Opinions on woods for Teles

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by theprofessor, Jun 7, 2019.

  1. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    I am about to start on a Tele build with a friend of mine who is a custom furniture builder. He wants to build a Tele, and I'm going to help out some. I'll do all the electronics and setup, and he's going to show me how to do all the woodworking and finishing as he makes his guitar. He's also going to let me use some wood from his shop to make a Tele of my own. I've already gathered all the parts but the body.

    We're going to root through his shop tomorrow to pick out wood. He told me he has (numbers following are from Janka hardness chart, just for reference):
    • Ash (Swamp Ash: 1320)
    • Mahogany (ca. 800)
    • Pecan (1820)
    • Tigerwood (ca. 2000?)
    • Guanacaste / Parota (470)
    • possibly Maple (hardness seems to vary a great deal, depending on species)
    I'm no expert on woods.

    I do know that Swamp Ash has been standard for Telecasters since their inception, as has Pine and Alder and Poplar. So, depending on what species of ash, that's a fastball over the plate, unless it's just too darn heavy.

    I know that Fender also made Teles of Mahogany, and there is even a 2018 offset mahogany Tele that they came out with. I believe I've read that Mahogany tends to sound darker.

    I've seen Teles made of Maple--or at least with Maple tops, and I believe I've heard tell that those tend to be brighter.

    Tigerwood would likely have to be chambered or be made into a thinline to make the weight reasonable. I know it's reputed to be dense and heavy.

    I have heard of Guanacaste being used in acoustic builds, but I'm not sure of solid-body builds.

    I know nothing of Pecan and guitars, but dang Pecan is hard!

    What advice can you folks give on all the above? Thanks!
     
  2. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Alder, some Ash, Poplar, some Pines, and Basswood will provide you with a tele body in the 4 lb to 4.5 lb range. Poplar has a yellowish green cast to it and most people paint it with opaque paint. Alder looks like American Cherry and looks nice painted or clear. Ash has nice looking grain but is open grained and could require pore filling if you want a smooth finish. Poplar is great to paint. Pecan( Hickory) is hard as heck and heavy too. Maple is on the heavy side.


    Getting a body that is too light could result in neck dive. Getting a body that is too heavy could result in a tired back.

    I've never been able to identify the wood in a tele by listening to one. I guess it boils down to most any wood will work for a body that is dry and defect free ( even some defects will still work out) and it's a matter of what you prefer.

    Doing a thinline could help reduce weight if you choose a really dense wood to use.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2019
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  3. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    I'm a wood slut. I choose wood on the basis of grain, color, bling, with the knowledge that many of our really pretty woods will soon be gone. Leo was not a wood slut, in fact he wasn't even a guitar player. He chose woods based on availability, workability, all the right reasons at the time.

    I also build acoustics. I've built from most of the popular and traditional woods. I've listened to a ton of acoustic, been part of blind listening tests. My conclusion is that I mostly can't tell a difference when the lights are out.

    I've built four tele's out of the same pine board from an old barn. Each guitar got different pickups. When played side by side by the same player with the same pick thru the same amp, they sound different.

    I built a chambered mahogany tele with a maple cap and it has the same pickups as one of those four from the barn wood. It sounds a whole lot like that guitar.

    You have listed one engineering property of your various woods, but of course the properties of wood varies dramatically, not only from piece to piece but within a given board. Properties that some people think are important include the density, Young modulus (stiffness, both with and across the grain), speed of sound transmission, workability with hand tools, ease of finish with products we normally use. Of the choices you list, I would consider ash for a basic slab bodied tele, if the maple is really nice I would consider a maple cap on a mahogany body. I happen to have pecan hardwood floors in my 100 year old house - that stuff is really hard (and quite lovely) - I'm not sure I would build a guitar from it.

    Bottom line, it really doesn't matter.....
     
  4. Milspec

    Milspec Friend of Leo's

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    Tele is pretty forgiveable in the wood selections, you really just need something that can hold a screw well. Some woods are not so good at that like new pine or American Basswoods. My favorite has been antique pine by far, it is hard enough yet very light and looks fantastic. After that, alder, ash, maple, and even mahogany all make for good body woods. In my collection, the best ones have been antique pine and alder.
     
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  5. trev333

    trev333 Telefied Ad Free Member

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    @ 4 1/2 lbs finished weight is good wood...;)
     
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  6. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    .


