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Pine tops and myrtle backs..and why you chose them

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by NickyBass, Aug 7, 2012.

  1. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
    I am hoping to get some insight from the guys who have commisioned instruments with, let's call them, 'alternative' woods. The way I see it, even if I got to spend a few hours with a dozen pine topped basses, I don't think I could make a fair comparison, having spent several thousand hours playing spruce basses.

    Buying an instrument that is already built would obviously be easy, but is it a big risk to commision a bass with lumber that is unfamiliar? There is a certain level of trust with the luthier, and there are some wonderful people in the business, but even then, instruments are a personal thing and words alone can't always accurately describe what we are after.

    I would appreciate any thoughts.
  2. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    I am in the process of rehabbing a ply Czeck bass into a carved bass using pine for front/back plates. If you do a search on TB you will find info (Arnold Snitzer) also check out Ken Smith's forum. I'm using pine because it is native to my region, and I was able to purchase thick/wide clear pine for a fraction of the cost of Spruce shipped to me. Many old Italian basses as well as Yankee basses like Prescott used pine. Arnold had some good info about pine tops. It is very difficult to find wide, clear, quarter sawn pine 2"+ thick. Most pine tops have a fair amount of flat sawn grain- this means the wood will expand/contract more compared to quarter sawn resulting in a less stable bass that may require more care-I don't have first hand experience so I don't know. The New England region has magnificent pine trees. I recently came across a pile of logs cut from storm damaged trees, some measured three feet or more in diameter, rotting in the sun
  3. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    It is much more about the builder than the materials. A good builder can get a great sound out of materials that a novice may struggle with and a novice can easily destroy master grade materials....

    I think we can assume that your Myrtle is in reference to Seth Kimmel's work. Myrtle is a very nice tonewood that gets little notice if you don't live in Oregon or on the west coast. If you live in Eugene (like Seth), or build guitars for Breedlove over in Bend, you find that it is easily obtained locally and why I build a couple dozen instruments out of it when I lived there. These days, I use a lot of red spruce; it is an incredible wood that grows just a few miles up the road from me. If I lived in the Dolomites, I'd probably use just Italian spruce...
  4. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
    Thanks for the replies, and yes, I am thinking about Seth's basses. Good catch. :)

    James, you bring up a lot of good points. I appreciate the info.

    John, I wasn't aware that pine was so popular. I did a bit of research and there is some interesting info out there.
  5. Those myrtle Breedloves sound fantastic! I would love to hear a bass made with that stuff. It looks awesome too.
  6. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    I remember Arnold saying he used a larger top overhang to allow for movement and regluing, also graduated the tops thicker since flat sawn was weaker than quarter sawn. There have been threads about alternatives to ebony, pine could be a good alternative to spruce
  7. Seth currently has a spruce and myrtle 3rd Avenue model available that looks realy sweet. That would be worth trying. I would also consider the Milanese model. He has refined the Milanese since making his first one (which I believe is at Upton Bass), and has had a lot of interest and success with the Milanese.

    If you are considering a C-extension, I really like to one he made for my bass.
  8. lrhbass

    lrhbass Supporting Member

    Apr 20, 2009
    Check out Aaron Reilly in Mich. He built a bass for me using pine on the top. A great sounding instrument.A superb builder using quality material. Maple and polar etc. I am really blown away at all of his basses. Check him out!

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