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Using ash as a neck wood

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by inbrednedd, Oct 11, 2004.

  1. hey all,
    Ive been noticing the relative abundance of high end instruments with ash(hard) necks (Fodera, Mtd).
    I was just wondering, how is the strength and stability of this wood? I know they use it for baseball bats, but I was told by Warmoth that they don't use it as it is not stable enough.
    What would be the optimal neck weight (heavy or light hard ash), sawing method(flatsawn or quarter), and fingerboard material? This would be if stability, stiffness, responsiveness and resonance were the desired characteristics of the neck.

    Thanks all
    Pat Mahoney
  2. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    I hadn't realized that Fodera and MTD were using ash for necks. It's dense enough, but it's kind of coarse grained. I can't comment on the stability as I've never used it.

    The swamp ash will be too weak for a neck. I would only consider northern white and I would probably do a multi-lam in light of Warmoth's comments. However the stuff is cut, you will want the growth rings perpendicular to the direction the strings are pulling the neck (quartersawn).
  3. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999

    I have an MTD 535 with an Ash neck. Mike Tobias uses Northern White Ash. He has done it on a number of basses and has had no issues whatsoever. You do feel a bit of grain with the ash, but most people, that I have let play my bass, like the feel. It gives you a sense of where you are on the neck. Michael has also used Wenge for necks for quite a while. You can also feel the grain in Wenge. If you like Wenge, you'll like the Ash. If you need a perfectly smooth neck, you might not like the Ash - that is, until you hear it.

    Without a doubt the Ash neck is the most responsive neck wood that I have ever played. The slightest touch of my fingers brings out a clear amazing response. I don't think that I would use anything else from hear on in.


    Mike Dimin
  4. Mike,

    What kind of finish does your neck have? Does it have a maple fretboard?


  5. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    It has a maple board. Mike found out too late that the top wood - Rose of The Mountain - would have also made a great board as well.

    From Mike's site:

  6. Hey Mike,
    it was indeed your bass and its accompanying thread that piqued my interest in ash. I heard the sound clip and my, that bass sounds nice.

    I think the rose of the mountain and the maple is a classy contrast.

    I was wondering, how does ash's strength stack up against hard rock maple?

    maybe suburban could give an analysis from a physics standpoint

    Pat Mahoney
  7. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    If your thinking of an MTD - you might want to give Michael a call directly

  8. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    The critical property for neck use is stiffness. This is a measure of how much a material gives when a force is applied. It is represented by the Modulus of Elasticity, or MOE.
    (Technical note: true "strength" is the amount of stress applied at the point of rupture. This is not a consideration, since nearly any wood short of balsa is strong enough not to break. What is needed is a material that hold its own against the string tension without moving too much.)

    Hard maple (acer saccharum), which is used in necks, has an MOE of 1.83 Mpsi. Various species of ash range from 1.27-1.74 Mpsi. So the stiffest ash species is 5% less stiff than maple, approximately the same. But the weakest ash species is 30% less stiff than maple, which is a significant reduction.
  9. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE
    Wenge is around 2.4 or 2.5 Mpsi :D

    Wenge rules!

  10. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Wenge is great but it just does not sound quite as good as Ash. I am a total convert to Ash as a neck wood.
  11. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE

    I hear you Mike. We are all different right? Wenge works for me and I can understand that you prefer something else.

  12. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Wenge works for me too. I have a Wenge neck, Ash neck and Maple neck bass. Each has a different quality, each for a different purpose. The Ash neck is the most repsonsive, touch sensitive bass that I have. It's sound changes drastically with my attack. It goes from sounding like a hollow body jaz guitar to an aggressive rock and roll machine just by the way I attack the bass. The fretless, has a plain ash body and Wenge neck/wenge fretboard. This bass has a wonderful fretless tone. It is responsive yet warm. the sound is very detailed. Finally, my maple/rosewood is not as responsive as the ash but has a fuller, rounder tone. Each is great in it's own way.

    Perhaps because the Ash neck bass is the newest, I still have a bit of that infatuation with it. Obviously there are other factors that give each bass it's unique character.

    Have you ever tried ash for a neck?

  13. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE
    No mike, I never tried it and have no plans to do it for now. I like to stick to wenge, maple and padauk which work great for me.

    I like to choose woods for their mechanical properties rather than for their tonal properties. I rather work on the tone with things I can control better than wood, like pickups, pickups placement, electronics, strings and scale lenght.

    I know not a lot of builders think like this but maybe I'm just weird ;)

  14. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    A few woods stiff enough for neck use, and their MOEs (numbers vary by source):

    hard maple (the standard for bass necks): 1.83 Mpsi
    ash: species vary, up to 1.75
    oak: diff. species are 1.5-2.3, several are 1.9 or higher
    bubinga: 2.2-2.5
    padauk: 1.7
    hickory: 1.7-2.3
    wenge: 2.0-2.5
    zebrawood: 1.8-2.3
    jatoba: 2.2-2.9 (!)
    goncalo alves: 2.5
    bloodwood: 2.0
    ipe: 3.1 (!!)
    purpleheart: 2.3
  15. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Either way is valid. I think that Fodera is much more reliant on pickups, preamp, etc than wood. It allows you to use woods that builders who rely on the tone of the wood might not be able to use. Both are valid. Since I am an MTD player, I have come to appreciate the different sound from different wood combinations.

  16. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE
    Ipe is on my "to test" list.

  17. Bassic83


    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    Be prepared to have carbide-tipped tools to work the ipe, as it is one TOUGH wood! It tends to destroy normal tools. It is also so dense it doesn't float. I'm building a raft out of it for my ex-wife. ;) :D


    Nov 24, 2001
    New York,NY

    Please, build TWO rafts, one for your wife & one for mine...

  19. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    In agreement with Peter re. stiffness, I must add the second critical property: weight.
    What we need to consider first is plain stiffness: the neck must cope with the string tension, that's the easy part.
    Then we consider tone, and then we need the spring factor, which is more or less the ratio stiffness per unit weight. This is very important to avoid dead spots!!! And also the stiffness/weight distribution is of great importance, also for the neck (though in the neck it's pretty easy to handle, which is not the case for bodies...).

    Quite an interesting list! But please note that e.g. goncalo alves is quite heavy, whch will mean problems with tuning the neck and...neck dive!!

    I also want to add a couple of local spicies (I don't have the figures in front of me, but I'll mention them anyway). They do the work well, or very well! And, what also is important, they don't need to be transported around half the world to be processed, and than another half turn to be delivered. Which is a pretty important issue, nowadays.
    Try these:
    Black walnut (US local), stiff as sugar maple, substantially lighter and nice brown colour.
    Birch (Betula Pubecens, local in Scandinavia), stiff as Wenge, substantially lighter, colour similar to maple.
    Beech (Fagus Silvatica), stiff as wenge, weighs like sugar maple, very light brown colour.
    Avenbok (Carpinus betulus), stiff and heavy as maple, whiteish. Great for fingerboards, too.

    Just a few I know... I bet that there is something growing, if not in your back yard, at least close to it, that is really good for necks! Use that and boogie! :bassist:
  20. very informative and interesting. thank you for posting these figures.