    Go with local woods when you can. Don't need to encourage cutting down more of the rain forest, right.
    Watch the weight.

    Remember that your pots will have a tolerance range of 20% and are in direct line with the signal to the amp. That's where a lot of the 'brightness' 'darkness' comes from or can certainly be tweaked if you think your guitar wood is too much something. Pickup heights can be adjusted a wide range of bright and dark levels too.

    This is a pine body and pine neck, and I think no truss rod. Best to build with a truss rod though.



    .
     
  7. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    I was just listening to that clip today. Kirchen's guitar makes me want to find some good pine in his shop and use that.

    As far as electronics go, I'm no expert, but I do think I know what's what. I now measure everything. My pots are either 249k or 250k, my tone cap is 33mF on the nose, etc. And I am startled every time I work with pickup height how much that makes a difference in sound. Just the tiniest turn...

    The neck has a truss rod. It's a Warmoth vintage-spec'd roasted maple neck. 7.25" radius, boatneck, 6105 SS frets, 1-5/8" nut width, vintage-sized tuner reams. I'll receive it next week.

    VT1878A.jpg
     
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  8. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    10 million pointy neck guitars were built with new basswood during the 1980's, most with trems. Pine holds screws just fine too. Perhaps worn out holes from excessive abuse or too large a bit used for the drilling could theoretically strip out, but that's not the wood's fault. A little glue down the hole will harden those fibers by the way.

    https://www.sweetwater.com/c590--Fender_Basswood_Solidbody_Guitars

    These days Pawlonia aka Princess Wood (which is even less dense than basswood) is used in a few million new guitars.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2019
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  9. Milspec

    Milspec Friend of Leo's

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    Canadian Basswood will hold a screw well, but I have not had good luck with American Basswood at all. The regions matter with that wood. New Pine will hold a screw, yes, but they often don't handle multiple removal / installations as well so upgrades become troublesome. Sure glue would help, but if your wood selection requires adding glue to screw holes then it wasn't the best wood in the first place at holding threads....especially when there are better choices out there like alder.

    But, I say this only based on what I ran into building and modding my own gear, I am not a production facillity.
     
  10. Treadplatedual

    Treadplatedual Tele-Holic

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    Poplar, Alder and mahogany are all safe bets.
     
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  11. Teleterr

    Teleterr Friend of Leo's

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    ? Swamp Ash is harder than Mahogany ?

    I d say anything but Maple. W a Maple neck it might be too much of a good thing. Guanacaste looks pretty and its light; that or a Tiger top on Ash would look good and not be too heavy. If you plan to use it just sitting, either Tiger or Mahogany w a Tiger top for good bass.
     
  12. TeleTucson

    TeleTucson Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

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    I think a lot of enthusiasts get wood as soon as they start thinking about their new Tele.

    I'd recommend curbing the enthusiasm a bit and scour the web until you find a great example of what you'd like to have - there's no shortage of inspirational photos :D
     
  13. eallen

    eallen Tele-Afflicted

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    Use the wood you that is easy to get and use. Leo seems to have. I pick my wood with no regard to a resulting sound, but solely by the look myself or whoever wants it, weight, and ease to work with. Not a sole has even played one of my builds and wished it was a different wood.

    Eric
     
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  14. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    I'm using some of the wood my buddy has in his shop, because he is going to give it to me. I'm simply asking if any among his stock might be better than another.
     
  15. mefgames

    mefgames Tele-Afflicted Platinum Supporter

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    Nothin like a good piece of ash !!!
     
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  16. LudwigvonBirk

    LudwigvonBirk Tele-Holic

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    Ash is relatively abundent in the US, mills very well, doesn't smoke (my) router bits like eastern maple does, doesn't have conifereous pitch problems, is stable, and can handles lots of neck-screw fiddling. Nice wood and nice trees.

    The SAD THING though is Ash (every US g.fracinus, billions of trees) is massively threatened by the Emerald Ash Borer.:(
     
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  17. Milspec

    Milspec Friend of Leo's

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    In that case, go with the ash.
     
  18. dodona

    dodona TDPRI Member

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    ash = true vintage
    alser = typical

    anything else = unauthentic BS
     
  19. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

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    I've used Oak on a couple of builds for the body.
     
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  20. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Northern Ash will weigh a ton if it is made as a solid body and not a thinline. You'll end up with a 9 or 10 lb guitar. That's why swamp ash is the preferred Ash.
     
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