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Red Oak Body

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by thorper, Feb 25, 2016.

  1. thorper


    Jul 11, 2011
    Since this board has given me so much info over the years I thought I'd share my latest project.
    In one of my bands I've been playing this cheap Chinabacker that is very uncomfortable -- lots of neck-dive, so I decided to fix that by building a new bass. More specifically building a body. Because of the tools I have available it makes more sense for me to buy a neck and build a body around it. I did this once before a couple years ago with a Epiphone Toby neck and a nice slab of StewMac mahogany. This time I found a cheap Yamaha neck and a big plank of red oak.

    A main design goal was to get the bass to hang upright by extending the upper horn to around the 8/9th fret. Otherwise it's just a pretty slim body taking aspects from Ibanez SR and Schecter Riot basses.

    Currently I'm sanding in preparation for finishing. I'll be keeping the wood open-grained and putting on as many coats of Minwax Wipe-On Poly that I can stand (maybe a dozen, maybe less, we'll see).

    There aren't many mentions of red oak bodies here in the Luthier's Corner and it's not too surprising.
    It's dense -- this body is very slim and it's still quite heavy. I wouldn't want a P or J sized body made of oak.
    It's tough to carve -- you can take out huge chunks by carving into the grain; also when routing the neck pocket I tried to go too deep in one pass and it pulled the bit from the chuck, leaving a deep gouge :crying:.
    Sanding takes forever especially compared to mahogany.
    The pores and grain structure are huge -- while sanding a sort of ribbing effect has appeared as a result of the wide rings.
    HOWEVER the grain figuring is beautiful and the strength of the wood lends itself to slimmed-down bodies.
    So I might not recommend red oak unless you are looking for a challenge, you love how it looks, or you're building such a svelte body that you need a stronger wood.

    Progress pics below, more to come as I finish it up.


    Dummy body to test the balance of the design:


    Attached Files:

    Tbone76, smithcreek and wmhill like this.
  2. wmhill


    Aug 20, 2012
    upstate NY
    MTD basses endorsed artist Bartolini pickups emerging artist TECAMP bass players gear endorsed
    looking good so far..... i'm gonna stay tuned!
  3. Crazyman582


    Dec 8, 2015
    Looks good. Will be interested to hear of final weight!
  4. earlysecond

    earlysecond In Memoriam

    Jan 26, 2016
    Love it! Makes me want to buy some red oak. I'm not sure if it is a great tone wood and the grain is open but I want to tackle some. I am very partial to it. I really like the body shap and the additional shaping you are doing. I'll stay tuned.
  5. Rôckhewer

    Rôckhewer Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 28, 2015
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Owner/Builder- RockHewer Custom Guitars LLC
    Funky cool shape. Dig it.

    (But wow that upper horn sure is kinda......phallic!...haha)

    Hey.... Is that an old 1950's Oliver 260 table saw?
    Is it not working? Those are a beast of saw !
    16 incher , right?

    Clean that old girl up !;)
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2016
  6. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    A red oak body, and a 3 foot upper horn, I don't think you have to worry much about neck dive lol
    rojo412 and yoshi like this.
  7. thorper


    Jul 11, 2011
    Yeah the table saw is my brother's and needs a new motor, but I agree I'd like to get it working.
    And yes as I hand sand the upper horn I am acutely aware of just how phallic it is...
    Will_White likes this.
  8. thorper


    Jul 11, 2011
    Hot grain shots with 4 coats of wipe-on poly. Currently adding more finish layers, gently sanding with 220grit & wiping with tack cloth between coats.

    You may notice some funny blemishes (directly right of the neck pickup route in the first picture) which are little worm holes that appeared during carving. Ugly but the bass is for me so whatever.




    Attached Files:

    Tbone76 and smithcreek like this.
  9. thorper


    Jul 11, 2011
    Finished it up yesterday.
    Weighs about 8lb.
    The upper horn ends between the 8th & 9th fret, and it makes the bass hang much closer to vertical than any other I've played; almost like a chapman stick.

    Red oak is heavy, but perhaps a good & strong option for very slim designs
    It's tough to carve -- when routing take off smaller layers of wood than you might otherwise & you might end up wanting to use an angle grinder to shape it.
    Grain is drool
    Tone is fairly bright, but it's strung up with steels, has big pole-piece pickups, and I have mostly played it through a GK amp so far so who knows.

    I'll post pics later today.
  10. wagdog


    Mar 20, 2000
    Der Waffle Haus
    Nice job and eight pounds is what I would call very comfortable. I was expecting it to be 11-12 so I'd say you got a winner! What I like about oak (and maple) is it's a common and sustainable wood. No abusing of tropical forests needed. Maybe I missed it but how thick is the body?
  11. thorper


    Jul 11, 2011
    The body is 1-1/2" at the thickest but slims down to closer to 1" in some spots:

    bass41. bass37. bass38.
    thespoon, mech and Tbone76 like this.

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