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Is Oak a good bass wood?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by pie_man_25, Jun 29, 2007.

  1. I'm building a bass over the summer, I can't really afford to buy everything seperately, so I'm going to buy an OLP stingray copy off of musician's friend and use it for parts, I've heard it was pretty good, the pickup will be upgraded eventually, but for now it'll have to do. I was thinking about woods, and my father suggested the 4"x4"x6' red oak we have, we'd cut it to length and biscuit it all together, I don't know how oak sounds, does anyone know/ have examples of oak basses and artists that use them?
  2. slackdaddy


    Mar 1, 2004
    Athens, GA
    Endorsing Artist: David Eden Amplifiers / Rob Wave Custom basses
    Now, perhaps some more experienced luthiers may correct me on this but I was under the impression that Oak is not a good wood for instruments due to the fact that it bends. I was told that Oak is used in ship building and building barrels because it will bend easily but was still strong.
  3. CrashClint

    CrashClint I Play Bass therefore I Am

    Nov 15, 2005
    Wake Forest, NC
    DR Strings Dealer (local only)
    It makes a good Axe Handle as well.
  4. Hi.

    Subscribed, as I don't have an answer to Your question.

    I'm planning to use some oak floor pieces for a neck-through when I have some extra time.

    As for the bending issue, that can IME be regulated quite accurately with the way the stock is sawn.

  5. I'm confused as to your post

    /\ should the grain be at a diagonal to the length of the bass?

    Yeah, I think I'm just going to get some ash maybe, otherwise I don't quite know what to use.
  6. Gone


    Mar 21, 2006
    Cape Town
    Jayda custom basses, builder
    To quote Melvyn Hiscock's "Make your own electric guitar" (a very good read btw),

    "Some woods are quite unsuitable, such as elm which is very flexible, and oak which is far too heavy and better suited to the building of replica warships of the 17th and 18th centuries."
  7. use the search function, this has been discussed several times in the past.
  8. well, then what exactly would be a good wood? I know to stay away from:

    pressure treated

    And I know that some good woods are:


    But I don't know where I can get any of it.
  9. Would'e?


    Mar 27, 2007
    Actually agathis (kauri) is unfairly maligned. Though locally it's referred to as a pine, that is misleading since the only thing it has in common with North American pines is that it's a conifer. But then so is redwood and other respected tonewoods.

    Agathis is simply a plentiful wood in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands where a lot of lower-priced instruments are manufactured. It doesn't have a real exciting grain pattern but it's harder than basswood, alder and other commonly used woods and some say it has similar tone to mahogany.

    You may find agathis instruments that don't sound great, but it's likely not the fault of the wood, but of the cheaper pickups or poor construction practices employed in the places where the wood is plentiful. Find a well put together instrument made of agathis and it should be fine. My Millennium AC (Cirrus pickups) BXP is agathis (new ones are basswood) and it sounds fine.

    My favorite woods though are walnut and maple. Yum!
  10. DigthemLows


    Oct 10, 2003
    Sacramento CA
    There's quite a few folks that have built with woods that you wouldn't think would work. MIMF is full of folks playing with stuff. I say give it a try........if it's cheap and available. Read up on getting the best cut and see what happens.
  11. DigthemLows


    Oct 10, 2003
    Sacramento CA
    Oh, and there's some wood suppliers in the sticky in this forum.
  12. scottyd

    scottyd Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2006
    Waco Tx
    Builder/owner Redeemer Basses
    Oak does not bend, it is heavy, but so is wenge bubinga purpleheart zebrano ect. Basses are heavy so it doesnt suprise me that Hiscock, a guitar builder would worry about the weight issue:p . Its not that common people use it so it’s not that popular. It’s been used with good success before, this being your first build I say go for it. Find some good quarter sawn stock to use for your neck, quarter sawn white oak is harder, (just a little under maple!) cheap and very nice looking, check ebay for some good examples. Flat sawn would work for a body. Also keep in mind that in solid body instrument the majority of "tone" comes from electronics rather than wood. And before a lot of people chime in to oppose what I say (mostly peeps who have never built!) I wish you Good luck! :D
  13. T2W


    Feb 24, 2007
    Montreal, Canada.
    Exactly, I agree, I wrote this in a past thread.

