this one, but excuse me if I missed it.I have seen bass bodies advertised in the 4lb. range.I think they were supposed to be a light ash, but I was wondering about basses that light.What kind of wood (other than balsa) would be that light in a p bass type body, and what kind of tonal characteristics would it have?As a second question, is there a bottom line cutoff to a weight/tone relationship?Does a bass have to carry a certain mass in order to sound good?Thank you in advance.
  18. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    The Warmoth "showcase" area is a great place to get a feel for the weights of different woods in a body, and also to see the variation within each species.
    Opinions abound!
    Opinions again. You won't find a scientific formula for mass vs. tone.