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Poplar and Red Oak for bass???

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by EdMerc, Feb 8, 2011.

  1. EdMerc


    Nov 30, 2010
    Central Florida
    So I'm really chomping at the bit to try my hand at building a bass. I'd like to use wood I can get at my local Home Depot since chances are I'm going to make some serious mistakes on my first go round.

    Disregarding the pine, that leaves me with red oak and poplar. I know both can be used, although I understand that the oak will be pretty heavy.

    However, what I don't know is if poplar is suitable for making a neck? I was thinking of perhaps a laminated neck made from both woods.

  2. Hi.

    A simple answer: wood is wood, so use anything You can get.

    Unfortunately, it's a bit more complicated than that.

    If You use two species for laminations, you need to know how they behave when humidity and/or temperature changes, otherwise You'll end up with constantly moving neck.

    Which brings us to another problem, whether the hardware store wood is seasoned enough to be used for instrument or not. But that's always something to be considered regardless of the place of purchase.

    Quite a lot of people (me included) will view oak as a fine wood in a finished instrument, but tell You that working with it is a total PITA.

    IME, making the neck from about any wood is relatively safe, as long as You choose the TR wisely and use additional reinforcement bars if it feels (/you know it to be) too flexible.

  3. Blind Dog

    Blind Dog

    Jun 19, 2010
    Gilbert AZ
    How about a redwood body and a maple neck?
    I have made several guitar necks out of maple from Home Depot and I keep eyein' the redwood....

    Or how about cedar?
  4. Home Depot woods can be used, definitely. Poplar for the body, maple for the neck and an oak fretboard, since its the hardest thing they sell.
  5. prd004


    Dec 3, 2010
    Your neck should be made of a hardwood. Also Home Depo woods havent been dried.

    I guess it doesn't matter for your first build which will essentially be a practice, but if it comes out good and your neck warps like a hockey stick and your body oozes sap, you'll be mad at yourself!

    I would look into buying a real body blank.
  6. Staunch

    Staunch Banned

    Here's one I made a while back.... Poplar and walnut for the body.... maple with walnut stringers for the neck capped with a red oak fretboard.

  7. EdMerc


    Nov 30, 2010
    Central Florida
    Thanks everyone. It's true that it would be heartbreaking to have the build go well just to have wood crap out on it. However, the oak and poplar boards I've seen at my HD seem to be finish wood.

    It's surprisingly straight and free of knots. Even nice, straight grain. If I'm going to take a chance on relatively cheap wood, it may as well be this stuff.
  8. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    Near me, neither Home Depot nor Lowes sells maple. All I can get there for actual hardwood is red oak. And it's all green.

    A friend of mine has a big stock of 50 year aged oak...Perhaps it is a bit more stable.
  9. EdMerc


    Nov 30, 2010
    Central Florida
    Same here. I'd use Maple, hands down, but it's not an option. :(
  10. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    For the body, I think you'd probably be relatively safe with red oak. But for the neck, I'd really think about ordering a blank online. Assuming you aren't doing anything too unusual, neck blanks can be pretty reasonable. A curly maple neck blank from Stewmac is $54. LMI's run from $35 to $55.
  11. Don't get too precious about it or spend a ton of money...most first builds quickly get replaced by second builds.

    Strange your Home Depot doesn't have maple, they should at least have smaller project lengths that you can laminate into a neck blank. I've been finding tons of good maple at Lowes and HD lately, some of which is the neck in my current build.
  12. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    If they have it, it's somewhere special. I occasionally find some wood labelled simply "hardwood", but there is no further explanation given, and it doesn't look like maple.
  13. Blind Dog

    Blind Dog

    Jun 19, 2010
    Gilbert AZ
    Both of these necks are maple from Home Depot...


  14. gbarcus

    gbarcus Commercial User

    Jul 20, 2008
    Minneapolis & St.Paul, MN
    Owner of Barcus Basses barcusbasses.com
    I'v gotten maple and walnut from Fleet Farm for pretty cheap. It's not the best select. But works great for experiments.
    Let me rephrase that. The walnut was good but the maple was meh.
  15. EdMerc


    Nov 30, 2010
    Central Florida
    I'll have to ask. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.
  16. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    The maple thing seems to be in certain areas only. Not a single HD or Lowes I have seen here in Bama carry maple while all the ones in Atlanta that I used carry maple and Aspen. Dried or not I would stay away from poplar as a neck wood. Not only is it too soft but I find that over time it tends to warp under tension and keep the shape it is pulled into. Not good for a neck. I think oak would work better (Though not my choice) but the feel of the oak may be too rough for most folks to be comfortable with. Poplar would certainly work fine for a body and would not be subject to the tension issues you would have with a neck. An oak body I dont like the thought of so much but that is just a personal bias. :cool:

    The frustrating thing about buying oak and poplar from the big stores it that it is usually around 5$ bucks a board foot. This is over twice the price of a lumberyard and I would trust a yard to have wood that is well seasoned over a box store. Also at 5$ a foot you are not that far away from being able to afford mahogany or walnut. I didnt think to see where the OP is located but before buying any wood I would at least search around your area for any hardwood suppliers. It can be intimidating at first when you go to a yard but most have more knowledgeable and useful employees than Lowes or HD when it comes to picking out good lumber and you will be far happier with what you walk away with.
  17. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Home Depot may stock woods that are easily regionally available. Those who report not seeing it are in the southeast and up north, from Maryland to MA, I always see it.

    I would not use poplar for a neck. The oak would be a better choice if those are your choices. While it's a good idea not to go wild and spend $500 on wood for your first bass, as others have said, it is a good idea to use trustworthy wood that will last should you do a respectable job, which I assume is the goal! Poplar is definitely usable for a body, but it is stringy and smelly and I don't particularly enjoy using it.

    I have no doubts that Home Depot lumber can be used to make a perfectly good bass but I do have my doubts as to whether the wood is dried and processed to the standards of most hardwood suppliers.

    My recommendation: key your zip code into Woodfinder and try to find a hardwood dealer near you. I am sure many here will agree that selecting and buying the wood can be a great deal of fun. Tell the people there what you are doing and find some appropriate, inexpensive woods and you're off to the races. Many of those places offer milling services (jointing and planing) for reasonable rates if you need S4S.
  18. EdMerc


    Nov 30, 2010
    Central Florida
    Awesome! Thanks for that bit of info.