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What Makes One Piece of Wood Better Than Another?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Johnny Fila, Dec 7, 2004.


  1. Johnny Fila

    Johnny Fila Formerly "The Crusader"

    Nov 21, 2004
    Elmont, NY (near NYC)
    As far as buying a body to build a bass from scratch (almost), what makes one piece of say, Alder, better than another piece of Alder (all things such as routes and paint etc. being equal). What makes the difference between a Warmoth, Fender, USA Custom, Mighty Mite, or even a Rondo for that matter or on the other end of the scale, a Sadowsky? Is one piece of Alder really different from another?
    Thanks
     
  2. Suburban

    Suburban

    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    You couldn't say that e.g. Warmoth alder is better than e.g. Mighty Mite alder bodies. It's not the maker, it's the actual piece that matters.

    When you choose your piece, you can separate a good from a better (assuming that hte seller is not trying to set you up :) ) by sound! That is, you knock on wood and listen for the sustain. The more sustain, the more continuous wood, which is better. Cracks and other faults will inhibit the resonance in the plank and in a bass.
    With a lot of training, you might be able to learn to tune an instrument by doing this trick on all pieces, and by knowing the results of combining them...a lot of training...
     
  3. Johnny Fila

    Johnny Fila Formerly "The Crusader"

    Nov 21, 2004
    Elmont, NY (near NYC)
    I kind of understand what you're saying, but let's say that you are someone like Sadowsky, who gets all his bodies from his supplier. It wouldn't make sense for him to throw bodies away, that wouldn't be very cost effective. Yet, I think that it is safe to say, his basses are like the Holy Grail to us. That being said, is it the actual piece of wood that is more important or the way that it's all put together (which there can be no substitute for)?
     
  4. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    I think it's a safe guess that if Sadowsky doesn't like a part, he throws it away with out a second thought. His reputation is worth more than any one bass.
     
  5. wood color, evenness of grain, proper cross cutting of the lumber (grain orientation along board length and thru the board), proper even curing, straightness resultant after curing, and yes, oftentimes a good tap-tone...

    Just because it's technically a piece of Alder in the body you buy, doesn't always mean it's GOOD alder. Take a Rondo body: the wood could be just fine, but it prolly also has 4-5 laminations...not knocking that, but you don't find that many lams in a Warmoth or a Sadowsky or whatever...whereas a quality piece of wood that can achieve consistency over wide width is properly sawn from older trees, and them's the kind of wood used in pricier bodies.
     
  6. Johnny Fila

    Johnny Fila Formerly "The Crusader"

    Nov 21, 2004
    Elmont, NY (near NYC)
    I agree if it's a really bad piece, but the majority must fall within a certain tolerance zone, some better than others or just different than the others.
     
  7. Suburban

    Suburban

    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    I have a feeling I heard that Sadowsky et al actually approves the plank before the body is made. And the high end guys definitely do throw s*** away (and never on the fan).
     
  8. schuyler

    schuyler

    Aug 5, 2003
    Atlanta, GA
    if i don't like a piece of wood which came in a lot, i use it for a wood working project where it doesn't matter. most serious woodworkers squirrel away wood for future projects. every luthier i've talked to has a large collection of wood on hand which they've collected over years. if it's really bad, it becomes firewood. part of the cost of a high end bass is this selection process and part of the challenge of woodworking is finding the right use for each board.
     
  9. Johnny Fila

    Johnny Fila Formerly "The Crusader"

    Nov 21, 2004
    Elmont, NY (near NYC)