In Defense Of Plywood

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by JimmyM, May 16, 2021.

  1. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I don't care what anyone says, get a plywood body made out of wood with similar density to your favorite woods, and it makes as good a solidbody instrument as anything. Won't pretend that it works like that with hollowbodies and acoustic instruments, but I've got a handful of hollowbody plywood basses, a plywood upright, a plywood electric guitar, and a plywood acoustic guitar that record extremely well.

    I own and have owned several basses made of plywood. About 12 years ago I bought an SX P bass. Within a month, I found a stock 79 Fender Precision at Sam Ash at a really good price and bought it because it looked like Roger Waters' late 70's bass. The fretwork on the SX was bad and the pickup had polepieces that were too high, but in an AB recording, it blew away the 79. One guy told me the 79 had to be the SX because it sounds like it was "dipped in poly."

    Don't have the 79 anymore but kept the SX for a couple years till I got so many basses I needed a sell-off. One of my plywood basses has been hollowed out under the pickguard to make it lighter, and even it sounds as good on a recording as any of my other Fenders and FSO's, which all have the same pickups and have bodies made of alder or 70's ash.

    So plywood's OK by me as long as it's in the density ballpark of those woods.
    Billyzoom, Elusive1, zontar and 48 others like this.
  2. mdogs

    mdogs Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2010
    Constant state of flux
    Theoretically, the plywood should be as good if not better. The problem is the weight. Great plywood is both heavy and expensive. Look at what Philip Kubicki did with plywood necks. Yes, I know, he referred to them as laminated, guess what? Ironically, one of the most warped necks I ever saw was a standard maple neck made by Philip for a friend of mine.
  3. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    Ways around it, bro. Smaller and thinner bodies, for one. And if you use a pickguard, you can hollow it out like I did my plywood PJ:

    Parts PJ Overhaul 1.jpg

    Parts PJ chambering.JPG

    Between that and switching to Hipshot Ultralites, that bass weighs 7 1/4 lbs now!
  4. Maxdusty


    Mar 9, 2012
    Michigan USA
    MIK Fender Squier series used plywood bodies, my son has one of these P Basses. Tbh, never noticed any difference in sound quality between that and a solidbody one.
    Novarocker, BadSanta1281 and JimmyM like this.
  5. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    In Defense Of Plywood
    no need --- you'd be preachin' to the choir on this one! ;)
  6. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Totally agree. From an engineering perspective different materials respond to temperature and humidity at different rates. Opposing wood types bonded are more structurally sound than single ply.

    I think some people confuse ply with composite. Maybe that’s the issue. Nobody ever complains about Alembic!
    jamro217, Sailfish, bassrique and 3 others like this.
  7. Dominic DeCosa

    Dominic DeCosa Habitual Line-Stepper Commercial User

    Mar 9, 2008
    Winter Park, Florida
    DiCosimo Audio
    As someone who doesn’t believe in “tonewood” for solid body instruments with magnetic pickups, I’ve never had a problem with plywood bodies as far as tone. My problem is that they’ve always been too heavy for my tastes.
  8. I would think screws would strip like a mother with plywood, correct me if I'm way wrong on that, never had one to be honest
    fleabitten and JimmyM like this.
  9. Maxdusty


    Mar 9, 2012
    Michigan USA
    not at all in my experience.
    plywood is much sturdier because of how each layer is usually cross grain from each other-so it's really strong more so than solid body wood albeit a little on the heavy side. With deep screws, the cross grain of plywood holds them in better. Five piece necks as opposed to three piece or one are considered stronger so with that same logic regarding layered wood, so is a plywood body.
    Stigma with plywood is that it's cheaper than solid wood and in really cheap plywood (I don't think they use this on bass bodies or at least I hope not), a problem is de-lamination over time as pieces of wood expand/contract with temperature variances differently, have yet to see or experience this myself.
    Sure, I love solid wood bodies but I don't let a bass with a plywood body prevent me from considering it. much like the other post above, really my only thing about it, is weight.
    Now Luthite, a material used in the Ibanez Ergodyne basses I used to own used to strip very easily.
    Last edited: May 16, 2021
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  10. smart51


    Dec 11, 2019
    In theory, a plywood body would be less stiff than a solid or laminated body. The stiffness is in the fibres of the grain. With solid or laminated wood, all the grain goes along the body. With ply, half of the grain goes across the body. I doubt it would make much difference though. The body is so much wider and thicker than the neck that it will be a lot stiffer than the neck whether ply or solid.
    JimmyM likes this.
  11. ficelles


    Feb 28, 2010
    Devon, England
    It's most definitely all about the density...
    2tonic and JimmyM like this.
  12. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I have one plywood P that absolutely shreds, but my Explorer is made out of ply and the body alone probably weighs 9lbs.
    JimmyM likes this.
  13. Lowbrow

    Lowbrow Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2008
    Pittsburgh PA!
    I’ve got 2 Danelectro Rumor p-types ... plywood and proud.
    Dominic DeCosa and JimmyM like this.
  14. ficelles


    Feb 28, 2010
    Devon, England
    So leading on from this, would I be right in thinking yacht rock is best played on instruments made of marine ply?
  15. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Fixed that for ya.
    pipaberg and JimmyM like this.
  16. ficelles


    Feb 28, 2010
    Devon, England
    Said density, meant density.
  17. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Wow, okay. So you care more about weight than its ability to not deflect under string tension?
    Marihino, JimmyM and BunchyMutt like this.
  18. Hounddog409


    Oct 27, 2015
    Your theory is wrong.
    lomo, WestyBassBob, davio and 2 others like this.
  19. scuzzy


    Feb 15, 2006
    Troy, MO
    thats why i only play solid gold basses....i'm all bout that density.

  20. Gaolee

    Gaolee Official leathers tester and crash dummy

    Thunderbirds have laminated necks. The plys are different thicknesses, but ply is ply. I love Thunderbirds.
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