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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

REALISTIC thoughts on poplar bodies?

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by 11 Gauge, May 26, 2004.

  1. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 21, 2003
    Near BWI Int'l
    i need some help, desperately.

    i have a bit of a dilemma - i've got a '95 MIM that plays great, and i'm very happy with.

    even so, it can be further improved. the finish is a little funky in spots, and i'd like to add a Callaham bridge.

    thing is, is it really worth it? i mean - how far off from being a "real wood" is poplar, other than it's not too pretty when you're doing translucent finishes?

    the dilemma deepens, because i can get an ashtray plate and Warmoth body for the cost of the Callaham bridge and getting the poplar body refinished (or at least stripped), roughly.

    but i guess this all boils down to if poplar is a 'real' wood or not. if it is, i should probably keep the body and rework it, don't you think?

    if poplar is a junk wood, can anyone clearly cite why, in detail?

  2. Raymond

    Raymond Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2003
    Herndon, VA
    I think that poplar is as good as any other wood. BTW, it's "real wood", just not as hard as others, like Ash or Alder.

    The reason why early Fenders used Ash is because it was plentiful and cheap at the time! I know that nearly everyone will disagree with me, but I don't care.

    I find funny that whenever Ash gets expensive, Fender goes for Alder, and if Poplar is cheaper, heck, they'd use Poplar. That's why some MIMs are Poplar and others Alder. The market price decides which wood will be used, not the so-called "tonal" properties....It's a busines after all.

    Of course there are differences, but that doesn't mean that Poplar is crap.

    Kevin once said to me: "Had Leo Fender lived in Virginia, all those early blackguards would've been Poplar not Ash"
    I agree 100%.

    Here's the key:

    That's your guitar and your getus. Do whatever makes you happy. Follow you heart and if in doubt, think what you really want out of the retrofit, more tone? better looks?. The type of wood should not inflence such desicion.


  3. Brad

    Brad Tele-Afflicted

    Mar 17, 2003
    Tacoma, WA
    I agree with Raymond.....

    Poplar is an excellent "real" tonewood. One of my teles is a nice, one piece poplar ( thanks Kevin ) bodied baby. It has a set of underwound, vintage style Electrokraft pups ( thanks John ) in it. It is a wonderful sounding guitar. I have three friends lusting after it as we speak.

    I agree it's not the purdiest wood in the world, but I much prefer tone over looks.

  4. Ray G

    Ray G Tele-Holic

    Mar 17, 2003
    New Jersey
    Thumbs Up for Poplar

    Got a Poplar Tele that I think is as good as anything made of Ash or Alder. As mentioned earlier it is a bit softer than Ash/Alder but that's the one and only knock against it and even so it aint a big deal unless someone really beats up their guitar.
    I think Poplar is just fine.

    Good Luck!

  5. e-merlin

    e-merlin Doctor of Teleocity

    Jan 13, 2004
    Garden City, KS
    I really think that the type of wood is not a big factor in the tone of an electric guitar. You'll find just as much tone difference in five guitars made with the same wood as you will in five made with different woods.

    I've had the same set of pickups in three (maybe more) guitars with bodies of different woods and not found much difference in tone.

    It may play some small part in the overall tone of a guitar but I think that the "tonewood" urban legend has more merit in accoustic guitars than in solidbody electric.

  6. lenny

    lenny Banned

    i agree. real wood shmeal wood. if you like it who cares:) not to say poplar isn't good, i'm just goin with a worst case scenario.
    the body just needs to hold the neck on and get some stuff screwed to it,right? (;)) so after that, if it's light and resonant and you like it, i say end of discussion

  7. GilmourD

    GilmourD Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 28, 2003
    Rutherford, NJ
    I've got two poplar bodied Teles, a poplar bodied Strat, a poplar bodied P-bass, and a poplar bodied Jazz Bass. They're keepers. If that's not a testimony for poplar, I dunno what is. :)

  8. TonyBlack

    TonyBlack Tele-Meister

    Mar 16, 2003
    new york city

    CAN be pretty too!!!
    I did this one years ago while I worked at BC Rich in NJ.
    My friend did the finish,aquamarine stain,NECK and all!!
    With a vintage Dimarzio Distortion it screams and is nice and lightweight.

  9. Bob Rogers

    Bob Rogers Tele-Afflicted

    Mar 16, 2003
    Blacksburg, VA
    Two points: One is an opinion. One a demonstrable fact.
    -> The opinion is that poplar guitar can sound excellent. If you have a poplar guitar that sounds good to you, I think you should keep it.
    ->The fact is that there are people in the world who think that any guitar made of poplar must be a piece of junk. (Go to sites like FDP and do search on poplar.) If you want to impress these people you had better not have a poplar guitar...or an amp that's not get the idea.