    I dont believe in that anymore, not when you have 18volts grabbing your tone by the balls.
  14. Yellow


    Apr 20, 2006
    Sooke, BC, Canada
    I am building my first bass so I am not going to pretent to be an expert, but I have used many different woods for other purposes.

    Oak is not a traditional wood for instruments, but it should not stop you from try it.

    There are two types of Oak

    Red Oak, which is Gary Oak, Northern red, a few others and is porous in fact so porous you can blow a smoke through a straight board. Which may or may not be a good thing but being porous it has to be sealed dead shut not to let any moisture in, that is may be why it would not be suitable for neck.
    When you look at oak from the end of the board, you can tell the difference. Red oak looks like a bunch of little straws around the growth rings and white oak looks solid. Same on the face of the boards. Once you see the difference it is easy to pick out.

    White Oak is very hard, heavy and strong, also very water resistand because it hardly has any pores so simply by this charachteristic I would not hesitate to use it for body wings or anything, may not be "exotic".

    It will look somewhat like Ash. And if you get a quartersawn piece you might get some of that famous Oak pattern, looks cool,

    (Here on the West Coast of Canada, Ash and Alder are not concidered to be worthy of anything more then a firewood, so wood value and application is in the eye of the beholder)

    Here is a funny bit of trivia: I build cabinets, and historically people say that all great vintage cabs were pine. Well my take on it is that pine was readily avalable and cheap thats why they used it, not because it is some magic "tonewood" in fact I personally would never use it for cabs.:smug:

  15. +1...I'm an agathis supporter...has very similar tonal qualities to mahogany, IMO...works great as a body wood...it's best used in the way that Mahogany is generally used (as a middle wood with a lam top, like maple...

    My Yamaha RBX170 body is agathis...and it's a great bass...
  16. CrashClint

    CrashClint I Play Bass therefore I Am

    Nov 15, 2005
    Wake Forest, NC
    DR Strings Dealer (local only)
    I have a friend who tried building one out of oak. The neck never really was stable. He has built some out of walnut and Ash with Maple necks and they are great.

    I was making a joke about the axe handle. Oak is not a good tone wood either, but it does do great as an axe handle.
  17. tone wood does not exist. it's just wood.
  18. lhoward


    Apr 27, 2003
    Western NY State

    You could consider black walnut also for the body. I built a fretless in the mid '80s from a 6 foot slab I got at a hardwoods store. And although I don't think the wood really adds a whole lot in the way of tone, the electronics are probably 90% + responsible for it, the type of wood would have an effect on sustain. This bass has nice sustain; I use TI Jazz Flats on it.

    For a source, you could check the Yellowpages (I know, ancient technology, but sometimes actually faster than net searches) for a hardwoods store in your area.

    If there aren't any locally, do a search for a supplier close to you, but I'd really recommend going to the shop and go through their stock to get a piece of wood that appeals to you - grain, color, etc.

  19. eleonn


    Aug 24, 2006
    Lima - Perú
    I have an LTD F254 and its body wood is Agathis. It sounds just great. Actually you wouldn't think its made from cheap wood.
  20. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Bending wood and wood bending are two different things. Very stiff woods can be good for [steam] bending and un-stiff woods can be lousy for bending if they are brittle.

    I personally would hesitate to use red oak in a neck shaft but it should be fine in a body. White oak is heavy but should be fine for a body. I have found oak to be not terribly dimensionally stable but I suspect due to its ubiquity in furniture and architectural millwork that it can be made to behave. There are a host of other (pin, brown, water, swamp, etc...) oaks and you just don't know unless you can find someone who has used that particular species or you have used it yourself.

    Myself, I will take my own advice and use it in bodies and tops, not in necks. I usually am not nuts for the looks but I do have two pieces of really cool oak that I will be using for body tops. A bass using one of them should be finished in July.
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