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In praise of poplar!

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by EspyHop, Jun 10, 2018.

  1. mgreene

    mgreene Tele-Holic

    661
    Jan 27, 2010
    south carolina
    I had a basswood Ibanez that was worked on by none other than Cezar Diaz. I hated it - before and after. (Sorry) :p
     

  2. schmee

    schmee Friend of Leo's

    Jun 2, 2003
    northwest
    No veneer, (it's white) at least that I can see in the neck pocket etc.
     
    asnarski likes this.

  3. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

    Nov 30, 2013
    Horn Lake, MS
    Fender, Gibson, Epiphone and Danelectro have all used Poplar.
     

  4. schmee

    schmee Friend of Leo's

    Jun 2, 2003
    northwest
    My experience is very different. Multiple examples of guitars I've tried to make work for me with different pickup, pots, caps etc.. to little avail. Yes it makes some difference for sure, but you wont change the nature of the beast. One example is a Gibson L6S guitars, three different ones. I must have tried a half dozen pickups, including HB's, P90, and Strat SC even. Very little change in the bright icepick tone of an all maple guitar.
    My latest attempt is an acoustic small 2.75" thick mahogany body guitar. I love it , The built in piezo system works well but you cant get away from middy tone with it even with the EQ. I made a soundhole adaptor as I wanted to use it as a kind of jazzy guitar in the duo. So far I have had 2 HB's, a hot strat SC, a Filtertron in it. ... but it's very middy. with them all.
    However, if you get into Hendrix volume levels, or the more electronic pedals etc you add the less it matters what the guitar is made of. The lower volume and smaller room you play the more it matters.
     

  5. schmee

    schmee Friend of Leo's

    Jun 2, 2003
    northwest
    Also, I have a book shelf here I made from Poplar lumber. It seems about the same hardness as Alder to me. Basswood is softer though, I have carved that wood carving.
     
    asnarski likes this.

  6. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 30, 2003
    Ontario County
    I believe I read that poplar is botanically related to Alder. I have built quite a few bodies out of it and never thought that it dented any easier than anything else with a comparable density.

    swinger%20body_zps3c6b8afd.jpg

    lesg.jpg

    stratele.jpg poplar2.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2018

  7. tfarny

    tfarny Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 4, 2008
    Hudson Valley, NY
    I'm not saying that all guitars sound exactly like their pickups. There are lot of ingredients in the tone soup. I just reject the idea that a wood SPECIES as opposed to an individual example has some clearly audible, repeatable contribution to the sound. Even in your own examples you are not changing the bridge, scale length, etc. Nobdy can tell an LP custom (all hog) from a standard (maple cap), nobody can even tell a tele from an LP once the whole band kicks in and the amps get turned up. The whole thing is just overblown to the nth degree.

    I just swapped out a strat pickguard loaded with typical strat pickups and a strat trem for a Fender '52 RI bridge pickup in a tele bridge and the tone is utterly transformed (see sig pic). Does not sound remotely like the same guitar. Wood is the same all over.
     
    Mr. Lumbergh likes this.

  8. SPUDCASTER

    SPUDCASTER Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Actually, the Tulip tree(Liriodendron) is closer related to the magnolia than the poplar.

    Still called a yellow poplar or tulip poplar most commonly. For whatever reasons.

    I guess I thought we were talking about poplar in general. It's all good.
     

  9. archetype

    archetype Fiend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Jun 4, 2005
    Williamsville NY
    It's veneered top and back. The neck pocket is cut down into the body where you can see the poplar. The main purpose of the veneer is to make finishing easy: the veneer covers all the glue joints and the finishers don't need to worry about getting them filled, sanded, or anything. On a transparent finish like a white blonde or sunburst, they use a good, ash veneer that's often bookmatched for looks. The dark part of the burst is very opaque to hide the edge of the veneer on something like a Strat where the arm and belly contours would make it show.
     

  10. I built this poplar olive caster 2 years ago. Some great Lawrence Micro coils make some mega sweet sounds the owner loves. Great wood to work with.

    1528854053579.jpg 1528854131861.jpg
     

  11. EspyHop

    EspyHop Tele-Meister

    Age:
    44
    108
    May 28, 2018
    Dayton, OH
    I have two MIM Teles that have the same pickups (Twang King & Broadcaster) and wiring, including 4-way switching. One is poplar and the other is alder. The poplar guitar has a good clean sound and a great humbucker sound, while the alder guitar has an amazing clean sound, but only a so-so humbucking sound.

    I previously had a Duncan Seth Lover in the neck on the poplar guitar, and that also sounded great.

