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Solid Chestnut body???

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Jim Ingraham, Jan 27, 2005.

  1. Jim Ingraham

    Jim Ingraham Supporting Member

    Nov 14, 2002
    I have several pieces of solid chestnut 1-3/4"x13"x36" that someone gave me because i collect chesnut (i'm restoring my old house and its all chestnut trim)

    These are really nice pieces of wood probably a hundred years old or so that i was going to make a coffee table from. I was wondering if they would be suitable for a solid electric bass body. Although i believe chestnut is considered a hardwood, its a very light wood with a low density. I love the look of this wood but have no idea if it has any positive acoustical properties.
    Anybody ever tried it???
  2. a lot of the 'boutique bass' builders use chestnut mostly as a top wood (the figured kind, of course). I have seen a couple of basses made from chestnut bodies in the past ...can't remember the builder, though.

    I say, why the heck not?!?! they build solid bodies out of spruce!
  3. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Go for it ands end me a photo of some I'll trade you some Wenge or Bubinga for some :D .t
  4. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    If it is highly figured I would recommend making tops/backs out of it instead of using it all for one bass.
  5. Jim Ingraham

    Jim Ingraham Supporting Member

    Nov 14, 2002
    Its not figured at all...its plain sawn, nothing special in the grain.. i just happen to like chesnut. The thing about the piece i have is that its big enough to get a body out of, its very light in weight, its very old wood ..it would make a nice looking bass but not spectacular...what i dont know is if after i did all this and sacrificed my coffee table, would i end up with an instrument that is different and looks good but sounds like S#$%. :meh: :meh:
  6. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    You need all the pieces to make the table?
  7. If I'm thinking right, wouldn't your chestnut be a rare and expensive commodity what with most of the domestic supply being wiped out by blight? A hundred year old piece sounds like it could fetch a killer price that would buy you any wood you would want for a bass.
  8. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Chestnut is great for bass bodies. No tonal problems at all, you could say it's somewhere between alder and poplar - sort of (there is no good way to describe this!! yikes!).

    I have been looking for some good chestnut for some time, but it's very uncommon around here... :crying:
  9. Jim Ingraham

    Jim Ingraham Supporting Member

    Nov 14, 2002
    thanks thats what id been hoping to hear.. i think im going to try this :bassist:
    its pretty much unavailable to buy around here too. There is a lot of it in old houses though and i have several remodeling contractors who'll give it to me if they tear some out.. thats how i got the big slabs im talking about here. :hyper:
  10. jacochops


    Jul 2, 2000
    Suzhou, China
    The chestnut that was used for hundreds of years is indeed now nearly extinct due to the chesnut blight many decades ago. Hambone is right. That stuff, when available, even in minute quantities, fetches a PREMIUM on the wood market. For example, try the 'Bay....you'll see people grabbing their ankles to buy the stuff. It is very plain...almost like oak. I am not sure as to the density or gravity of the wood, so I can't say whether it resembles ash, alder, mahogany, etc (the usual suspects) sonically.

    The "other" chestnut that Wilser is referring to is not the same kind of chestnut that you have, at all. It has been referred to by a specific high-end builder out of New York as chestnut and marketed for up to 1000$ a top....however, it is a species of buckeye.
    Ask Larry from Gallery Hardwoods...he'll email you an article he wrote for a journal (I believe) on the difference between the 2 woods and their respective terminology. The terms "chestnut" and "buckeye" are thrown around a bit in the bass world....however, a true American Chestnut, like the stuff you have, has a grain pattern that is very much like oak.

    Horse chestnut, in the lumber industry, really is not a wood that is desired to be harvested, as it really is considered a "junk wood"...of no commercial value. You'll find it on the east coast being used as a shade tree. I actually stumbled (quite by accident) on some true horse chestnut (sometimes called "Sweet Chestnut") in Washington State. Some guy had a treee that he harvested that had some pieces that were quite figured. I bought 10 tops from him, and he charged me an embarrassingly low amount per top (a little over 10 bucks!) I kept my favorite one, and gave the rest to Carey Nordstrand. He still has it.

    Hope that helps a little.