    Have confidence in your own ears and ignore what others think.

  10. JBandtheSalts

    JBandtheSalts Tele-Holic

    Apr 16, 2003
    Lancaster, PA
    i recall hearing about fenders from the 60s that were poplar and the owners didnt know they were poplar until the finish wore also like to add that i think poplar is a great guitar wood, but for some reason its rather under-rated...i suppose its due to the fact that lots of poplar has these ugly green/brown (or any color for that matter) streaks in it, which are caused by minerals in the ground where the tree grew...-john

  11. TheViking

    TheViking Tele-Holic

    Aug 31, 2003
    If you are happy with the way your guitar plays, feels and sounds, why care what people might think of the wood used to build it. In my studio i have a 5 string bass with a poplar body. I had a bass player there a while ago, on the breaks he was going on abt how he never would even look at a poplar bass, strangly enough he was crazy abt my 5string until i told him what was hiding under the jet black finish.

  12. Loco

    Loco Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 13, 2003
    Dorset, England
    I'm guessing that the stigma about poplar bodies started around the same time that Mexico started building Fender guitars? Fender purists and proud owners of MIA guitars instantly wrote them off as crap. Mud sticks unfortunately and the MIM and poplar body stigma continues even today. The fact is poplar is not a poor quality tonewood.

    Here in the UK we have a luthier building guitars much more expensive than any MIM Fender; going by the (unfortunate?) name of Woodworm. He use poplar for the bodies (albeit with a maple cap) on one or two of his beautiful offerings. Check out this link:

  13. owb3

    owb3 TDPRI Member

    Jun 5, 2003
    Here's my poplar tele with a translucent finish . . .

    . . . and if you think it's ugly, please keep it to yourself! Hee! Hee!

    Guess sometimes I might wonder what it would sound like if it were ash, but I bought it cause it was a B-Bender tele and it happened to be made of poplar. No way I wasn't going to buy it because of that. Turns out four years later, this is the best tele I've ever owned.

  14. Kevin

    Kevin Friend of Leo's

    Mar 16, 2003
    Terre Haute, IN
    Personally, I like poplar.

    The tone, to my ears, is somewhere between ash and alder, and the weight is much more consistent. It's fairly easy to cut, as well.

    I think it works best with an opaque finish, but that's just MHO.

  15. Raymond

    Raymond Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2003
    Herndon, VA
    Re: Here's my poplar tele with a translucent finish . . .



    Owb3, that's just awesome...Once again, a picture does more that words...

  16. maxsmith

    maxsmith Tele-Meister

    Jun 16, 2004
    I briefly had a MIM '60s Classic Tele - white w/rosewood neck and mint pickguard - bought it so I could pretend I was Steve Cropper - it was poplar and had a great tone - you could definitely cop the Stax stuff with it.

    I got rid of it, though - too many pickups...

  17. Louis73

    Louis73 TDPRI Member

    Feb 17, 2004
    When the finish goes away

    I had a MIM sunburst strat made of poplar who saw a lot of action. Tone was good, very close (identical?) to alder. The problem is strictly cosmetic. Poplar has a greenish color. It may have a nice tinted "trans" color look. The grain of the wood is nice. But, when the finish is worn down (gone), that greenish color spoils the "vintage-worn" look. If you plan to keep your guitar long enough to have it look like "SRV's Number One", well it just won't look good. The worn back and sides of my poplar strat were somewhat green and "ugly". No big deal for most musicians but if you want a good "old" looking guitar, poplar won't do.

  18. Darrell

    Darrell Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2003
    Houston, Texas
    My take

    I have a poplar tele and an alder. The difference is not glaring until you do one of two things...
    1) Play the poplar on a vintage amp
    2) Or play an ash guitar right after it.

    Then you notice the difference. I have debated that poplar worked "as good", until I did these two things.

    So, I bought a finished ash body for my MIM standard this week. I will have it put together next week.

    If you like your poplar tele...DO NOT GO to the guitar store and play the MIM ash models. I made that mistake.

  19. dhdfoster

    dhdfoster Tele-Holic

    Apr 28, 2003
    San Francisco, CA

  20. Darrell

    Darrell Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2003
    Houston, Texas
    I would be with on this

    But my ears don't decieve me. But we will know soon enough. Trust me, I would like to be proven wrong.

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