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Elm for a body ?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Bassstud1, May 15, 2002.

  1. I was wondering why nobody uses elm for any guitar making. If I used this for a body on a bass would it be a bad thing? Thanks for your replies.
  2. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    There are a couple of swedes who do!
    The tone is in the same region as mahogany and walnut. It is heavy almost as ash, and rather flexible almost like alder.
    Some pieces are quite beautiful!

    I think that few luthiers use it due to the public affection for exotic wood. (2c)
  3. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    People use elm for flooring around here. ;)

    It's hard, heavy, and not particularly attractive. I can generally get walnut or butternut for the same price, which is more lightweight and easier to work than elm.
  4. I cut down an elm tree in my yard. I cut some pcs. big enough for a body and some big enough for some bodies. They started spliting in the grain a week after I started to let then "cure". Some wood workers around here tell me elm is a terrible wood because it moves a lot. So I think if I can salvage one of the body planks I'll try but as far as for the neck I think I'll just purchase one. Thank you for your replies.
  5. bassmonkeee


    Sep 13, 2000
    Decatur, GA
    I've got a bass coming next week that has a burled Elm top with a mahogany back. As for it looking plain, here is a bass made from the same piece of wood:


    Subdued, maybe, but definitely not plain looking. The top is very hard, so the mahogany will help mellow the tone a bit. Then, again, I'm getting an 8 string fretless, so subtle wasn't exactly my goal. :D
  6. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Always paint the end grain of any species of wood as soon after cutting as possible.

    This slows down the drying and shrinking of the ends of the pieces and really helps with grain splitting as the wood dries.

    A moisture meter is worth its weight in gold to reduce wood movement after machining. If it aint properly cured it will probably be unstable.

    I prefer latex paint applied with a full coat. Cheap paint seems to work as well as higher quality paint.

    A burl is inherently more stable than the main trunk of most any hardwood tree. Much more difficult to work is a tradeoff.

  7. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    The MF catalog says that the natural finish version of the OLP MM2 musicman copy is made of Elm. Has anyone tried one?
  8. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Well, it's possible for elm, especially a burl, to be pretty striking:


  9. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    A burl is inherently more stable than the main trunk of most any hardwood tree. Much more difficult to work is a tradeoff.

    Don't burls sound different too? Like that is a very cool elm burl in the pic, but I would think it should sound different than another bass made from another part of the same tree. I really have no clue, I've never played a burly bass. Or an elm bass. Isn't it a common enough wood that if the guitar companies thought it sounded good they would use it? Or if players thought so they would custom order it?
  10. Actually, there are a few Luthiers offering many native (to N. America) woods in burl. I think good solid burl with continuity/solid grain is harder to find and work with too? In the NW, Myrtle and Redwood come to mind. By the way, two beautiful guitars there. I do love burl but am curious to the affect it has on sound. But as a top only, I would think not too much. But as a solid body, (if that is possible) that might be a different story?
  11. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Burl is an anomalous growth in trees, usually occuring at the roots. The figure in burl is generally caused by the fibres of the wood changing direction, encased bark or buds, or other growth defects. Burly is rarely more stable than streight-grained wood, and due to the changes in grain direction, always harder to work.

    I don't know if it has much effect on sound. My guess is that the density and composition of burl is generally the same as the regular trunk wood, so the difference in tone would be minimal.

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