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One piece body vs two piece glued

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by fnordlyone, Feb 1, 2014.

  1. Hello, I'm very new to the ideas behind bass building. Every build that I have seen starts off with two pieces of wood being glued and clamped for the body. Is it impossible or just crazy (expense wise) to get a hunk of alder, swamp ash, etc., so that one could trace a bass body upon the single piece? Would it make a difference at all in tone? It just seems odd to have the body split in half like that, to this newb.
    I'm thinking of trying to find a source for some swamp ash down here near the Atchafalaya basin, and giving a build a try. I just built two cabs and I have finish carpentry skills.

    thanks vets,
  2. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    They say that one piece bodies are more prone to cracking and splitting at the neck joint. I have not tried it myself, but thats what i hear.

    ~14" wide bits of lumber can be tough to find, and when you do, it'll likely be a part of a very long, expensive board.

    Glueing two narrower pieces is a lot cheaper.
  3. Thank you for the reply,

    I'd imagine, especially today, that such big trees (that have high demand) would be hard to find. I was just curious whether or not a saved cut off of such a monster might be worth considering for a one piece body. Since swamp ash is in my "back yard," I thought I'd see if I couldn't ask around and find something cheap that otherwise would be quite cost prohibitive. Believe me, I'm on a "no budget" budget.

  4. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    A full body takes a ridiculously small plank compared to most uses of wood and isn't difficult to find. It isn't even much more expensive.
    It's just that 2 pieces lead to more stability hence durability. It is a better choice unless you dig the esthetics of a single piece. I don't, prefering symmetry.
  5. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    Per board foot, it isn't expensive. The problem I have around here is that 14"+ wide planks tend to be 10-12 feet long, and of course you have to buy the whole board. Sure, it's cheap per board foot and you can get several bodies from a single board, but if you're on a tight budget for a single build, it's really expensive.
  6. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Most lumberyards I have been to charge extra for wide lumber.

    Wide lumber can also be more difficult to mill for the small/home builder.

    By now most people know that guitarbuilders lust after wide swamp ash and any billet that meets those criteria will likely be $70+. You never know, you may get lucky. And it's definitely worth poking around to see who and what you find in your area.
  7. How is a bass body that is split down the middle more stable than a single piece of wood? It seems counter intuitive to me as a carpenter.


    ps. how are we defining "stable?"
  8. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    Stable means that it doesn't move over time.
    Take any piece of wood, chop it in the middle, reverse the fiber, glue it together again. The resulting piece will be more stable because expansion in the fiber due to moisture and irregularities goes opposite ways in each part and nullifies.
    This principle is used in carpentry. The typical example is double rafter lines for valleys and meadows. You always cross fibers from one beam to the next.
    It is also the basis of all glued laminated timbers. Humbucking applied to wood. :)
  9. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    This is news to me, and now I finally understand why my sunburst Jag looks two-toned!
  10. I think I do see what you mean. But…
    I wonder how a single cut and reversal right down the middle of such a wide plane could make much of a difference. I assume by fiber, you mean wood grain? I have to ask: can the melding of the opposite fibers/woodgrain in just one straight glued seam significantly strengthen a 14 inch plane of wood? I think I'd have to see some science to back that up. Or, perhaps is the advantage of this tech in the realm of wood contraction/expansion in the whole body and not an advantage in the seam?
    Hammerhed, the theory you introduce seems strange: Cut the wood in half (would seem the glued seam will be in the pocket for neck) to protect from any splitting in the neck joint. Maybe splitting it oneself is the cure for splitting?
    I'm not claiming somehow any of the aforementioned aren't the way to go… I don't know… hence the questions… and please correct my ignorance.

    thanks for the responses!
    fn o rd!
  11. suraj


    Oct 1, 2008
    Mumbai, India
    Well I like how your challenging the regular belief that wood glued in two pieces of opposite grain will cancel out the warping tendencies, because what you said about the difference being concentrated at the seam makes sense to me.

    I believe that it will cancel bends in length to a great extent, but if the boards have to cup, they should still cup in an S-curve sorta way, right ??
  12. I'm thinking that if I had a hunk of swamp ash the size I needed for a P or J body, that I'd have to have a damn good reason to hack it in two and then glue it back together.
  13. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    don't cut it and re-join it if you get a piece that wide.
  14. Makes more sense to me… sir, FBB
    thanks for the response
    The only way I could see this being of benefit (slicing a board wide enough in two; then a flip and reglue), is MAYBE, that down the middle is where one has to route, and that the glued cross grains there might make that chore better?
    Also, that with 2 pieces, one might route out from within each piece for neck pocket and pickups (but everyone seems to glue together first).
    My instinct says: keep the wood as is.
    but sincerely trying to learn,
    f n o r d !
  15. Mr. Majestic

    Mr. Majestic Majestic Wood Supply Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2005
    From Louisiana/In Arkansas
    Majestic Swamp Ash
    +1.....just make sure it's dry.....
  16. Luvie


    Oct 23, 2012
    Houston, TX
    Generally, one large wide board can cup/warp. If you glue up reverse grain direction pieces you reduce that tendency.

    However, the problem with a two piece body is that the pup and neck joint routings are right on the seam. Many people prefer a three piece body over a two piece.
  17. JIO

    JIO Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    Pacifica CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    I have made a few bodies w/one piece bodies of alder, maple and korina and have had no issues w/warping or curving over time. The key is the raw wood being sufficiently dry whether kiln or time (or both) and allowed to acclimate where it is being worked on. I like the structural continuity and look of one slab, but not certain it has any affect on tone or overall quality of sound.
  18. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    How does this reduce the tendency to cup?
  19. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    It doesn't reduce the tendency to cup, it just helps to disguise the overall appearance of cupping.

    On a 2-piece body, though, I don't think it would do so enough to make a substantial difference. Instead of a C-shaped cupping, you end up with an S-shaped cupping. Not necessarily an improvement.

    At least with a C shape, you could call it "inspired by spector".