how dark does finished alder wood get?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by bon viesta, May 29, 2021.


  1. bon viesta

    bon viesta

    Dec 10, 2020
    my dad has told me basically that finished wood will look darker like it’s wet with water, or like water has been spilled on it. to what degree is this true? obviously finished wood will be darker, but how much darker? a lot of the old fenders that had been stripped and clear coated look very very dark, but i believe much of these finishes were oil finishes which are much more dramatic in terms of the color change. if you put nitro clear coat over alder, how dark would it start looking? below are a few images of old stripped fenders that to me look particularly light in color (which is what i want) and also some pictures of macca with his maple rickenbacker. do think these kinds of colors are achievable when it’s an average piece of alder with nitro over it?
     

    Attached Files:

  2. bon viesta

    bon viesta

    Dec 10, 2020
    and to the questions of “why do you care?” or maybe “why do you want the body to be light in color?”, just because i like the way light colored natural wood bodies look, and also i want the difference in color between the maple headstock and neck and alder body to be not so jarring to look at.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2021
    chadds likes this.
  3. Beej

    Beej

    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    Alder is usually a little darker than maple, but both can vary in their colours. Wiping a wood surface down with alcohol or water can usually give you a sense of what it will look like with finish, but if you are using a yellowing/ambering finish (most oils), that will also impart a bit of colour to the wood. You can test it on a test piece to see what the final effect will be. On a built body where you don't have other wood to test, you can test what it looks like inside the neck pocket, cavity routs, etc. Wood will also darken naturally over time depending on the level of tannins in the wood, and alder is not without tannins so it does darken a little under UV, but not as much as say cherry.
     
    MattZilla and bon viesta like this.
  4. bon viesta

    bon viesta

    Dec 10, 2020
    would you say these images show about the average color of nitro finished alder?? a little darker than my examples
     

    Attached Files:

    Beej likes this.
  5. bon viesta

    bon viesta

    Dec 10, 2020
    i guess nitro is considered yellowing and ambering, though that’s more so a result of uv rather than a result of application to wood.
     
    Beej likes this.
  6. Beej

    Beej

    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    Those all look like pretty much the same colour under different ambient light levels :thumbsup:
     
    Grapevine921 and bon viesta like this.
  7. MattZilla

    MattZilla

    Jun 26, 2013
    CNY
    It definitely depends on the piece.

    I’ve no pics, but I had a bass that was supposedly alder and after losing some paint it darn sure appeared dark enough to be mistaken for mahogany.
     
    bon viesta likes this.
  8. bon viesta

    bon viesta

    Dec 10, 2020
    found these pics of more old stripped fenders. it seems that alder can either be dark and brown like mahogany (most examples you find online are like that) or bright and honey/tan colored almost like maple.
     

    Attached Files:

  9. pigpen ridding

    pigpen ridding

    Dec 30, 2020
    Earth
    i think it comes down to ageing ive got a few old blanks well over 15 yrs old that seem to have darken over the years and ive got some that are less than 7 yrs old that seem much lighter in colour not that it`s a bother to me as i have the majority of my custom builds heavily air brushed with art work as i mostly do a build to suit what festivals im going to be playing at
     
    Steve-Mo and Pazelaya93 like this.
  10. TomB

    TomB Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2007
    Vermont
    Alder is a fairly light-colored wood, similar to birch. If left unfinished or under a light oil finish it will darken over time (as will birch). Polymer finishes will better preserve the lightness, but as you noted, most tend to yellow with UV exposure. If not exposed to sunlight (like lounge musicians) it will likely not change color much.
     
    Durham52 and bon viesta like this.
  11. 707GK

    707GK

    Jun 13, 2013
    California
    This one is alder, factory poly finish. Made in 2013.

    53F0E95D-DFE9-43B8-A812-F8D512114BCF.jpeg
     
    Beej, burgerdj, pipaberg and 3 others like this.
  12. If you want to keep alder looking as pale as possible over time, either keep it and it's finish out of daylight as much as possible, or finish it with modern water based poly. Nitro will yellow over time, so will oil based poly and varnishes, the more exposure to daylight they get the darker they'll go.
    Acrylic car duco clear coat seems to stay clear better than most things, but I don't know how it behaves over bare wood, as opposed to being sprayed over paint on primer. (Though I do use it over fabric and paper paisley body finishes and it seems to adhere and hold up well over time, though we're not talking about decades yet.)
     
    TrustRod, TomB and bon viesta like this.
  13. bon viesta

    bon viesta

    Dec 10, 2020
    i’m wondering how pale it is in the first place. some examples look pale and maple-y, some look dirty and ratty with some weird oil, some look very boring and dark tan, and others look like deep dark roasted wood or mahogany.
     
  14. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011
    If you want light colored wood, ash under clear is hard to beat. Bought new in 1990.

    724F7099-E172-4FD7-9BA6-3C6025874986.jpeg
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: May 29, 2021
  15. Pazelaya93

    Pazelaya93

    Jan 2, 2015
    Homestead

    Yo that sounds awesome
     
  16. arbiterusa

    arbiterusa

    Sep 24, 2015
    SoCal
    The inconsistencies in alder’s color is the big reason it’s got solid color on it. What you want for that particular color you’re thinking of is ash. Might not be the tone you’re looking for though.
     
  17. TomB

    TomB Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2007
    Vermont
    Right. Like many other woods, alder comes in many colors from light to dark, though mostly light, but not as light as maple. It was chosen by Fender for its availability at a good price, its consistency of grain and its workability and paintability, not for its beauty or its color.

    If you want consistency of color, many other woods are more so, and Fender used ash all along for visible grain finishes, Gibson and Guild often chose mahogany way back when. What is it you’re looking for?
     
    bon viesta likes this.
  18. As TomB and others have said, alder (like virtually all woods) is variable as to color. Maple, ash and many pines tend to be less variable, but even then variations in color do occur. Alder can be a bit uninspiring, but it wasn't chosen by Leo Fender, (who more or less popularized it's use for solid body guitars and basses) for it's color or striking grain pattern as TomB pointed out.

    There are a number of what could be called white, or blonde woods, though not all of them are ideal for solid body guitars and basses due to weight, softness, instability, or other issues. Some of the conifers are used by some builders, though knots in some species can be an issue and some tend to be soft and dent easily.
     
    bon viesta and TomB like this.
  19. bon viesta

    bon viesta

    Dec 10, 2020
    well, i’ve already got an alder body lol. i’m making a bass build basically pertaining to a 1964 precision bass, and up until now the “finish options” in my mind were dakota red, black, or natural. right now i’m leaning towards black or natural, but i’ve always been a sucker for light colored, natural looking basses. they remind me of paul mccartney with wings and that kind of raw feeling music, and in general just seem really cool. but i’m just hoping that the color doesn’t get too dark when nitro is put onto it.
     
  20. bon viesta

    bon viesta

    Dec 10, 2020
    also important to note, i don’t like complex grains. i want a simple looking, “woody” grain that comes from closed grain woods like maple or alder.
     
  21. 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.

     
    May 18, 2022

Share This Page