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What is "soft maple"?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Flux Jetson, Aug 5, 2012.

  1. Well ... I mean ... "DUH" .. it's not hard maple. I get that. But sometimes it seems like there are names for wood that don't actually reflect what it really is.

    I was thinking it might be really like Basswood or something but the bass company used "soft maple" in the description to avoid the stigma of whatever the wood really might be.

    It's a Squier Vintage Modified Jazz bass in natural finish.


    Thank you. :)
  2. Soft Maple is any maple that isnt sugar maple. Honestly, I didnt even know soft maple made a good tonewood
  3. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Why wouldn't it make a good "tonewood"
  4. Mr. Majestic

    Mr. Majestic Majestic Wood Supply Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2005
    From Louisiana/In Arkansas
    Majestic Swamp Ash
    Maple..........hard, soft, pacific coast, flamed, tiger, curly, quilted, spalted, birdeye, sugar, red, southern red, northern red, Canadian, silver, big leaf...................and on and on. "From MY experience" if I want "birdeye", I go with hard maple. If I want "flamed", I go with soft. If I want "quilted", I go with "pacific coast", "big leaf", "extremely soft" maple...........uh oh; I didn't mention that one. ;)
  5. So how's the melon business?

  6. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    OK, in answer to the actual question, soft maple is just that, the lighter density maple. Having a density more equal to northern black walnut, it is just a slightly less dense maple. It s still harder and stronger than Mahogany, and has been used successfully in bodies and necks in th music industry. I use soft maple n necks when I want a contrasting look to hard maple but am still looking for torsional stability. I like th slight silvery color of figured soft maples for both necks and tops for bodies, and it works well in appearance matched with hard maple. Hope this helps
  7. That is precisely what I was hoping to be told. Not so much that it's such a good material, but moreso a comprehensive description of how it's used and how it works within the ethos of bass building.

    Thanks tons, and well done. This was relieving, at least I now know that the bass I'm looking at isn't made of poopwood.
  8. mpdd

    mpdd neoconceptualist

    Mar 24, 2010
    my gibson grabber's body was lightweight maple and it had a great tone if you're into warmth and roundness
  9. I'm a fifty plus year old man, and I LOL'd at this.:D
  10. Glad I was able to lighten your day a little. :)
  11. How does Soft Maple compare to Hard Maple, price wise?
  12. Here in my spot of Virginia im surrounded by a majority of Red and a few Silver maples. I have cut a number of these as well as a few Sugar Maples. I find both fairly easy to fell and or cut. What I can say I find the Silver to be the softest and yielding more the "flame" and greyish/silvery hue. Red tends to have a little more grain flecks and such going on but still a greyish hue. Both soft maples tend to turn rather quickly when exposed to uv light ..

    Sugar seems to be the creamy/whitest of the bunch with more quilting/chatoyancy.. It def. feels harder on the saw blade to me.

    I think all work well when dried properly... I dont really get the inferior wood concept as any wood, including exotic, can be considered crap if its not cut and dried properly.
  13. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    In most cases hard maple is a few dollars per board ft more than soft maple.
  14. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    I've built out of both hard and soft maple, and both make fine instruments... additionally, I've played that Squier Vintage Modified Jazz Bass, and overall it's not bad. I was a little disappointed that the binding appears to be painted on, and the side dot markers hit the edge of the binding instead of being centered, but for that price it's a decent axe.
  15. It's not painted, neither are the blocks.
    nerkoids likes this.
  16. 1958Bassman


    Oct 20, 2007
    Should be a bit less- depends on the supplier. It's often used as a secondary wood in furniture, so it's not useless, just not as durable as hard maple, AKA Acer Sacrum.
  17. Mr. Majestic

    Mr. Majestic Majestic Wood Supply Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2005
    From Louisiana/In Arkansas
    Majestic Swamp Ash
    I can't truly agree with this statement. Soft maple is more commonly used in cabinets and furniture, than hard maple. To use hard maple, you better have perfect bits and great tools and setups. Between myself and my father, we have supplied high end cabinets and doors for more than 150 cabinet shops, from Maine to California, over the past 30 years. Using that much maple, we had to constantly keep a close eye on many different issues. Truly perfect soft or hard or pacific coast maple would consistently vary in color; in each type.
  18. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Me too :bag:
  19. TapyTap


    Apr 26, 2005
    The sides and backs of instruments in the violin family are made from "soft" Maple species. Antonio de Torres Jurado, the famous Spanish luthier, is also known to have used "soft" Maple in a guitar or two.

    Regarding electric bass guitars...Michael Pedulla certainly makes good use of soft Maple species in his basses. I know that Jonas Hellborg's signature Warwick bass body and top is made from a "soft" European Maple variety. There are a number of other great luthiers that participate here on TalkBass which offer soft Maple species as an option for their bass bodies...Cliff Bordwell immediately comes to mind.
  20. This rumor has been dispelled so many times by now it's not even funny. It's been impeached over and over and over again, yet it still persists.

    The block inlays and the binding are real. They are not painted on. It may not be the highest quality work, but it is real binding, and real block inlays.

    I guess this is one of the "flat Earth" rumors that will persist forever. I'm attempting to get used to it being a factor of owning the Squier Vintage Modified Jazz bass - I'll get there I guess. :) In the end, it doesn't matter at all what people think or say. Not one bit. It's one of the nicest basses I've owned (it's my 27th bass).

    The body is soft maple, I am glad to learn that soft maple is something that is put to good use and (as I said before) not poopwood.

    I remember when I first saw "Agathis" in the specs of some low priced guitar a few years ago. I thought "Oh boy, what is THIS stuff gonna turn out to be?"

    So is soft maple as bright as one of the harder body maples? I guess I'm asking how it compares tonally to other woods such as Alder, and Mahogany, and Ash, and even Basswood (does that rhyme with "Gas" or "Ace"? Y'know, is it Bass like the fish, or Bass like the guitar in the word Basswood?)

    And is soft maple durable, or is it easily dented like Basswood is?

    Thanks for the replies folks.

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