Why Basswood Hate?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by JeffJ2112, Mar 29, 2018.

  1. alder

    alder Inactive

    Feb 17, 2012
    Basswood is very soft, Janka 410. It is a good deal softer than alder (590) or poplar (540), two woods that I consider to be borderline on acceptable hardness, for anything. Fasteners are easily stripped, and without a protective coating, a basswood body will ding and scratch very badly. However, under a thick tough protective coat of polyurethane, it makes an fine and fairly lightweight instrument.

    Basswood has an even closed grain that is easy to finish. Its looks are unremarkable, even more-so than alder, which is why it is usually painted. Clear finishes tend to be either translucent or restricted to the center of a sunburst. Basswood smells like chocolate when worked.

    Basswood is not the softest wood used in guitars, both white pine (380) and paulownia (300!!!) are even softer. Myself, I would not use any of them for a build, although I have several factory basswood bodies that are fine. Any wood that soft marks up very easily, and it is difficult to get it to final finishing, as no matter how careful you are, you seem to put marks in as fast as you take them out !

    For comparison:
    • agathis 730 Janka
    • ash 850
    • balsa 67 !!!
    • cherry 950
    • hard maple 1450
    • soft maple 850
    • korina 670
    • mahogany 1070
    • pine - yellow or radiata 700
    • walnut 1010
    The fastener problem is overstated. It would be a good idea to back out the strap button screws and replace them with bigger/longer ones, before they pull out on their own. The rest of the screws - avoid over-tightening them, that's all. The biggest problem is Fender-style bass pickup mounts, screwed directly into the body. You can always drill them out and dowel them. When reinstalling a screw, always try to find the old thread in the wood. Turn the screw slowly backwards until you feel it hop, then drive it in.

    As far as tone goes, it is whatever you imagine it to be.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2018
    soulman969 likes this.
  2. mikewalker

    mikewalker Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2017
    Canada, Eh!
    If you think basswood is soft, you should try Paulownia (aka Princess wood, aka Empress Wood, aka kiri ).
    Rezdog likes this.
  3. ThudThudThud


    Jun 4, 2010
    I had a Squier CV 60s Precision that had a painted finish (Fiesta Red). Never noticed any issues.
    I don't think it has a nice grain that looks good in natural finish, but painted it's fine. Lightweight too.
    lowdownthump likes this.
  4. toowrongfoo


    Nov 25, 2017
    Ah, you learn something every day, "ding magnet"

    Isn't that what Honda's made of then?
    mikewalker and Brent Arrowitz like this.
  5. Edward Van Halen is a total tone hound,always chasing tone and always anal about quality woods. He seems to think basswood is good enough for his own personal instruments. I never had a problem with it either....
    lowdownthump and soulman969 like this.
  6. JIO

    JIO Connery... Sean Connery Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    The Mission SF/CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    Basswood; works well, finishes nicely, is light, sounds great... what was the question again?



    bdplaid, RedVee, soulman969 and 7 others like this.
  7. NOVAX


    Feb 7, 2009
    mikewalker and kodiakblair like this.
  8. toowrongfoo


    Nov 25, 2017
    JIO likes this.
  9. 74hc


    Nov 19, 2015
    Sunny California
    My experience is that basswood bodies not just gets buckle rash, but buckle indentations almost like a route map. It's great if you like the relic look as it's easier to give it real relic job.
  10. Gringo Basso

    Gringo Basso

    Aug 26, 2016
    I only play basses made out of basswood and guitars made out of guitarwood. Accept no substitutes I say!
  11. Laurent

    Laurent Supporting Member

    May 21, 2008
    Napa, California
    Basswood is fine and there is no hate for it.
    I suspect that most people who play instruments made of basswood do it because they have to, not because they want to.

    There are much better alternatives (ash, alder, walnut, mahogany, maple, Pau Ferro).
    When it comes to my own instruments I stay within the six woods listed above.
  12. NOVAX


    Feb 7, 2009
    IMG_1190.JPG where's the love/hate for Koa?
    JIO likes this.
  13. JIO

    JIO Connery... Sean Connery Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    The Mission SF/CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    Sorry, I didn't make my bass bodies of basswood because "I had to" (what does that even mean?) - I chose to use that wood for it's light weight and tone quality. I wish people would consider what they are saying before speaking.
  14. Laurent

    Laurent Supporting Member

    May 21, 2008
    Napa, California
    Easy tiger.
  15. LoTone

    LoTone Clean as an Entwistle... Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2010
    Quebec, Canada
    I like basswood. I especially appreciate the middy-tone and the lightweight.
  16. GIBrat51

    GIBrat51 Innocent as the day is long Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2013
    South Bend, Indiana
    The question was "Why the hate?" . The answer seems to be; there isn't any real hate. We all seem to agree that yes, it is a good tone wood, and yes, it's nice and light. You may not agree, but most of us also seem to agree that, as a structural component of the overall bass (or guitar; I have both), it dings and dents too easily, and it's pretty poor when it comes to holding screws. Which, is also the conclusion of every wood guide you can find... If an easily dented wood that won't hold screws well (or, sometimes, for very long,) is what floats your boat? I doubt that anyone here will tell you not to use it. Please yourself, by all means...:thumbsup:
  17. sheltjo6

    sheltjo6 Supporting Member

    Jun 10, 2012
    Koa can get expensive due to its scarcity. But, it sounds great.
  18. seansbrew


    Oct 23, 2000
    Mesa AZ.
    I can tell you, having carved basswood, it's very soft and prone to dings.
  19. vvvmmm


    Dec 6, 2016
    Basswood is better than crappiewood, mebbe not as good as troutwood.

    Wait, is this the right forum?
    MovinTarget likes this.
  20. Basstigator


    Sep 23, 2017
    Guild Pilot has a maple body. A wonderful machine, I might add. As far as basswood goes, my house is surrounded by them. Beautiful smell in the spring, but, when they run, the sap will seal a car's doors shut... that tree moves a lot of fluids - for whatever that's worth. And, they grow fast. That normally means not so strong...
    FilTurd likes this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jul 25, 2021

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