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Walnut as a body?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by ShiftyShift, Jun 4, 2012.

  1. ShiftyShift


    Mar 12, 2012
    Anybody have any idea on whether or not walnut will make a good body wood? I have the opportunity to get a piece of nice walnut for free/dirt cheap , and I'm wondering if it would be any good as a body wood. I'm pretty sure its rather hard and heavy (from the cabinetry and walnut tables I've seen) and the piece I'm looking at is pretty nice looking, but I'm not sure on any sound characteristics/if its ridiculously heavy :(. Any ideas?
  2. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Walnut is a great wood for building. Its beautiful, finishes easily and works well. Heavier than some woods but not too bad. Its one of my favorite woods for building furniture and I've had good luck building instruments with it too.
  3. Axiel


    Jan 12, 2012
    Carvin uses walnut as a body wood as well as neck wood. im not sure if its just layered for looks though. I have never used one of these basses so i can not speak from experience. Carvins website list walnut as warm with a growling low end and bright top end.
  4. ShiftyShift


    Mar 12, 2012
    Good, because I'm pretty sure my deal is worked out and i would have had a big piece of walnut going nowhere if it sucked :cool: Would you recommend an oil finish or clear gloss for Walnut?
  5. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Too much hip thrust
    My Cirrus has a mainly walnut body (bubinga top).
  6. tapehead ted

    tapehead ted

    May 29, 2012
    The walnut instruments I've tried, mostly guitars, are very dark and mellow, not a lot of harmonics. Classy though.
  7. tjclem

    tjclem Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    I have built several with a few different types of walnut. Nice wood to work with and does well with an oil finish. Enjoy the project. You are sure it is very dry right?
  8. ShiftyShift


    Mar 12, 2012
    I was told (and the person I am getting it from I trust, and this walnut he personally cut down from his backyard, so this is going to be pretty cool for sentimental reasons) it was professionally planed and dried. He uses it for building benches, so I imagine if its dried for that purpose it'll be suitable for my needs.
  9. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead!

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    I'd personally do an oil finish on it. There's so much natural beauty to that wood, you want as little between the wood and you as possible!! :bassist:
  10. lhoward


    Apr 27, 2003
    Western NY State
    Actually, I used Tru-Oil Gunstock finish applying it with my finger in a small area at a time and when it got tacky, I re-wet my finger and continued on. I didn't have to sand it or use steel wool or anything other than my finger. Of course, it took a couple weeks or so to do the body and the neck (but not the ebony fingerboard). The finish has lasted for 28 years; the black walnut has never needed refinishing and I average two to four gigs a week with it.


  11. ShiftyShift


    Mar 12, 2012
    That is one nice bass! So, you just dipped your finger in the oil and rubbed it on? That sounds suspiciously easy, I'm no expert but most oil finishes are more complicated than that, I'm pretty sure.
  12. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    Actually most oil finishes are very simple to apply, get a lint free cloth(T-shirt works well). Wipe on a layer, allow to dry, next day, do another coat, usually do new coats every 24 hours. Then there are various ways to smooth and wax out if you desire.
  13. ShiftyShift


    Mar 12, 2012
    Hmm, sounds easier than poly. If anybody's interested, the developments of this body will be presented in my build thread (shameless plug, I'm aware)
  14. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008




  15. bleedingfingers


    Mar 21, 2006
    Lots of Dingwalls have walnut body's
  16. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    I'm building one with a walnut top right now.


    It machines well and responds nicely to hand tools. So far, I'm very happy with it as a building material, in terms of workability.

    I'm not a tonewood believer, so I'll leave those discussions to somebody else.

    I plan to shellac it because I want the pores filled and I don't want oil to darken it up unduly.
  17. rudy4444


    Mar 13, 2012
    Central Illinois
    I love working with walnut. It also makes a nice resonant instrument.
    This one's finished with wipe on poly:
  18. ffutterman

    ffutterman Talentless Bass Enthusiast

    May 7, 2010
    That is, hands down, the coolest cavity cover I've seen! I've never seen that done before.
  19. lhoward


    Apr 27, 2003
    Western NY State
    Sorry, but I've always been a punster. So what else would you use on a bass but a bass clef?


    I forgot to thank you for the complement. I was also working on the next post below.


    Lloyd Howard
  20. lhoward


    Apr 27, 2003
    Western NY State
    Bassically (pun intended), yes. I think sometimes things are made more difficult than necessary. (Occam's Razor and the 'Kiss Principle' are equivalents in this case.) The only thing I considered doing and tested was whether or not to use a sealer on the black walnut or not (and that body is one complete piece of black walnut). I took a couple small pieces and sealed one but not the other and tested the gunstock finish on each and decided the sealer (in this case just linseed oil) helped to bring out the beauty of the grain.

    So, yes, I used either my right middle or index finger to dip into the gunstock finish, just a little, not a lot. Then I used quick and light rubs on the wood in one direction with the grain until it got somewhat tacky, then re-dipped and continued on. No back and forth rubs when applying the finish, as that defeats the purpose of the application method. Just how tacky probably depends on your own technique. It does take time, that's why it took me two weeks or so to apply the finish. I don't think its possible to do the entire body in one sitting unless you're in really good shape and your fingers, wrist and arm don't get extremely tired. Besides, doing a small area at each sitting allows it to dry and makes the next session easier to do. The great thing was that I didn't have to use rags, sandpaper and the lot with the attendant problems of trying to get that natural sheen back. I got the idea from the French polish method and modifying it to simplify the process. It works for me. I built the bass out of necessity since I couldn't afford $2000 to $4000 in the early '80s for a custom built fretless, so I decided to do it myself. Yes, I'd had some experience in woodworking up to that point, but not a lot. Necessity is the mother of invention and can definitely be a mutha. In 1984 when I completed the bass, I'd put a total of about $96 into all the parts, including the pre-CBS tuners that I think I paid $4 or $5 for, and the Dimarzio ceramic pickups. Of course, I machined the cover for the electronics cavity and also the bridge. The bridge mounting plate is just angle bronze and the saddles I did from brass circular bar stock. The metal for the machined parts I bought from a local machine shop. All in all, a pretty simple project mixed with a lot of elbow grease and forethought. Although I still have the other half of the 6 foot black walnut slab I bought at a hardwoods store in early '84, I've yet to build another bass. I've just been more interested in playing it and I also haven't found another fretless that I feel more comfortable playing. Perhaps I'm just a little prejudiced about it.

    Lloyd Howard

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