Body Wood Options

Good Wood = Good Tone

Good wood is paramount in achieving good tone. With over 30 years of sourcing behind us, we are well connected, and get the good stuff! We have a lot of wood on hand and are able to accommodate many special criteria, be it weight, grain, 1-piece size, etc. Give us a call. We'll see what we can do.

As you contemplate your body purchase, here are several issues to consider:

1. Looks and Appearances

Each piece of wood is inherently unique. Even within a species, every piece is going to differ from each other. The grain pattern, color, shade, weight, and density are all subject to Mother Nature's whims. This does not necessarily make one piece better or worse than another. It means that they are simply different and unique. Choose the appearance that best suits your personal taste. If the sound of a particular wood is not as pleasing to your ear as the look is to your eye then think about a laminate top. A thin laminate top will give you the appearance you are looking for without overshadowing the tone of the core body wood.

2. Sound and Weight

The sonic properties of wood vary dramatically between species, weight and density. Generally speaking, heavier woods sustain well and have a bright and articulate sound, which are all good attributes for a bass guitar. Extra light weight woods, while a great complement for a bad back, can sound indistinct or muddy especially with humbucking pickups. Medium weight woods fall in the middle and are the traditional preference. Compromises may be found by chambering or hollowing the heavier woods. These bodies remain stiff but light weight for that fat, rich tone with great sustain.

3. Finishing Characteristics

How do you wish to finish your body? Do-it-yourself finishes such as tung oil or Danish oil are the easiest to apply and look best on darker woods such as koa, walnut and korina. Brightly colored dyes only work on white western maple like quilt and flame (fiddleback). Transparent colors look best on woods with distinct grain lines such as ash. Clear gloss finishes can be sprayed on any wood but are difficult to accomplish without professional equipment.

4. Ordering

When you order, consider what features and attributes you are looking for. How are you going to finish it — clear or solid? Is weight more important than looks? What kind of tone are you seeking? The more you know, the better we can fit the right piece of wood to your needs. Call or email us if you have any questions.

Arranged in Alphabetical Order

Alder (Alnus rubra):

Alder is used extensively for bodies because of its lighter weight (about four pounds for a Strat® body) and its full sound. Its closed grain makes this wood easy to finish. Alder's natural color is a light tan with little or no distinct grain lines. It looks good with a sunburst or a solid color finish. Because of its fine characteristics and lower price, Alder is our most popular wood and it grows all around us here in Washington State. The tone is reputed to be most balanced with equal doses of lows, mids and highs. Alder has been the mainstay for Fender bodies for many years and its characteristic tone has been a part of some of the most enduring pieces of modern day contemporary music.

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Used for laminate tops X  
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Used for necks   X
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Ash (Fraxinus americana):

We have two very different types of Ash: Northern Hard Ash and Swamp Ash (Southern Soft Ash).

Northern Hard Ash is very hard, heavy and dense. A Strat® body will normally weigh 5 lbs. and up. Its density contributes to a bright tone and a long sustain which makes it very popular. Its color is creamy, but it also tends to have heartwood featuring pink to brown tints. The grain pores are open and it takes a lot of finish to fill them up.

Swamp Ash is a prized wood for many reasons. It is a fairly light weight wood which makes it easily distinguishable from Hard Ash. A Strat® body will normally weigh under 5 lbs. Many of the 50's Fenders were made of Swamp Ash. The grain is open and the color is creamy. This wood is a very nice choice for clear finishes. Swamp Ash is our second most popular wood. It is a very musical wood offering a very nice balance of brightness and warmth with a lot of "pop".

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Basswood (Tilia americana):

This is a lighter weight wood normally producing Strat® bodies under 4 lbs. The color is white, but often has nasty green mineral streaks in it. This is a closed-grain wood, but it can absorb a lot of finish. This is not a good wood for clear finishes since there is little figure. It is quite soft, and does not take abuse well. Sound-wise, Basswood has a nice, growley, warm tone with good mids. A favorite tone wood for shredders in the 80s since its defined sound cuts through a mix well.

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Bubinga (Guibourtia demeusei):

A very strong stiff wood used primarily for bass necks and in laminations. Used by Rickenbacker for fretboards and Warwick for bodies. As a bass neck, it provides bright midrange and a thick well defined bottom. Bodies made form Bubinga will be very heavy but will sustain for days.

