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Lightest weight wood?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by mmbongo, May 25, 2019.


  1. mmbongo

    mmbongo Five Time World Champion Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    Carolinas
    Looking at a custom build, with light weight being a priority.

    Which of these body woods would be the lightest?
    Alder
    Swamp Ash
    Black/white limba
    Mahogany
    Walnut

    Thanks!
     
  2. Picton

    Picton

    Aug 16, 2017
    Reading, MA
    I hate to do this, but it depends on the individual piece of wood and on how it’s prepared.

    Production makers wishing to go light often use poplar or they chamber something heavier. From your options, I’d use mahogany or alder.
     
    bdplaid and mmbongo like this.
  3. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Connecticut
    Wood can vary by over 25% in weight, even at the same moisture content. To give you an idea, I make baseball bats. I've had the same size billet of ash as low as 78 ounces, and as high as 112.

    Out of what you selected, likely swamp ash or Adler.
     
    mmbongo likes this.
  4. From that list, if it’s truly a light piece of swamp ash (which, in my mind, is what’s implied by swamp ash but often not what you actually get) then swamp ash. Otherwise, alder or I have found some light pieces of Limba when I could go and actually select it at the wood place. Plus, I really like how black Limba looks.
     
    EatS1stBassist and Dadagoboi like this.
  5. Beej

    Beej

    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    As others have said, there can be variability within species, but this site has specs on some commonly available woods. :)

    The Wood Database
     
    CATFISHMcC0Y and Huw Phillips like this.
  6. mmbongo

    mmbongo Five Time World Champion Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    Carolinas
    I was all set to go Black Limba because of the look. I'm looking at doing a Kiesel build, and a Black Limba body would give the most 'bang for the buck' in an exotic look without paying for an exotic top. But then next to Black Limba it says 'may add up to 1 pound in weight' so that's why I'm re-thinking that. But for about $50 more, you can get just a Black Limba top (or mahogany) on an alder body so that might be the way to go, and it will give some contrast in the woods. I know best thing to do is discuss it with Kiesel, I just wanted to get a general idea on wood weights.
     
  7. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Connecticut
    From what I have heard, Carvin/Kiesel won't make any guarantees on weight without a big surcharge.
     
  8. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Does Kiesel do chambering? I have no idea. But that’s a pretty effective method of weight reduction.
     
  9. mmbongo

    mmbongo Five Time World Champion Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    Carolinas
    Yeah that's kinda why I'm doing my own research as well. It will be a headless bass, and most of the ones I've seen them do are 8-8.5 pounds. Any more than that and it will go right back, so hopefully they would at least try a little to keep that from happening. I know they can't go out and dig through the wood pile while I'm on hold, but I hope they have some general guidance :)
     
  10. mmbongo

    mmbongo Five Time World Champion Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    Carolinas
    They do. It's a $150 upcharge, and you have to buy a wood top so it will add minimum $300 to the price. So while weight is near the top of the priority list, price is still the top priority :)
     
  11. micguy

    micguy

    May 17, 2011
    On average, Alder is lighter than Ash. However, there’s more variation in the density of ash, so the lightest ash (if you can get a hold of it) is lighter than the lightest Alder. I do have a light weight Black Limba body on one of my basses, but part of that light weight is it’s chambered. I also knew the weight of that body before I bought it (Warmoth)

    If you really want light weight, Paulownia is the ticket.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2019
    yodedude2 likes this.
  12. mongo2

    mongo2

    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    I second Paulownia (aka Empress) wood.
     
  13. vvvmmm

    vvvmmm

    Dec 6, 2016
    Chi
    I just know there's a off-color joke in the thread title, somewhere ...
     
    Pbassmanca likes this.
  14. nilorius

    nilorius

    Oct 27, 2016
    Riga - Latvia
    Swamp ash.
     
  15. sheltjo6

    sheltjo6 Supporting Member

    Jun 10, 2012
    California
    Something else to consider is weight distribution.
    You don't want the neck to be heavier than the body or the instrument will neck dive.
     
    gebass6 and dfoehr like this.
  16. mmbongo

    mmbongo Five Time World Champion Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    Carolinas
    Yep. I've run into that before...with both of my Spectors. Both have mahogany bodies and maple necks. But of course Spectors have a pretty short upper horn too.
     
  17. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    FWIW: my swamp ash ax is my heaviest (9.8 lbs P-bass style). my lightest ax (6.8 lbs. P- lyte) is basswood.
     
    EatS1stBassist likes this.
  18. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    I suspect lots of boards/bodies are sold as “swamp ash” when they are not actually ash from a swamp.

    I once bought a mahogany blank from an eBay seller. When it arrived it barely weighed 2 pounds. I was astonished. I suspect it was some sort of Asian pseudo-mahogany. I hated it.
     
  19. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Connecticut
    Password and poplar are lightly to be your lightest body woods. I think poplar looks good with a deeper stain (looks a lot like maple), but it's easier to dent, and there can be issues with screws stripping long term.
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2019
    DJ Bebop likes this.
  20. This strongly suggests paulownia.
     
    ctmullins likes this.

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