Woods that don't require a finish....

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Bass Kahuna, Mar 9, 2004.

  1. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    Hey All,

    I'm interested to know of any of you who have worked with those woods that are considered to not require any type of finish due to their oily and/or dense nature, like Wenge, Canary Wood, Satine, Coco Bolo, Palisander Rosewood, Padauk, Goncalo Alves, or others.

    Have you every built an instrument from just these woods with the idea of not having to finish it? Maybe just a neck from these woods left unfinished but with a body of different wood that was finished?

    If so, were you pleased with the results? Other than some glueing problems with some of these woods (for which there are solutions), what problems did you experience? Even though they are considered to not require a finish, would a neck made from them be more susceptable to changes in temperature and humidity than if a finish, even an oil finish, was applied?

    I'm thinking of building a prototype with some of these woods, if not a full bass then at least a neck of them to see for myself for a multitude of reasons, but any insights and experience would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Tim Barber

    Tim Barber Commercial User

    Apr 28, 2003
    Serenity Valley
    Owner: Barber Music
    I did a cocobolo neck with maple FB. The maple was lacquered but I left the cocobolo unfinished. 4+ years down the road, the cocobolo has darkened and dulled somewhat so the figure is not as distinct, but the neck is still stable.
  3. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Fire Wood doesn't require any finish !!....lol
  4. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder

    I don't think this is such a crazy idea. I know that Warmoth does offer one piece necks of many of these woods with the idea that they can be left unfinished.

    Therefore, for a small variety of reasons, I am very interested in knowing of any others who have made one piece or laminated necks or whole basses/guitars from these woods and the results, especially towards the overall resulting sound and feel.

    I am going to build a few with a variety of these woods for myself, but again, would like to know of others who have done the same.


  5. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    I'm curious why you want not to finish part of the bass - especially the neck. Finish is generally applied to (1) seal the wood and protect it from humidity swings, (2) protect the wood from sweat and grit when you play it, (3) many finishes improve the hardness and durability of the wood, and (4) to deepen the appearance of the wood. So there are many compelling reasons to do it.

    I've never done such a thing so I can't help you, but several of those woods you have listed I would say are not oily enough on their own. Cocobolo and the other rosewoods are really the only ones on that list that don't seem thirsty for oil when it is applied. You get the above benefits with any of the woods that will take a significant amount of oil/finish.
  6. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Ebony and Goncalo Alves would do without finish.
    However, if not sealed, they will change size rather a lot due to humidity changes. That's a very good reason not to leave wood unfunished.
    They are also much too heavy for a useful instrument.
  7. permagrin


    May 1, 2003
    San Pedro, CA
    hey grandon,

    i've got a bubinga neck from warmoth (pau ferro board). gorgeous, very hard, very stable, sustain is great with this neck. it does not void the warranty to leave it unfinished, but i did put a thin coat of minwax clear stain on it, gave her a bit more depth. it's a reddish brown background with gold figure 8 patern running over the entire surface, very striking.

    hope you're doing well,