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Need American Sources for URB Tone Wood

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Lostranger, Dec 13, 2017.


  1. Lostranger

    Lostranger

    Jan 10, 2012
    Thanks to a hard drive crash a couple years back, I've lost contact info for a couple of North American sources for maple and spruce for building basses. I have nothing against European sourced woods, but the price seems excessive. I am an experienced luthier who wants to build one carved bass for myself. I'll consider all appropriate species. I believe that the last gentleman i corresponded with had big leaf maple and Engleman spruce.

    I would appreciate any leads. None of my normal suppliers carry bass-sized material.

    TIA

    James in NC
     
  2. 1st Bass

    1st Bass

    May 26, 2005
    Forest Grove, OR
    Tepper Tonewoods in Shady Cove, Oregon. John Tepper, proprietor.
     
  3. Lostranger

    Lostranger

    Jan 10, 2012
    Thanks, Chet. I'll make contact.
     
  4. Lostranger

    Lostranger

    Jan 10, 2012
    Just checked Tepper's web site and asked for photos. Prices seem excessive, but I will reserve judgment until I know more.
     
  5. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    So you have not yet made a bass and already you are balking at the prices for tonewoods?????

    I order to find one good clear bass top, tonewood supppliers have to go through 1000s of potential ones just to find something that large and that clear.

    I've purchased from John Tepper in the past; great guy with exceptional material. When you consider he can cut up one bass top / back for $600 that will possibly sit around unsold for a year, or he can take an extra half hour and resaw the same board and make 20+ guitar tops / backs that will sell for $100+ each and be sold in a day, the prices are extremely fair. Ask anybody in the business and they will tell you that selling materials for upright basses is a loss; they do it to be a well rounded supplier and knowing that people will buy other things to offset the price loss. Last month I resawed one of my $600 tops and sold it for just under $2000 to guitar builders. I'm pretty sure John Tepper supplies around 1/4 million $$$ worth of materials to Paul Reed Smith annually, that is why he keeps the rest of his business quiet.

    I always have very nice domestic and European double bass wood available for sale here in Western North Carolina where you can see and hear them in person, along with the capability to resaw them into anything you might need.

    Good luck with the search.
     
    Joshua likes this.
  6. 1st Bass

    1st Bass

    May 26, 2005
    Forest Grove, OR
    I used to make the drive down to John's warehouse(es) in Shady Cove, where he took the time to let me shuffle through his available maple and spruce, and hand-pick what I wanted. He did not get paid for that time, either. :) Good guy all the way around.
     
    james condino likes this.
  7. Lostranger

    Lostranger

    Jan 10, 2012
    Price is always subjective, and it ALWAYS pays to shop.

    James
     
  8. Lostranger

    Lostranger

    Jan 10, 2012
    Would appreciate other sources.

    James in NC
     
  9. 1st Bass

    1st Bass

    May 26, 2005
    Forest Grove, OR
    Last time I asked, Ken Wise at International Violin Co., in Baltimore, still carried bass billets... but it is European wood, and I doubt you will like the prices.

    I figure that it will cost me in the neighborhood of $2,500 in materials to build a bass...probably more if I want better tuning machines, etc.

    If you consider how many hours you will spend building the bass, and calculate the "labor cost", I think you will see that the investment in wood is pretty small...like maybe a 1:10 ratio to overall costs. (It is for me, anyway...maybe you are faster.)

    The other solution, of course, is to source the wood from non-traditional places, and plan on a three or four-piece front and back, along with a laminated, two-piece neck. Fully functional, and a good deal cheaper. Just not traditional, I guess.

    Good luck with it. I really doubt that "skimping" on materials will leave you happy with the bass when you are done, but if you are an expert scrounger, you may locate wood for a very low price and still be happy with it. I hope so.
     
    james condino likes this.
  10. 1st Bass

    1st Bass

    May 26, 2005
    Forest Grove, OR
    One more idea is to consider non-traditional woods. Poplar can make a very good bass, and there are some huge poplar trees cut down every year. Spruce is king for tops, but there are a variety of different species...and pine, or even cedar might work, if you can find a big enough piece. Custom mills might be your best source to get huge pieces at reasonable cost. Let us know how it works out.
     
  11. Lostranger

    Lostranger

    Jan 10, 2012
    Thanks, Chet. I'm considering all possibilities, but I'm likely to go maple/spruce.
     
  12. Lostranger

    Lostranger

    Jan 10, 2012
    I've been dealing with International Violin for a long time, but I've never been tempted to buy their bass wood.
     
  13. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    I buy from International Violin on a regular basis. They are always great people to deal with and I have always been very pleased with the materials they send- high quality, stable, well seasoned, and always exactly what we agreed I was ordering, and very good communication skills. 'Can't say the same for some of the other folks.
     
  14. Plus, International Violin has been around for . . . decades at least. IIRC, they advertised in Mugwumps Instrument Herald.
     
    james condino likes this.
  15. 1st Bass

    1st Bass

    May 26, 2005
    Forest Grove, OR
    When I have bought wood from IVC, Ken sent me a collection of photos of numbered billets, so that I could choose the specific ones I wanted.
    I’ve never been disappointed in any way.
     
  16. Lostranger

    Lostranger

    Jan 10, 2012
    I contacted Mr. Tepper through his web site on December 13. Never received a reply. Ken at IVS always goes the extra mile to be helpful even though my business with them is small.
     
  17. 1st Bass

    1st Bass

    May 26, 2005
    Forest Grove, OR
    He is not a "tech" kind of guy... try his cell phone, at five four one 941-three 750
    He is a very cheerful guy, and very helpful. My wager would be that he has not seen your message.

    Ken is a generation younger, and not personally involved with harvesting the wood. John is still cutting and milling the wood himself. Different mindset. Good luck with it all. Either will be an excellent source. John's wood will all be domestic...Ken's will all be European.

    Chet
     
  18. 1st Bass

    1st Bass

    May 26, 2005
    Forest Grove, OR
    If there is still an interest, I see that IVC has its Bass tonewood on sale, now...
     
    s0707 likes this.
  19. Lostranger

    Lostranger

    Jan 10, 2012
    Thanks, Chet. I got their notice, and Ken is sending me some photos.

    Jim