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top wood

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Balor, Jul 11, 2001.

  1. Balor


    Sep 24, 2000
    Montréal, Québec
    yes... another one of those thread asking for opinion on wood for a custom bass... anyway, the dilemma boils down to more or less 3 major choices and an infinities of possibilities yet on explored....

    -solid walnut wings
    -bolivian rosewood top/walnut back
    -ziricote top/walnut back

    what do you guys think? it's mostly a price problem, walnut being the cheapest, ziricote the higher one. any other low priced wood to add Lows and mid lows to the potential sound of the walnut.

  2. the first wood that i think of when you mention low mids is bubinga. i've never played a bass with a walnut top, but i used to have an old tobias with a bubinga top and it definately had accentuated low mids
  3. When you say top, how thick are we talking about. If it's an 1/8" veneer, which is typical, it's not going to have a major affect on the tone. It's mainly cosmetic.
  4. Balor


    Sep 24, 2000
    Montréal, Québec
    i'm talking of 1/4 of an inch to as much to half of the body thickness!
    as for bubinga, my luthier isn't quite found of that wood, so i rules it out sometime ago, but thanks for the response.
  5. I'm not familier with bolivian rosewood or zirocote as a top wood, how does your luthier describe the affect they would have on the overall sound and performance of the bass?
  6. Deano Destructo

    Deano Destructo MusicMan & Upton addict. Hasn't slept since 1979. Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2000
    Seattle, WA.
    What luthier are you going through and isn't honduras mahogany great on mid's?
  7. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Based on research I've done on my custom, I like your Bolivian rosewood top and walnut back the best of the three.

    The main reason is that what you get in the end with laminated bodies is a composite of the resonant frequencies of each specie of wood used. That combination has different resonant peaks. The walnut, (I'll assume we're talking black walnut as opposed to California, since cost is an issue), offers articulate highs and clear lows. A rosewood would complement it with it's warmth and richness.

    If the budget will allow, try to trade up a little to Honduran rosewood. It's a great tone wood. In the 1950's-60's, the top Spanish luthiers considered it the only acceptable substitute for the legendary (and illegal to import into the US) Brazilian rosewood.

    Bolivian "rosewood" isn't a true rosewood. Many know it by its other names, pau ferro or morado. It's tonal properties aren't rated nearly as highly as Honduran.

    The ziricote and walnut are too much alike for tone. Some of their resonant freq's could even cancel each other out to some extent.

    The solid walnut wings just seems to one-dimensional, tonally, to me.

    One lower-priced wood that might complement the walnut is alder with its well-defined lows and strong low-mids. Unfortunately, its cosmetics are stray-dog homely. Chechen and palo escrito are two other possibilities you might consider. They won't clear out the bank account and they are eye-catching if you find the right board.
  8. Deano Destructo

    Deano Destructo MusicMan & Upton addict. Hasn't slept since 1979. Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2000
    Seattle, WA.
    Hey rickbass you seem to know a lot about honduran rosewood but what about honduran mahogany with a western walnut top?
  9. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Don't really "know" all that much. I just saved and printed out so many of the resources I used.

    Your combination should work out well. Honduran mahogany is noted for how well it works in laminated guitars. Hell, many old Les Pauls were made entirely of the stuff and pianos are made with it. It has very good sustain and warmth characteristics.

    If you're into cosmetics, you need to be choosy about the board used. The board can be typical, boring, straight, even-grained mahogany or it can have ribbons of color variations that are nice, visually. I imagine the ribboned stuff raises Honduran mahogany's moderate prices.

    FWIW, it comes from Brazil. Apparently, Honduras cut most of what they had.

    By "western" walnut, I guess you mean California claro. I would think it would complement the warmth and fullness of the Honduras mahogany with it's solid, well-defined lows.

    Just be sure the walnut isn't thin. Those wimpy, slender tops/caps used on some instruments are purely for looks. The dominant body wood overwhelms it.
  10. a good slab of walnut, sure, i love the idea like rickbass of the rosewood and walnut, played a 6 string fretless today with a large quantity of lovely dark figured walnut, lovely

    it was so mellow, but at the say time clean, pure jazz tones, like playing and upright

    quite a dense wood, a bit of weight about it, what board you using?
  11. Balor


    Sep 24, 2000
    Montréal, Québec
    Dave Pushic is the man....! no surprise there.

    thanks for the info guys, especially rickbass. i was considering ziricote very closely (beautifully and recommended by the man himself), morado seemed a bit redundant (fretboard...) but you're arguments are very interesting and to the point.

    i'm adding this one to the list... wenge/walnut back.

    by the way here's the neck woods that should be used: padouk/purpleheart.

    thanks again
  12. A big ol' slab of wenge would be damned expensive... why do you think Warwick stopped using it so much?

    Again, walnut is good, but the thing that strikes me about all of your choices is how low they are. Personally, I'd have some brighter wood on some part of the bass to balance things out.. but that's me.

    I believe in wenge as a joiner of sounds, in it's ability to bring together the sounds of woods...

    In you case, I'd get a walnut back, wenge middle piece and a flamed/quilted/burled/tiger/birdseye maple top, get some balance. Or, you could put a top of your choice on if you want that many lows...highly figured rosewood maybe?

    Don't know much about padauk, but purpleheart is one of the densest woods around...5 pc. neck?
  13. Balor


    Sep 24, 2000
    Montréal, Québec
    my choices are based on the warmoth description and dave's acknowledgement... padouk and walnut are described as maple like but not as bright. i don't like my ash bodied trb6... too bright on the high register for my taste. over all very nice, but too bright.

    as for the neck, yes, 5 seems good.
  14. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    I guess because they're in Germany.

    Wenge is one of the bargain basement woods in the US. It's plentiful and is projected to be for years. It came to fame, in large part, because the price of Indian rosewood was rising and wenge is considered a viable substitute. Not too exciting to look at, though.
  15. i have to agree :)

    seriously, i don't like the look of wenge, it looks cluttered, like someones melted it down,


    "they were 2 pieces of wood, Mr rosewood and his partner Mr ebony. After a hideous accident they were merged together to form ""WENGE" a hideous mutant forced to live in germany on Warwick basses"


    or something like that, a quality piece of Ebony for fretless, no fret lines, or something very classy, or a nice even grained piece of rosewood, nothing fender-like, some of there grains are hideous.

  16. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Heads-Up on Wenge - Pantera may be psychic and Warwick may have used up its existing stock.

    I was making some inquiries about some wood today and found out that the usual transport of wenge within the harvesting region, largely the Congo, has been interrupted in the last couple of years, due to political/military turmoil. So, the supply pipleline has been drying up.

    If you want wenge at a low price, don't let any grass grow under your feet.
  17. And here's my momma telling me I'll never make anything of myself....;)
  18. Balor


    Sep 24, 2000
    Montréal, Québec
    i was wandering if spanish cedar in between 2 relatively thick walnut board could give me something near the lows and low mids of the 2 other exotic woods mentioned earlier?

    i'm at least sure of this... the bass should be much more light, cheaper and probably more resonant. but the tone is puzzling me?

  19. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    If the cedar was thick enough, it might. There is a luthier in Vancouver, Laurence Mollerup, who makes electric basses with Sp. cedar because it has a dark sound, according to him. Bass Northwest has a Keith Roscoe bass for sale with a Sp. cedar core.

    It is certainly resonant. Master flamenco luthiers like Antonio Torres used it.

    FWIW, the wood isn't really a cedar. It's oils are said to smell like cedar and that's how it got "cedar" in the name.

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