Wood question

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by DastarD, Dec 28, 2021.

  1. Hi,

    Since I am a total nerd of understanding different kind of woods, I am not sure of what kind of woods are out there.
    I have posted in another topic my favorite bass, (see image), the body is made out of rosewood, but the company that I want to build it for me say they do not have 5cm thick rosewood, leaving me with a sort of shattered dream.

    In the past I really like the way walnut looks but since I saw rosewood as a body would, I am loving this.
    But now for the question, what kind of wood resembles rosewood, not for tone but how it looks or maybe another type of dark wood.

    Hope someone is willing to help me, thanks!
  2. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    There are tons of exotic woods that are sold as "rosewood" or will easily pass as rosewood substitutes. Many of them are totally inappropriate for a solid body Jazz style bass. I would say that most actual rosewoods are probably inappropriate as well. They're generally all very dense, so the bass will be extremely heavy. It's also kind of a waste in a sense since rosewood is so perfect for smaller parts (fingerboards, acoustic bridges, etc) - to me, making a whole body out of solid rosewood is like giving away a bunch of great fingerboards.

    If you want the look of rosewood but in a wood that's more appropriate for a bass body, walnut might be the best option. If you REALLY want it to look exactly like rosewood, then a piece of air dried black walnut with a gentle red or purple stain will probably pass the 5 foot test - you'll get the good grain patterns and the right overall color at least. That would be my choice in terms of "dark woods that look kinda like rosewood and are appropriate for a solid body."
  3. RichterScale


    Feb 21, 2021
    So be honest, the body in that pic actually looks a lot like stained walnut.
  4. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    I do a lot of walnut bodies. There is a ton of variation in appearance. It's one of those woods where it really helps to see the actual lumber being considered in order to make a judgement call on appearance.

    Here's a body that would have looked exactly like rosewood with a little red or purple stain:


    Other pieces are much more "flat" in appearance and don't have good contrast between light and dark grain. A lot of commercially sawn black walnut gets steamed which really washes out the color and makes it look less dramatic.
    Beej and DastarD like this.
  5. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    Roasted walnut has a lot of the depth and chatoyance of rosewood, and is just as dark or darker. It might be easier to get a hold of for your luthier.

    I don't mean this to sound critical, but rosewood in those sizes is definitely available, so I'm not sure what kinds of problems your luthier is running into. Custom boat building suppliers often have 4/4 wide boards in stock. It's controlled via CITES but not impossible to locate, at least in north america, perhaps it's more tightly controlled in europe? That said, I'd also think about it carefully for all the reasons @dwizum mentioned. It would make a heavy solid body.

    Edit: it's also very expensive in those sizes, I just looked it up and my local boat supplier charges $65/bdft for 4/4 rosewood shorts. I pay $5.50 bdft for walnut and $8 bdft for roasted walnut.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2021
  6. Agree with other comments here: All rosewoods are extremely dense and not really suitable for a solid body. I would expect a rosewood body alone to weigh about 10 lb.

    In addition, all rosewoods (Dalbergia species) are import/export restricted so it will be complicated to get it shipped internationally even if you do find a large board.

    An alternative that might work is to put a rosewood top on a less dense wood body (ex: mahogany, walnut, limba etc.).
    DrThumpenstein and DastarD like this.
  7. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    There are several species of rosewood. Not all rosewood would look like you want.

    Ovangkol, granadillo, and African Blackwood are other options. There are some others that are equally bad to rosewood from an environmental standpoint you could also consider. You could also do something like a cap on a thicker wood for the body.
    DastarD likes this.
  8. thisSNsucks

    thisSNsucks I build Grosbeak Guitars and Basses Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 19, 2004
    Yonkers, NY
    Grosbeak Guitars
    Yeah a solid rosewood jazz bass body would be heavy and expensive.

    Look up tempered butternut as an alternative wood.

    tempered tonewoods sells it. I have some but haven’t worked it yet but it looks pretty cool to me.
    gebass6 likes this.
  9. Monkey

    Monkey Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Ohio, USA
    That rosewood Jazz is beautiful, but I wouldn't want to hold it up on a long gig. I agree with others that walnut might be an acceptable alternative.

    Here is a body I built that is half walnut, half poplar, finished with Tru-Oil. It doesn't look as pretty as the rosewood, but seems like it might be in the same ballpark.
    Walnut SS (2).jpg
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  10. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    Like they all said, walnut with a stain finish will look a lot like rosewood, but lighter weight. Solid rosewood would be a boat anchor. Ive seen a few all rosewood necks, ill bet they are neck heavy! Walnut is my favorite wood, relatively easy to find, machines and finishes beautifully.
    Freekmagnet and DastarD like this.
  11. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    Warmoth will make you a walnut body with an East Indian Rosewood....it's either a very thick veneer or a thin top. You could stain the walnut to make it look closer to the front in color, and....depending on the body style you pick they'll chamber it for you. Walnut is heavy enough that that would be a good idea.

    Roasted alder is something that you could stain to look like rosewood, and it'll be a bunch lighter than walnut.
    comatosedragon and DastarD like this.
  12. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    Fender made a few rosewood Teles back in the day, Harrison used his for the famous "rooftop" concert. I've played one. They are ungodly heavy and I would never, ever want a rosewood bodied bass.
    DastarD likes this.
  13. Slidlow

    Slidlow The Human CNC Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    As others have mentioned check out walnut but look for claro walnut and even figured claro. With some money you might find boards thick enough to do a book matched body and figured claro will outshine rosewood anyday especially with an oil finish.
  14. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    If I could only own 36 basses what would they be?
    Try Walnut

  15. A9X

    A9X Inactive

    Dec 27, 2003
    I knew about the guitars, but I saw something recently that the 'rosewood' basses were some other wood and stained rosewood coloured.

    I couldn't do that. As soon as I mentioned butternut I'd cop no end of grief over it.
    DastarD likes this.
  16. Two layers coming from 1” rough cut lumber could be stacked and even more importantly allow for chambering in places that are not critical (such as in the horns) to reduce weight. Will be expensive and somewhat wasteful. But, I have heard that the Indians are growing rosewood in plantations now.
    hennessybass and DastarD like this.
  17. underwhelmist


    Nov 16, 2018
    What a great word, thanks for embiggening my vocabulary!
    motleyh, DastarD and Beej like this.
  18. Perhaps try searching for Walnut locally? English/European Walnut should be available, it's very close to American Black Walnut in weight and density and is only a shade heavier or average than mahogany. Depending on the tree it's cut from, Walnut can range from mid to very dark brown and can show some beautiful grain pattern.

    As has been mentioned by others, Walnut could be stained to darken it further if necessary and a thin cap of Rosewood could probably be found. (Acoustic guitar backs can often be found in Rosewood, they're only a few millimeters thick, but would give you the look.)
    DastarD and T_Bone_TL like this.
  19. There have been lots of experiments done with solid rosewood or other heavy wood bodies like walnut, bubinga, paduak, and others over the years (Schecter, Alembic, and Fodera are good examples). During the "More mass is better" years there were some thick, heavy instruments being churned out with brass bridges and a lot of heavy, exotic woods.

    If they sounded great, they would still be dominating the market. A real lot of those basses sounded lifeless and uninspiring, or we would be playing their clones today. There seems to be a point where greater mass is counterproductive, and that point lies well before we get up to rosewood weights.

    Get something made of one of the money body woods, like alder, ash, or mahogany, and get a rosewood top on it if you like. It will probably sound a lot better than any solid rosewood instrument.
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