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Old October 23rd, 2012, 04:40 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Properties of ply

Recently I asked about the merits of mdf and ply as building materials. I have been tasked with building a CHEAP but GOOD QUALITY and HARDWEARING bass. Which is something of a challenge. So I'm thinking of using ply, but what effect will that have on the guitars tone? How Hard wearing is ply? And if both of these are negatives how can I counteract them?

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Old October 23rd, 2012, 04:49 PM   #2 (permalink)
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MDF is dimensionally stable, dense, heavy as crap, and can be hard on tools (its full of glue and shop floor sweepings). Plywood, on the other hand, is lighter, easier to work with for flat surfaces, but it's hard to get the edges to look good without tons of filler. Also, unless you buy hardwood plywood (i know woodcraft sells birch) there are likely voids between the plys that will show up at the most unlikely places.

Any particular reason you're looking at these materials?

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Old October 23rd, 2012, 04:59 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Prolonged exposure to MDF dust can be bad for your health too - it's full of formaldehyde of one sort or another ( at least here in Oz), so when working with it, at least use a good quality dust mask - especially when routing.
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Old October 23rd, 2012, 05:07 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Also, MDF is basically resonance free, so it will sound dull, and the edges can break very easily, especially if it gets wet.
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Old October 23rd, 2012, 05:33 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Mdf?
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Old October 23rd, 2012, 05:38 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Thanks for all the info bout mdf but could u tell me more about ply plz? Should I "frame" it in hardwood? I.e put thin hardwood covers on the top and bottom and a thin hardwood outline around it?
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Old October 23rd, 2012, 05:44 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Plenty of hardwoods are just a little more expensive than plywood, especially the decent hardwood plywood you're likely to need to produce a nice-looking guitar. I'd just buy some poplar. Your "hardwood frame" idea sounds like FAR more work than it needs to be just for the sake of making the edges look good; besides, good luck gluing your hardwood frame to the end-grain of the plywood.

A very cost-effective solution with good tone? IKEA shelving. It will dent, but not as easily as you'd think... and no moreso than plywood.
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Old October 23rd, 2012, 05:48 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Why would you want to use either of them? Given the work that goes into an instrument and the availability (I assume even in the UK you can find ash, alder or sycamore) of good woods there's little reason to waste all that time using materials better suited for cheap bookcases.
Save the MDF for your routing patterns.

Edit: Picton, you're too quick for me!
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Old October 23rd, 2012, 05:49 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I think good plywood is actually higher priced than cheaper hardwoods. I think I'd go the hardwoods route unless the player of the instrument requests plywood.
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Old October 23rd, 2012, 05:56 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Ply because a friend of mines garage is full of the stuff so that I can get loads for free. However he has a rather small amount of hardwood that is needed for necks and fretboards
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Old October 23rd, 2012, 06:23 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Plywood works fine for guitar - I've got a ply Bullet that sounds great. But bass is going to be a problem, I suspect - my one beef with the Bullet is that it lacks bottom end, and that could make the future bass owner very unhappy.

But hell, if you're getting it for free, give it a shot. Worst thing that can happen is you'll have to do it all over again with hardwood. For a beater bass, there is only one, BTW - swamp ash. A bonus is that it's a great sounding wood for bass.

Let us know how this goes if you do the ply body. I'm interested in how it works out for bass.
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Old October 23rd, 2012, 06:37 PM   #12 (permalink)
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[QUOTE=20721;4534928]Plywood works fine for guitar - I've got a ply Bullet that sounds great. But bass is going to be a problem, I suspect - my one beef with the Bullet is that it lacks bottom end, and that could make the future bass owner very unhappy.

The "ply" used in old Squier IIs , Bullets and some other instruments is laminated hardwood, often nato or similar species. While not very resonant, it can sound pretty decent. I had a Samick-built Washburn that was a nice sounding and playing instrument dispite having a multilayer body.

Think of it like the "pancake body" Les Pauls of the '70s. Multiple layers of mahogany covered by a piece of maple.
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Old October 23rd, 2012, 06:40 PM   #13 (permalink)
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For cheap, I'd just go to Lowes or Home Depot and get a nice 2x6 of Southern Yellow Pine.
Or some 1" poplar boards and glue em up.
Pine sounds pretty darn good, esp if you get a light piece.
Poplar sounds kinda neutral, prob closest to Alder.
Yes, both pine and poplar ding easily, but so what?
Paint with several coats of cheap enamel.
Both are easy to work and easy on tools too.
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Old October 23rd, 2012, 06:41 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I'm confused, isn't there several commercially available plywood and MDF guitars? Including Fender??
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Old October 23rd, 2012, 06:51 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by teleforumnoob View Post
For cheap, I'd just go to Lowes or Home Depot and get a nice 2x6 of Southern Yellow Pine.
Or some 1" poplar boards and glue em up.
Pine sounds pretty darn good, esp if you get a light piece.
Poplar sounds kinda neutral, prob closest to Alder.
Yes, both pine and poplar ding easily, but so what?
Paint with several coats of cheap enamel.
Both are easy to work and easy on tools too.
I use a lot of poplar and I'd say swamp ash dings far more easily.
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Old October 23rd, 2012, 07:16 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I use a lot of poplar and I'd say swamp ash dings far more easily.
+1

For what this is worth (if I recall your other thread) this project has to have an "acoustic" component to it, correct? If this is true, find some masonite, not MDF, build a "rim" with the plywood, and use the masonite for the top and back (Danelectro style ). I'd make a decent size body, 2 to 3 inches thick, to let the bass have at least some acoustic properties (if kinda quiet. Also, like the Danelectro, do a "short scale" bass, 30 inches max. If you have a regular bass to go by, mark your fretboard from the 2nd fret of the standard bass neck (34 inch scale) down toward the heel, and you will have your 30 inch scale, bass fretboard. With a decent sized body, you should get a decent "thump" from it. You can add a simple piezo under the bridge (hollow body, remb?) and even amplify it fairly decently.
I hope this helps............it's damn near convinced me to build one
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Old October 23rd, 2012, 07:18 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Wait till you try to get a nice finish on plywood.
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Old October 23rd, 2012, 08:03 PM   #18 (permalink)
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The plywood is free so try it. Heck, forget about being nice about it if and just make a rough body, slap a bridge and pickup on it and make some noise. Could have your answer in an afternoon.
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Old October 23rd, 2012, 08:22 PM   #19 (permalink)
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At my local hardware store is knot-free pine perfect for a nice light 5 piece guitar body for under $20.
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Old October 23rd, 2012, 09:12 PM   #20 (permalink)
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For what it's worth, I've owned and played four plywood bodied Strat copies in the last couple of years--a Squire, two Peavey Raptor I International Series and an Ibanez Gio. Got all of them in garage sales or Craigslist for cheap. All of them actually sounded very good; the Ibanez had such good sustain that I was surprised to find out it was plywood when I took the tremolo cover off. None of them weighed any more than your average solid-bodied Strat or Strat copy either.

I kept one of the Peaveys as a beater and either sold or gave away the others--absolutely nothing wrong with any of them, and in fact, the Ibanez was an exceptional guitar--because the necks were too thin for my taste. (The Peavey, which I paid $50 for, has one of the best-feeling necks I've ever played.)
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