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Wenge, Padouk or Bubinga?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Phil Mastro, Apr 28, 2005.

  1. Phil Mastro

    Phil Mastro

    Nov 18, 2004
    I'm currently designing my next bass. I'm narrowed most of the specs down to the following:

    • 5-string bolt-on
    • 35 inch scale
    • Hipshot B-style bridge
    • Bartolini J-style pickups and preamp
    • Gotoh tuners
    • Walnut body
    • 3-piece walnut-something laminated neck
    • Bloodwood fingerboard

    So, as you may have guessed, I can't decide on the 'something' for my neck for the middle stringer. I was thinking of either wenge, padouk or bubinga. My initial preference was for padouk, but since I want a bloodwood fingerboard, I felt the not-quite matching reds would clash. Esthetically, wenge would probably be best, but I'm afraid I might be missing some high frequencies with this combo, and bubinga's color is just not up to par with the others. Am I completely off with these assumptions? What would you guys choose? And why?

  2. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    I would use wenge as it is probably my favorite wood. I don't think there's much to worry about losing high frequencies. I had an Elrick with a Wenge neck and a JP with a wenge neck and I never felt like there were any high frequencies missing. I probably wouldn't buy another new bass without a wenge neck.
  3. Tim Barber

    Tim Barber Commercial User

    Apr 28, 2003
    Serenity Valley
    Owner: Barber Music
    My last two basses have had padauk stringers in the neck, and personally I won't use it again. The dust stains everything it touches, and is very irritating to the respiratory tract (for me anyway). It also has enough natural oil in it that some finishes take days longer to dry over the parts that are padauk than on the rest of the instrument.

    I'd do wenge.
  4. Mark Chandler

    Mark Chandler

    Aug 25, 2004
    Houston TX
    If you are worried about brightness, active pups and new strings will make more of a difference than wenge vs. bubinga.

    of course, this is my opinion based on my experience.
  5. Scott French

    Scott French Dude

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    Here is my feedback, take it for whatever you want. 1, I don't like walnut for necks. 2, If you are going to use walnut for main neck wood then for the stringer you should use something that is similar in weight/hardness so as they move they are a little better matched. If not you could end up with a bump on the lamination down the line. EIR or mahogany might work better than your other choices.
  6. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    I don't use one of the extreme hard woods, Bubinga, Wenge, Purpleheart, for a middle stripe anymore. You are going to route most of it out anyway for the truss rod. I put the hardest woods to either side of the middle stripe. Just my opinion though....t
  7. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Let's see if I can make the advice here any more conflicting.

    I prefer to put the hardest woods at the core. I prefer wenge or purpleheart (or jatoba or whatever) to be underneath the truss rod, if possible. I almost always like to have one of the stiffer, harder woods at the core no matter what I use as the "mains"; I feel like the core plays a key role in the overall stiffness of the neck. You may feel the seam the first time the humidity changes due to different shrinkage rates.

    My personal preference is wenge to go with walnut. I feel that padauk next to walnut is a bit of a harsh contrast. And, as Tim noted, padauk is kind of a pain to work with. I think Mark hit the nail on the head: don't worry about losing any highs by going with wenge over bubinga.
  8. Phil Mastro

    Phil Mastro

    Nov 18, 2004
    Thanks for the insight everyone! I guess I'll go with the majority and use wenge. Although this solves the wood problem, I'm now wondering if I should do a 5-piece neck, and have a 3-piece body with some kind of top and back and save my walnut for some chambered fretless type project... decisions decisions... :rolleyes:

    thanks again :)
  9. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Some more cents:

    The aestetic impact is that of a T-profile with walnut on the sides. Very impressive! ("How didi you do that") And good from rigidity/tone points of view, too.

    Make sure it's "Black Walnut" for the neck! Other variants may be too weak...
  10. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    fwiw... I too, prefer to put my stiffest wood in the center of my 5 piece necks, and wenge is one of my fav's as well (I've even used stuff like coco bolo and ebony for centers....).

    I love the look of padauk, but the red oily dust is a bugger to work with, and with an oil finish on it it will still "bleed" orange into everything around it. The 6 string I built for myself has padauk outers on the neck with flamed maple stringers and a thin layer of maple under the fingerboard, and the maple stringers and the maple accent under the fingerboard are all stained orange now where I play.

    Also, just ask anyone who has a bass with an oil finished padauk body and played the bass while wearing a white shirt.

    It is beautiful, though.. hence why I continue to use it.

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