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Plywood instruments...worthless?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by dave120, Apr 14, 2009.

  1. dave120


    Jun 27, 2005
    Central Florida
    So I found a bass body at a garage sale for $8 today. It was painted (rather poorly) with some metallic green color and was beat to hell with chips everywhere and flaky paint. Being the tinkerer that I am I bought this thing, took it home and put some stripper on it to get rid of that nasty green stuff.

    Come to see that underneath the green paint and grey primer it's a plywood body. It's a P/J Fender style bass with routing for the heel adjusting truss rod, as well as some string through holes that have been filled in and painted over.

    Now, for $8 I didn't expect anything better, but I'm pretty sure there have been some instruments that sound decent that are made of plywood. Is it even worth mounting hardware on it? I have plenty of usable basses, and it's a pretty decently clean routed body so it would look nice after a refinish. I was planning on possibly assembling it into a functioning bass and donating it to a music store so they can give it to a new student that wants to learn and can't buy a new bass yet.

    My alternative plan is to turn it into some type of art concept or decoration type thing, which could work fine since it's a perfect P/J bass shape. It's just a fun side project so I'm not really looking at the most cost effective way to get a bass. It can also just be a practice bed for getting better at refinishing and things like that.
  2. vbasscustom


    Sep 8, 2008
    well if you can make it look and work good, i think that that would be a very nice gesture towards starting more little lowsounders. yeah, its a noun now.
  3. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Alembics are plywood basses, if you think about it. Expensive, pretty, plywood.
  4. Swever


    Nov 13, 2008
    Joensuu, Finland
  5. dave120


    Jun 27, 2005
    Central Florida
    Here's a couple pictures of it after removing the terrible finish and block sanding it roughly smooth. It's a fun thing to do on a rainy Florida afternoon.



  6. Craig_S

    Craig_S Banned

    Oct 15, 2008
    Metro Detroit
    Doesn't look like crappy plywood, anyway. Might just make an okay player.

    Does that look like a Squier pickup/control route?
  7. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Here's another very expensive plywood bass:


    and I doubt Jens would let an instrument out of his shop if it sounded anything less than fantastic.
  8. Absolutely not.

    I'd rather have a good, resonant hunk of plywood, than a dead, toneless solid slab of hardwood.
  9. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    I had a Hondo II plywood P bass very similar to that bass, and it was a great bass! Someone gave it to me, and all I had to do was put in better pickups and better hardware.

    There's nothing wrong with plywood.
  10. dave120


    Jun 27, 2005
    Central Florida
    Glad to hear it might not be a lost cause. No idea on the Squier route. The Jazz pickup route is quite precision (lol). I fit a J bridge pickup in there and it's spot on perfect. A better fit than the MIM Jazz I used to have and better than the J routes on my SX's. I'm thinking I might need to route the control cavity a bit at the bottom end to fit CTS sized pots in there since it looks a little small. The neck pocket looks a bit interesting with the route but appears to be standard Fender size, so I'll try a couple different necks in there once I get it that far along.

    I have no idea what kind of bridge they were using. Obviously they had to fill the string thru holes (not sure if I want to keep them filled or open them back up. And it has 4 outer holes and 3? inner holes. I also can't locate where the bridge ground was. There's a tiny hole in the cavity for it but I have no idea where it comes out. I think they might have filled it, as there's a filled hole where it would probably be. I might have to drill out a new one. There's also several filled holes for pickguard screws, so I have no idea what kind they were using on it. It's interesting working with something you have no clue what the history on it is.
  11. scottyd

    scottyd Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2006
    Waco Tx
    Builder/owner Redeemer Basses
    Plywood, it's the new Tonewood....
  12. dave120


    Jun 27, 2005
    Central Florida
    After doing some more sanding I think I'm going to be done for tonight. I sprayed a light coat of sand and sealer on it just because it's quite humid outside and I don't like the idea of leaving bare wood in that. I'll probably do another coat on it later and then go back to sanding tomorrow. after getting it pretty close I'll decide what holes I'll need to drill for a pickguard, bridge, etc. It's going to look good! It seems to be pretty solid and dense, I don't think it's going to be terrible sounding, but we'll see!

  13. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Looking at this pic, I see that there is one layer in the middle of the stack that is thicker than the rest. The tone implications are enormous! Could it be you have the rare but much sought-after Ply-tone-wood™ Mid-Hump™ construction?

  14. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    that sure looks like "zebra" wood to me


    all the best,

  15. dave120


    Jun 27, 2005
    Central Florida

    Well nobody has told me to throw it away yet so that's a good sign! Ever since I finished my last refinishing project I've been wanting another one, so this works out well.

    It's good practice, if nothing else. And if I produce a usable instrument at the end for someone to use, it's even better.
  16. I have a Squier II P bass that has a plywood body, and came w/EMG's. Sounds great.
    Also have a Hondo w/plywood body, and it really barks.
    I never specifically looked for plywood, but I don't turn my nose up at it anymore.
  17. mimaz


    Mar 1, 2005
    Wheeling WV
    Endorsing Artist: Crook Custom Guitars
    I don't want to derail this thread for the OP, but what is that bass? :eek:
  18. dave120


    Jun 27, 2005
    Central Florida
    I don't have a super accurate scale, but put on an old bathroom scale I keep in the garage it weighs about 4.4-4.5 pounds. That seems to be about what a body of this shape tends to weigh with most woods, so it shouldn't be an extra heavy bass. I'm sure it'll weigh a bit more with finish on it, but not a lot.
  19. klyph

    klyph Supporting Member

    Mar 28, 2009
    That plywood body looks like an Ampeg "little stud", not to be confused with the tele-style, hardwood "big stud". Since it's been stripped of components, that means it's been upgraded:p

    Of course, it could be anything- I had a little stud and after throwing a quarter pounder p-pickup and a schaller bridge on it, it sounded (and played) fine! I am thinking that the J-pickup route is not original.

    I, too would like to know the make of that gorgeous blue/yellow bass.
  20. dave120


    Jun 27, 2005
    Central Florida
    I have no idea what's original and what's not on it. I'm guessing that it was a wine red color at one time, as the neck pocket and cavities have been spitting up that color when stripper got in there. There was no red under the green finish though, so whoever refinished it stripped it to wood and primed it. And did a really terrible job at it since the grain was showing through and it was very uneven.

    If the J pickup isn't original, whoever did it made it quite perfect, at least in size. I suspect you might be right though since most P/Js have 3 knobs and the output jack on the side, which this bass doesn't have. I might have to add that, or use different wiring than the usual V/V/T setup, like V/T/ jack.

    I also tried fitting an SX pickguard to it, but it didn't seem quite right. It didn't seem to cover the truss rod route when lined up with where the pickups should go. I'm not sure if a Fender one would work better or if this is more oddball than it appears. It's the perfect P bass size, but the neck pocket is a little bit weird. Those two little ledges next to the truss adjustment wouldn't be covered by the SX pickguard. I need to see when I get a neck if that should just be routed flat (well, rounded) or if the neck is supposed to sit against them and a pickguard has to cover it.

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