    If I could only keep one, it would be the poplar. While it’s clean isn’t as good as alder, it’s a more versatile guitar overall.
     

  12. tfarny

    tfarny Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 4, 2008
    Hudson Valley, NY
    That's great, but it is not evidence for anything. They are not the same pickups, the same neck, and so on. They are only the same model of pickups, same model of neck. The differences you vaguely describe could easily be due to differences in the maple that makes up the necks (one lighter, one denser, whatever) and / or differences in pot and cap values. They are not the same guitar. Point is, you don't know what ingredients are causing the difference, but you ascribe the difference to the obvious "wood A versus wood B" which causes the tonewood debate to rage endlessly forever.
    Poplar is a great wood for guitars.
     

  13. EspyHop

    EspyHop Tele-Meister

    Age:
    44
    108
    May 28, 2018
    Dayton, OH
    Both have Twang King neck and Broadcaster bridge pickups, Oak Grigsby 4-way switches, 250k CTS pots, and .003 caps. I specifically made the alder guitar to be backup for the poplar guitar and used the same components. The necks are both 9.5 all maple Mexican Standard and feel identical.

    The only other difference is the poplar guitar doesn’t have brass saddles (and I hope to have Armadillo rectify that), but I used G&L brass saddles on it when I had the Seth Lover in the neck, and it still had that classic humbucker sound.
     

  14. Mincer

    Mincer Tele-Meister

    Age:
    48
    275
    Dec 19, 2017
    Tampa Bay Area
    I have a poplar Music Man SUB1 (USA Made). It is the most mid-heavy guitar I've ever used. I have to use seriously scooped pickups (a Custom 5 and a Jazz) to make it sound even. It is a great guitar, once I found the right pickups. It is still thick sounding, but it just might be this particular piece of poplar.
     

  15. tfarny

    tfarny Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 4, 2008
    Hudson Valley, NY
    Dude. Individual parts very significantly in their tolerances. Individual pieces of wood vary by quite a bit within the same species. Just because your Honda is a great car, mine can still be a lemon. My point is, if there were both made of Alder they still wouldn't sound exactly the same and they still wouldn't be "exactly the same."

    A tree grows in a forest in a particular place. One tree is in a wet low altitude forest and grows quickly, growth rings are far apart, and the tree gets huge and the end product is lighter more flexible wood. Another tree grows in a drier, colder forest in the shade of a big mountain and grows slowly and not very large, with many narrow growth rings, heavy and very strong wood. Same species, very different qualities to the resulting piece of wood.
     

  16. jfgesquire

    jfgesquire Tele-Meister

    Age:
    51
    156
    May 23, 2018
    Lake View
    I'm so glad to read all the positives about poplar, because before even having read this thread I picked up a poplar Telecaster body on eBay for about $53.

    Its Janka number is only a little bit below alder and it's going to get filler, primer, Dakota Red . . .

    I don't think I'll ever notice the wood tone difference, and saved a little money toward better pickups, bridge, saddles, etc that should affect sound more than the wood.
     

  17. kuvash

    kuvash Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    71
    Feb 13, 2010
    Upper California
    uh then there's only one of us up here.o_O
     

  18. archetype

    archetype Fiend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Jun 4, 2005
    Williamsville NY
    Poplar can be a good wood, but as some have said the most significant thing is the individual piece of wood you happen to have: it will contribute to a tone you like, or it won't. BTW my '98 James Burton Standard Telecaster has a multi-piece poplar body. Guitars have come and gone, but when I've been down to only one guitar :eek: that's the one I've kept. My 96/97 Jimmie Vaughan Tex Mex Stratocaster was poplar, as well, and sounded great.
     
    jfgesquire likes this.

  19. Ira7

    Ira7 Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    61
    Jan 8, 2008
    Coral Springs, FL
    I used poplar for the spars on a small travel trailer, a teardrop.

    The stuff is the strongest stuff on earth, easy to work with, but it’s soft on the surfaces and susceptible to dinging, which didn’t matter for my trailer.

    But compared to Paulownia?

    Poplar is far superior, and light as Paulownia.
     

  20. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Telefied Ad Free Member

    My Dad built two "Campaign" style floor to ceiling bookcases, and finished them in Dupont Acrylic Lacquer (Chevy Pickup Truck Colors) in the mid-late 1970s. This was old growth yellow poplar that had laid up unused for maybe a decade, and it was decently hard. The brass hardware held nicely with some skimpy #4 fairly short screws.

    I think there's enough variation, you'll see some fairly dent resistant pieces. But if it grew fast and was cut recently, it is liable to be soft.
     

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