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I like 'em natural, so point me in the right direction

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Basschair, Apr 26, 2005.


  1. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Staff Member Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    I could ask this in the Gallery Hardwoods section (and might still), but you guys have the experience with woods for basses, so here goes:

    I love my thumb bolt-on's ovankol. The feel of the wood grain is sweet! I like my Thunderbass as well, but it has a definite finish on it...not glossy, but you can still feel it. With the Warwick, it feels like wood and only wood. How does Warwick treat their wood (with what)? Next, what woods can I get away with treating this way?

    To put it another way, I'm choosing my body woods right now, and while looks do matter, the feel under my hands is just as important to me. So, I really want to take that natural-feeling Warwick-type of approach to finishing my woods...are there body, top, back woods I should stay away from because of this?

    thank you gentlemen (and ladies?)!
     
  2. Well, Warwick is going to be using some kind of oil and wax finish. I would personally try to stay away from soft woods with this sort of a finish. A hard finish gives more protection for soft woods. I'm pretty sure that most woods that Warwick uses are quite hard (bubinga, ovangkol, wenge), so the oil finish is adequate as the woods don't dent easily.
     
  3. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Staff Member Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca

    What about Hond. Mahogony, or walnut? Not as hard, but not really "soft" either? I was thinking one of these for the body, and something harder and more decorative for the top...
     
  4. even though some people like to feel the wood, I strongly advise against this. Specially on exotics (which are most of the time quite unstable). Warwicks have a long standing reputation of their necks going bezerk even when laminated. I attribute this to their finishing methods which don't really protect the wood against the elements. Remember, if you take your bass from your air conditioned home into your car in the sun, the cold is going to condensate generating moisture right on your necks surface ...this is real bad for the neck. I've had 2 warwick necks twist on me.
     
  5. Scott French

    Scott French Dude Supporting Member

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    In terms of denting I would say those are both soft... now that I think of it I've only used genuine mahogany.

    Many moons ago I had my 1985 Thumb refinished. I had the guy that did it contact DBG directly to find out what type of finish they use. I've forgotten all the details now but one thing I do remember is the oil is applied hot.
     
  6. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Staff Member Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    :eek:
     
  7. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Staff Member Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    Okay, so genuine mahogony might be a better choice, and I should look into a more "stabilizing," harder finish?

    Does anyone know what Pedulla uses in their natural finish on their thunderbasses?
     
  8. Suburban

    Suburban

    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    I disagree.
    The idea with harder finish is to inclose the wood. Yes, in´close, not enclose. By that, it's made less lively.
    The idea with oil finish is to keep the wood alive. The oil, properly applied, seals the wood from moisture impact, but not from temperature and air pressure, as e.g. laquer does. That means that the wood can still be alive, and not suffocate, and sometimes rot, which it does in a inclosing finish.

    The warping probelms that Warwick suffered from was due to massproduction sawing, without regard to the grain, and to bad maintenance - they need to be waxed at least once a year, because they use soft and indurable bees wax.
     
  9. Scott French

    Scott French Dude Supporting Member

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    Actually, unless you're applying your oil in a very thick state and wiping it off almost immediately a thin layer of lacquer lets the wood be much more alive. The stardard oil method for electric instruments is to apply the oil thin and let it pentrate very deepy, this saturates the wood and muffles the sound. On the other hand a thin coat of lacquer sits only on the surface of the wood and lets the internal structure/pores/etc alone. Nitro Lacquer isn't the choice for many high end acoustic builders for no reason. There are other options getting popular for high end acoustics these days but oil isn't one of them (even the thick'n'quick method).
     
  10. Oil is not used because it keeps the wood 'alive'. As Scott mentioned, because oil never really hardens it actually dampens the vibrations, if anything else. Oil is chosen because it is a lot easier to apply than a good lacquer or poly finish and it is also easier to maintain. NOT because it is better for the tone.
     
  11. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    What IS genuine mahogany? I mean... is there a name for it, other than "genuine mahogany" (Honduran Mahog., African Mahog, etc.)
     
  12. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    I don't believe that.
    The tone IS different.
    Also the feel.
    And come on, what is this thing that oil is easier to apply than a good lacquer of poly finish and easier to maintain? If this were true, you'd see a lot of oil-finished basses :eyebrow: Also, easier to maintain?!? Huh? :rolleyes:
     
  13. Scott French

    Scott French Dude Supporting Member

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    I like oil for the feel, that's why I sometimes oil the neck and lacquer the body. The "tone" is different from instrument to instrument, wood to wood, finish to finish, string to string, etc. A high quality finish job isn't an simple task with any method, but getting a decent oil finish is a lot easier than getting a decent hard finish. I don't know how much looking you've done... but I DO see a lot of oil finish basses.
     
  14. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    There are more and more nowadays, but you still see more lacquered/painted basses in the sub-hi-end range. If it was that much easier to apply than a good lacquer, then all these Ibanez, Yamaha, etc medium-priced instruments would be oiled - however, there's only a few of them oil-finished, and the majority is still paint/lacquer
     
  15. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Staff Member Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    Scott was good enough to give me a solid description of his approach to a lacquer finish...would anyone care to give me a description of their approach to an oil finish?

    Yes, I am actually right in the middle of running searches on oil finishes, but for the sake of getting both sides...?
     
  16. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
  17. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Maryland
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Genuine mahogany = honduras mahogany

    Mahogany and walnut are relatively soft compared to ovagnkol. I think you can still get away with oil and wax on either of those as long as you don't beat on your bass. Walnut is probably a bit harder.

    As for this business about tone and finishes, let's not goverboard here. Every one of us here has probably heard a number of great, lively sounding instruments with all the various types of finish.

    Oil IS easier for the small-production builder because it does not require any expensive equipment or facilities. Oil is definitely easier to patch up. But with oil you see the wood underneath and so if you use crap wood (Ibanez et al) then you're going to have to paint. If you're going to paint, you're going to have to spray. If you have a production line, then the expense of spraying and spray equipment is tolerable.

    Pedulla uses some kind of polyester finish for their basses. Probably this is about as far from "natural" as you can get, but as you've no doubt heard, there are some pretty decent sounding Pedulla basses out there.
     
  18. Scott French

    Scott French Dude Supporting Member

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    When it comes to electric instruments I've seen a warmoth neck attached to a wooden toolbox sound pretty decent. Anyway, as far as oil goes, I like it. I've owned a bunch of oil finish instruments, built a bunch of them, etc. I just wanted to be clear it has nothing to do with keeping the wood "alive", it's just easier to deal with than a hard finish and feels good under your hands.
     
  19. Scott French

    Scott French Dude Supporting Member

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    Thanks! I'm always confused by that since everything I've heard says genuine = south america but honduras is in central america.
     
  20. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Maryland
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Strictly speaking with common names you could be getting almost anything. In practice genuine is generally honduras (swietenia macrophylla) and doesn't always come from honduras.