Wenge neck-through: a no-no?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by bassteban, Mar 4, 2005.

  1. I'm drawing my next start-&-never-finish bass project. I've always liked wenge, but it occurs to me I don't recall ever seeing a neck-through of this wood. Oh yeah- Warwick(Thumb, Dolphin I). Well, I'll ask anyway: from the voices of experience, how difficult is wenge to work with? Is there an obvious(to those who have tried)reason not to do this? I'm thinking 36" scale, semi-hollow ash body wings, not sure what for a top or back. Maccassar ebony fingerboard- fretless.
  2. andvari7


    Aug 28, 2004
    Wenge is difficult to work with, and I personally wouldn't use it as the core of a neck. But as lams for a neck-thru, I think wenge could be really cool. I'm partial to a really nice figured maple for the top, and a nice walnut back.
  3. Scott French

    Scott French Dude Supporting Member

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    Wenge is pretty high up on the list of woods I don't like to work with but it's also pretty near the top of woods I like best in a finished instrument. Reason's not to work with it, it's brittle and splintery (and heavy). Reasons to work with it, looks great, feels great, can sound great.

    My little tip on this wood, don't run your hands over it more than you have to. I'm one of those people with there hands constantly all over the wood, feeling it, pulling out the spirit animal, all that hippy ****. During neck carving I am especially bad about this and I'll tell you, watch out! Those splinters will rock you up and down.
  4. I too like to caress the wood as I work it. when working on the accent stripe (it's wenge) on one of the bodies I'm working on I got a splinter on one of my fingers. Couldn't get it out myself, hurt like heck. My wife had to take it out and she had to dig about 1/16" into my finger! I would work with it again, but I'll never run my fingers through it until it is sanded.
  5. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Always wear gloves to the lumberyard. You have to pay for the lumber but the splinters are free.

    Purpleheart is splintery too. Wenge often has interlocked grain which will lift on a planer or jointer. Use sharp tools!
  6. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    Sinny, Oztraya
    I've got the pieces of wenge cut for a medium scale neckthrough, and my luthier friend has been putting it off consistently because he hates working with the stuff so much.

    My plan was for a wenge NT with a wenge board and ash wings (but if I could get something funky like Jatoba then I'd like to try that). Something similar to this without the top.
  7. That body seems to have a slightly different(from the 'usual' 535, if there is such a thing)- the lower horn, in particular. Awesome color combo.
    On the original question, a friend who had carved wenge compained about it, too.
  8. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    I use a lot of Wenge too. A real love hate relationship. I use it mostly in necks and for fingerboards...t I just got a slab today 4ft. Long 1-3/4 Thick and 5-3/4 wide. Bloody pricy too :spit:
  9. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    I made a bass with ash wings (spalt top) and a wenge/jatoba neck once.


    Jatoba is actually pretty inexpensive and easy to find here in New England. It's heavy and hard and seems to behave well as a neck wood, without the splinters of wenge. If you can track some down, I think you'd like it. If you don't mind the added weight (of either wenge or jatoba), that is.
  10. I'm pretty stuck on wenge- it keeps me looking at Warwicks, although after finding fault w/each of the 16 or so I went through, my wife insists I've sworn them off. I'm familiar w/splinters- before going full-time stay-home-dad, I alternated btween bicycle mechanic & cabinetmaking. Thanks, though. I've seen Jatoba used before, & I'm always interested in learning about less-common woods.
  11. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    I love the wenge neck on my conklin. It's pupleheart/wenge, and I absolutely love the look. An oiled finish is a must on these.
  12. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    The back of my custom fretless :).
  13. Jazz ad, that is the exact combination I'm thinking! 5 piece wenge/maple/wenge/maple/wenge(assuming it's maple)- just about those proportions, too. The obsession grows...
    As an aside, I've drawn an outline for this bass, & when I showed it to my wife, she made a face. I said, "ugly?" She said, "ugly. But.." I said, "but what?" She said "No, butt-ugly." I'll show her.
  14. schuyler


    Aug 5, 2003
    Atlanta, GA
    wenge is one of those woods which are a real pain to work, but it's also one of those which makes that pain worthwhile. be aware that a wenge NT is going to be HEAVY. esp. with jotoba or maple wings.
  15. I've owned/played a few Warwicks(all heavy). The weight isn't so bad if there's good balance. I had a Corvette 6 that weighed 11 pounds, but it balanced much better than any of the 5 or 6 Thumbs I've had. The vision(right now)is semi-hollow- actually I want it to have pretty voluminous chambers. I'd like it to put out enough volume unplugged to practice with, although I'm sure it won't compete w/a full-on acoustic bass guitar, let alone a double bass.
    Oh yeah, & at this point, I'm thinking ash for body wings. Not sure about the top or back. Suggestions? I like dark(color, not neccesarily tone).
  16. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Yeah it's heavy with all the wenge and maple but my bass is thin with a very small body so really it isn't an issue. It weights way less than your average Jazz Bass. It growls like crazy, too.
    I have a poplar burl table on top. I like hidden neckthru designs.
  17. Whammytap


    Oct 17, 2004
    Kansas City
    I too made a neck-through laminate neck bass with the center 3/4" laminate being wenge. It IS really hard to work with, also I found out I am allergic to the sawdust. But it looks and sounds great, the first question I am usually asked about the bass is "what wood is that in the middle?"

    The worst problem I had with it was when roughing the neck shape with a drawknife, it splintered and took out big chunks along with the grain. The back of the neck still has a little flat spot due to this happening in the late stages. BEWARE and take off a little at a time!

  18. I'm gonna do it- one of these days...
  19. Bassic83


    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    JazzAd- GAWD that's a pretty bass! I'm drooling all over my keyboard over here! I love the poplar burl! If I could find some, I'd snatch it up in a heartbeat! I like the strat jack on the back, too- very sensible, yet exotic!