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Koa (Acacia koa):

This very beautiful wood comes exclusively from Hawaii making supply very limited. Its weight varies somewhat from medium to heavy and is an excellent tone wood for bass guitar bodies. Koa has a warm sound similar to mahogany, but with a little more brightness. Like walnut, this wood may be oiled, but generally will look its best sprayed clear. Koa is sometimes available in flame figure.

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Figured Koa (Acacia koa):

Koa is exceptionally beautiful when it develops the flame figure. Available only in thin laminate tops and sometimes available in higher grades.

Korina, Black (Terminalia superba):

Its true name is Limba from Africa. Black Korina is usually a medium weight wood, but we occasionally get light weight pieces. It features a very handsome olive color with black streaking. Korina has a naturally waxy feel to it. Oil finishes work well on this wood. The tone is very similar to Mahogany with added mids. An excellent tonal choice for hollow chambered bodies!

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Korina, White (Terminalia superba):

Its true name is Limba from Africa. White Korina is a medium to heavy weight wood Korina has a naturally waxy feel to it. The tone is very similar to Mahogany with added mids. An excellent tonal choice for hollow chambered bodies. With a Vintage Tint Gloss on it, it resembles the famous Korina Flying Vs of the late 50s.

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Lacewood (Cardwellia sublimis):

Lacewood is imported from Australia. It's a medium weight wood. The grain design ranges from very small spots to very large spots which create its signature reptilian appearance. Lacewood looks best in the form of a bookmatched laminate top, but is also available for solid bodies. The tone is similar to Alder but the look is very exotic with a fish scale like brilliance under a gloss finish! This wood needs a spray on type finish as opposed to an oil finish.

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Used for laminate tops X  
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Mahogany (Khaya ivorensis):

We use African Mahogany in our body production. It is a medium to heavy weight wood with a Strat® body averaging 5 lbs. or more. Mahogany is a fine grained wood with great musical properties. The tone is warm and full with good sustain. The favorite tone wood of the Gibson® brand name; associated with some of the most famous rock music of our time. The grain is easy to fill. Looks good with clear or transparent red finish.

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Used for laminate tops X  
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Makore (Tieghemella heckelii):

A tropical hardwood from the west coast of Africa with a very similar color to the Mahogany family though with a finer, more lustrous surface finish. Given the normal color and texture variations found in the Mahogany family most people can’t easily distinguish one species from another. Makore can have a degree of figuring that enhances its appearance. Weight wise this wood is pretty similar to Honduran Mahogany and African Mahogany (Khaya) with a specific gravity of .62 and weighing about 39 lbs per cubic foot (Honduran Mahogany is .54 - .64 specific gravity and 34 – 40 lbs per cubic foot, African Mahogany .54 - .59 specific gravity and 34 – 36 pounds per cubic foot). For guitars this is heavy when compared to Swamp Ash and for this reason all three of these woods are much more popular when used as a chambered body. Tonality will be extremely similar to Mahoganies with the primary differences coming from the varied weights/densities within the species

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Used for laminate tops X  
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Maple (Acer saccharum-Hard Maple):

We offer two types of Maple: Eastern Hard Maple (hard rock maple) and Western Soft Maple (big leaf maple).

Hard Maple is a very hard, heavy and dense wood. This is the same wood that we use on our necks. The grain is closed and very easy to finish. The tone is very bright with long sustain and a lot of bite. This wood cannot be dyed. It looks great with clear or transparent color finishes.

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Used for laminate tops X  
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Soft Maple (Acer macrophyllum):

Western Maple grows all around us here in Washington state. It is usually much lighter weight than Hard Maple but it features the same white color. It has bright tone with good bite and attack, but is not brittle like the harder woods can be. Our flame (fiddle-back) and quilted bodies are Western Maple. This type of maple works great with dye finishes.

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Flame Maple (Acer macrophyllum-Pacific Maple):

Flame, Fiddle-Back or Tiger maple all generally refer to curls (or stripes) as illustrated here. Flame can be tight, wide, straight or crooked. While we can supply solid 1-piece or 2-piece flame bodies, this wood is most beautiful in the form of a bookmatched laminate top.

