Stupid question from non-luthier:

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by biguglyman, Aug 11, 2022.

  1. biguglyman


    Jul 27, 2017
    Pownal, ME
    I'm sure there's a simple explanation but I'm not a luthier/woodworker so I'll ask here: why no oak basses? Too heavy? Just curious as I've moved to an area with a metric crap-ton of oak trees.
    Dust2Dust likes this.
  2. Zak TMD

    Zak TMD

    Apr 22, 2016
    Outside of the heart of darkness, Washington, DC
    Breaking even is the new making money.
    Riff Ranger, Reedt2000 and Beej like this.
  3. The main reason, from the wood database:

    "Has moderately high shrinkage values, resulting in mediocre dimensional stability, especially in flatsawn boards."

    But it is also a relatively heavy wood at 44 lbs/ft3 (700 kg/m3), about 40% heavier than typical soft maples.

    A somewhat unstable, fairly heavy wood, is just generally not a top choice for an instrument.

    Could you build one out of it? For sure.
  4. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    Tradition mostly, but some oak varieties are less challenging than others. :D I've used it for neck stringers, body cores (chambered out), backs, tops. Some pieces have just incredible grain, lots of it can look a lot like ash as well. Most of us I think, associate it with furniture, so there's that. :D It can "move in service" over time more than some other woods, so being very, very dry is important. These are guitars, but I've built basses too. These boards had a strong wide flame figure throughout the pieces, just not captured very well. The grain has been filled with contrasting filler.
  5. Will_White


    Jul 1, 2011
    Salem, OR
    Mostly too heavy and some varieties can be unstable, other then that traditionally oak was used for furniture so it has those connotations around it. I'm sure there are more then a few old dulcimers and banjos and definitely more then a few box guitars made with oak. I've seen a few builds on here that had oak necks.
    biguglyman likes this.
  6. RichterScale


    Feb 21, 2021
    Everyone mentions it's weight, but it's the same weight as hard maple and only a negligible % heavier than ash. It's not weight.
    I have parts of 100 yr old oak cabinets, shelves and furniture that I saved from demo and it's all still straight as an arrow.
    So, I have to assume the movement in service is dependent on how the wood is dried and where/how it's use in construction.
    So, it really boils down to tradition and looks.
    Personally, I think of furniture and trim work when I see oak. That's the only real hang up for me. However, I see some really unique and beautiful pieces of oak on occasion and my first thought is "where could I squeeze that in on a bass?"
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  7. Esteban Garcia

    Esteban Garcia bassist, arranger, aelurophile Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2018
    Portland, OR
    Only tangentially related, my congas are made from "Siam oak" which is a marketing name for rubberwood.
  8. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Columbia, MD Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    Because oak is better used making barrels for whisky
    dutchwife, Samatza, flewis and 6 others like this.
  9. Plain Old Barry

    Plain Old Barry Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2018
    Didn't Peavey make some oak basses back in the day?
  10. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    I built an oak bass once. I was young, weight wasn't a big concern for me. One of the gigs I played with it, I was jumping around on stage, and while I was doing my best Michael Jordan impression, the singer jumped back, with the net result being that I impaled him squarely between the shoulder blades. We recorded that gig, and you hear this "UGH!" and the singing stops for a while.

    It's not much heavier than maple (ash is entirely different as there is a huge variation in density - swamp ash is much lighter than maple or oak), but you don't generally build a body for a bass out of maple - you make necks out of it. Rickenbacker uses maple for bodies, but they make their bodies much thinner than Fender, and there are pretty big cutouts in the bodies for controls and such - there'a fair amount less wood in their design.
  11. Will_White


    Jul 1, 2011
    Salem, OR
    Another thing with Oak is that it can be kind of splintery, not more then some exotic woods but more then the standard woods.
  12. Jon Clegg

    Jon Clegg Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2015
    Northern Virginia
    Indeed: :woot:
  13. RichterScale


    Feb 21, 2021
    I think the main reason people don't use it is because it isn't pretty enough to make up for any of it's shortcomings.
    There are imported woods that are much heavier, more splintery, oily, wreck your tools, etc. But, people work around those things because the wood is gorgeous. Oak is pretty meh on the gorgeous meter.
    If it was the only wood I could get my hands on, I would have no problem using it to build a bass. I would just try to be clever with weight reduction, dyes, veneers, laminations, grain orientation, etc.
    I saw a quarter sawn piece of white oak today with really cool grain patterns and flecks in it.
    instrumentalist and Riff Ranger like this.
  14. Crawforde

    Crawforde Supporting Member

    Dec 30, 2016
    South Florida
    I have a couple nice white oak boards. They might make a nice neck, and maybe even fume a piece for the fingerboard like I’ve seen pictures of recently.
    rickwrench and RichterScale like this.
  15. RichterScale


    Feb 21, 2021
    Bog oak is gorgeous.
    If I was rich, I'd buy a whole log and have it milled.
  16. This book matched set of oak is going on the front of a bass soon. It's been in storage for a few years. Oak can move a bit and as a precaution these have been in a stack with spacers and plenty of weight from other woods on top. P5210628 (2).JPG
  17. TheSpinDoctor


    Apr 28, 2021
    There are different varieties of oak. Most likely is people referring to eastern white oak. Live, found in the South and westward through Texas is much denser. The USS Constitution is made of live oak. It was nicknamed 'Old Ironsides' when British cannonballs bounced off the hull due to the density of the live oak. Live oak, after being properly dried, should not exhibit instability like Eastern white oak. However, it will be considerably heavier.
    thunesBARROW likes this.
  18. lucas303


    Mar 11, 2019
    "I like oak myself, that's what's in my bedroom. How 'bout you Jimmie, you an oak man?"
    wncBass, CoughSyrup, Krizz and 2 others like this.
  19. But once you chop it down, doesn't it become dead oak?

    I'll see myself out :roflmao:
  20. Not a luthier, but will add that some of those Aria Pro II basses from the early ‘80s had oak bodies. Yes, they looked like furniture, but not in a bad way :smug: