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Guitar builders: why not box elder?

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by hemingway, Apr 14, 2018.

  1. hemingway

    hemingway Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 14, 2012
    London, UK
    I recall seeing one box elder tele project on here a few years back, but I think that's it. I'd have thought such a beautiful wood would be more popular with builders.

    Is there a reason why it isn't? Is it expensive or unstable or anything?

    Just thought I'd ask.
  2. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Mar 16, 2003
    Arlington, VA
    It's no readily available in the right dimensions--I've never seen it
  3. DavidV

    DavidV TDPRI Member

    Dec 9, 2017
    Springfield, MO
    It doesn't have any commercial value like ash or alder do so you won't find it at any hardwood dealers. If you find someone with a bandsaw mill then you can get it for pennies, much like hackberry. After thoroughly dried both are stable enough.

    If it helps your searching, box elder is a type of soft maple. Less dense than red maple but more dense than silver.
  4. LeftFinger

    LeftFinger Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 16, 2015
    Up here we call it Manitoba Maple .
    Makes good firewood
    RyCo1983 likes this.
  5. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    May 1, 2003
    Jacksonville, FL
    no one's ever asked for it.... probably suggests something.. :p

  6. D'tar

    D'tar Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 11, 2013
    Finished guitar sounds too boxy!:rolleyes:
    waparker4 and 2blue2 like this.
  7. erix

    erix TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

    May 12, 2014
    Richland, MI
    I used to live in a house surrounded by those trees. In the spring the south elevation of the house was covered in those d#*$ed black and red bugs.

    If I had a guitar made of box elder I’d be afraid of being swarmed by the harmless, yet extremely gross, critters every time the body got warmed up by stage lights!
    2blue2 likes this.
  8. LeftFinger

    LeftFinger Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 16, 2015
    We call them Box Elder beetles
    Milspec likes this.
  9. edvard

    edvard Tele-Holic

    May 15, 2016
    Bremerton, WA
    According to the Wood Database, the Janka hardness of Box Elder is 720 lbf which makes it a bit harder than Alder, and a bit softer than Ash, but the strength-to-weight ratio isn't great; at ~30 lbs per cubic foot, weight is also between Alder and Ash, but the Modulus of Rupture, Elastic Modulus, and Crushing Strength are all worse than White Pine. I don't know exactly what that means applied to guitar building, so YMMV. On the bright side, those specs look at least a little better than Basswood :eek:, so I think your chances are actually good.
    2blue2 likes this.
  10. teletimetx

    teletimetx Poster Extraordinaire

    Jul 25, 2011
    Houston, TX
    Barncaster, DavidV, tintag27 and 2 others like this.
  11. dsutton24

    dsutton24 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Dec 29, 2010
    If you have it available, I can't think of a reason not to use it. I've used poplar, catalpa, Kentucky coffeebean, cedar, sycamore, and probably a few more that I'm not thinking of. I like using unusual woods. Here's the coffee bean guitar:

    Coffee Bean Telecaster.png
  12. hemingway

    hemingway Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 14, 2012
    London, UK
    Yes, it's that beautiful red figure that appeals to me. If you google box elder guitar there are a few beauties - just not enough.
    2blue2 likes this.
  13. I've used box elder for knife handles; I had a couple of chunks of it with incredible figuring. It's still popular for knife handles, it's often dyed to accent the figuring and some folks use a stabilizing process to enhance it's durability. I think it would work really well as a "top" on a solid body guitar.

    Somewhere in my stash I've still got a bunch of sample pieces of different colored dyed and stabilized pieces of box elder that a guy sent me. He had a small operation that dealt in smaller pieces of fancy wood - stuff for knife handles, rifle stocks, pistol grips, etc.

    Best Regards,
  14. archetype

    archetype Fiend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Jun 4, 2005
    Williamsville NY
    Box Elder through a 5F1 with a cigar box guitar! You'd need to play songs by The Boxmasters.
    2blue2 likes this.
  15. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    In the Midwest these are the 'weed' version of trees. Fast growing everywhere they get a chance to start, easy to get knocked down by wind and ice storms. Often seen in the photographs of a tree growing up through an old car or tractor or fence rows.

    You can tap them like sugar maples.

    Because of where and how they grow they don't seem to produce nice straight eight to sixteen foot trunks. We had trees with three to four foot diameter trunks but not a straight section in any. They get that big and you worry about the house so we took them down. In a managed wood lot they could probably grow straight.

    Guitar bodies are fine to use them but I'd not want to try a neck beyond experimenting (probably fine but I'd be suspicious). I plan on building with it sometime but I don't have direct access to them where I'm at now. I'll probably help a neighbor sometime with a downed tree and save a bit from the fire.

    They are probably not at the fancy wood store for the same reason that island called 'Pig Island' could not get many tourists. Then they changed the name to 'Paradise Island' and they can't slow the tourism down.

    teletimetx, hemingway and 2blue2 like this.
  16. Milspec

    Milspec Friend of Leo's

    Feb 15, 2016
    Any wood that can hold a screw should be a useable wood for guitar bodies. In my neighborhood, box elders are everywhere. I have a large one in my front yard (upper canopy about 55 feet) that nearly took out my house when the trunk literally split in half in a wind storm. I cut all the large branches off of one side and strapped the trunk together and it healed. The thing keeps growing, but the old stumps of the removed limbs are rotted now and the whole tree will have to come down one of these days. Mine actually has a very straight trunk up 12 feet, but outside of firewood, I can't imagine using that wood for much else.
  17. Milspec

    Milspec Friend of Leo's

    Feb 15, 2016
    Dear God my Father would have killed me for using a chain saw that size without wearing protection. It takes only the smallest of contact and those jeans would pull his leg right into the saw.
  18. Rock-Ola

    Rock-Ola Tele-Meister

    Nov 26, 2009
    Hellsinkin', Finland
    That box elder stump would make for a big pile of gorgeous drop tops.

    I'm a big fan of alternate wood. I'm also a big fan of affordable wood. The two sometimes coincide, which is nice.
    TigerG likes this.
  19. Milspec

    Milspec Friend of Leo's

    Feb 15, 2016
    Now a really good wood that people rarely use would be willow. They just don't show up around me or I would definitely use it for guitars or cabinets.
  20. edvard

    edvard Tele-Holic

    May 15, 2016
    Bremerton, WA
    I did a brief search, and Box Elder seems to be in short supply as straight lumber. More common is live-edge slabs and resin-stabilized turning blanks. I see a lot of folks clearing them out of tree stands asking if they make good firewood, and complaining about rotten heartwood. If I were in the Midwest with some friends clearing them out, I might ask after some slabs, but beyond that it looks like it's mostly unavailable commercially because nobody wants it, and it's too crooked to get much clear lumber out of.
    LeftFinger likes this.
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