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Quilted Maple (Acer macrophyllum-Pacific Maple):

Quilted maple is a more rare form of figure occurring mostly in western maple. It is distinguished by its billowing cloud or even popcorn appearance. This figure can vary from large, wide billows to tight small blisters. As with flame, quilted maple is most often used as a bookmatched top, but is sometimes available as 1-piece or 2-piece solid bodies.

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Spalted Maple (Acer macrophyllum-Pacific Maple):

This wood is actually the product of a dead or decaying tree. The dark lines are created by fungal attack. This wood is soft and punky and is only used as a thin laminate bookmatched top on flat top bodies with binding. Spalt is difficult to finish as it soaks up a lot of finish. Don't even think about doing a "do-it-yourself" finish on this stuff. Each piece of Spalted maple is quite unique. It looks awesome with a tobacco burst finish.

Birdseye Maple (Acer saccharum-Hard Maple):

This figure is only found in the eastern hard maple trees. Birdseye does not usually run deep in the boards, so solid bodies are not available. As a bookmatched top it can be quite striking.

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Used for laminate tops X  
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Burl Maple (Acer macrophyllum-Pacific Maple):

This is a very busy looking wood usually with a lot of porosity and bark inclusions. We only use this wood for bookmatched tops. Epoxy is used to fill all voids. Burl looks fantastic finished in a natural clear gloss or as a tobacco burst!


  YES NO
Used for laminate tops X  
Used for bodies   X
Used for necks   X
Used for fingerboards   X

Padouk, African (Pterocarpus soyauxii):

Bright vivid orange color which oxidizes to a warm brown with use. This waxy feeling wood has an open grain texture similar to rosewood and a tone similar to maple with great mids and attack. This is a heavy to medium weight wood that looks great with an oil finish or clear gloss!

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Used for laminate tops X  
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Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera):

This is another standard body wood having been used by many companies over the years. Due to the grey/green color, this wood is used mostly when solid color finishes are to be applied. Its weight generally runs about one half pound more than Alder. Tonally, it is similar to Alder as well. Poplar is a closed grain wood that accepts finish well.

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Used for laminate tops X  
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Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens):

We have a nice stash of interesting figured redwood. It is available only as thin bookmatched laminate tops on flat top solid bodies. Oil finishes or a clear gloss really compliment the reddish color and figure! Redwood is not suitable for hollow bodies.

Indian Rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia):

A gorgeous exotic wood with rich thick grain covering a range of colors and patterns. These bodies dominate the heavy wood category with solid Strat® bodies always weighing in at well over 6 lbs. Specifying construction as hollow or chambered build is always a good idea if you're weight conscious. Finishes can be a little difficult to apply with the oily nature of the wood. You can expect big warm tones from rosewood with smooth high end roll off. Indian Rosewood Tele® bodies were made popular in the 70s by George Harrison of the Beatles.

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Used for laminate tops X  
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Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis):

Supplied quartersawn, this is the same wood used for acoustic guitar tops. Lightweight but stiff, the color is creamy white. Available for laminate tops only.

Walnut (Juglans nigra):

Luxurious coloring and grain patterns are the earmarks of Walnut. Whether using an oil finish or a deep clear gloss, the pleasing appeal of Walnut always delivers. This is an open grained wood. Walnut is in the heavy weight category but it's not quite as heavy as hard maple. It has a similar sound to hard maple but it tends not to be as bright.

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Used for laminate tops X  
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Figured Walnut (Juglans nigra):

The figure is predominantly flame. It is only available as a bookmatched laminate top. This is a very handsome wood.

Wenge (Millettia laurentii):

Wenge features black and chocolate brown stripes. It is usually quartersawn to yield straight grain - similar to open grained Zebrawood, but black. This body is in the heavy weight category so considering it as a hollow or chambered build is beneficial if you're weight conscious. Its weight does offer plenty of sustain though. Oil finishes are most popular on Wenge but you can also leave them unfinished as well. The tone is balanced with great mid presence and attack. This is a popular wood for boutique bass builders and its tonal reputation is impressive.

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Used for laminate tops X  
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Zebrawood (Microberlinia brazzavillensis):

You may see where Zebrawood gets its name. The distinctive look tells you it's none other than Zebrawood! This open grained wood is very heavy so it's primarily used as a bookmatched laminate top. When used as a body its tone is similar to maple.

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