Alder: What's the next best thing?

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by Rigel7, May 17, 2021.

  1. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    My post was a bit misleading probably. Alder is not that common even in hardwood specialty stores. More exotic woods often are more what they carry. You may find Zebrawood etc easier! I imagine it is around your area but who really uses it other than guitar people or commercial cabinet makers? Can you just have a blank shipped from Stew Mac or someone?
     
  2. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Back to the question: I find little difference in Alder, Poplar, Swamp Ash (not N. Ash) as far as resonance and tone.
    I'm a believer that tone wood does matter, but it's an inverse ratio with how loud you play.
    -One end of the spectrum is in front of a Marshall Stack in a Stadium. You can play Plexiglass bodied guitar here. It becomes more the amp and pickups.
    -The other end of the spectrum is jazzy soloing in a small club. Then body style and wood can matter.
     
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  3. Drak

    Drak Tele-Afflicted

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    I looked up the Halifax website.
    There were several opportunities there I liked.

    Butternut is really cool wood you don't see talked about or used a lot, but I like it.
    My terminology for it is its like the high-class version of Basswood or Pine.
    Really pretty, super light-weight, super easy to work.

    On the harder yet affordable end they had Sapele, which would probably be my choice.

    They had Walnut and Cherry too, but both are harder, heavier, and I think more expensive.

    So Sapele may not be the perfect brother to Alder, but Halifax stocks it and it's a great wood to work with for guitars.
    Less expensive than Mahogany, which I consider it's brother-wood.

    Alder is, in my personal experience, worth finding, I've built many Alder guitars and it really is a 'Fender' kind of wood IME.
    As much stock as I put into woods being a determining factor in tone, which is a little, Alder really does sound 'Fender'.

    And I agree with the many that have said Poplar is about the closest thing you'll find to Alder.
    It's just basically very not attractive, so I would be covering it up somehow.
     
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  4. DrASATele

    DrASATele Poster Extraordinaire

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    Butternut - weight can very quite a bit but it's super easy to work. Takes stain nicely and can even do the sexy wood thing if you find the right piece.
    Spruce / Doug fir - yes as solid body guitar - light weight, easy to machine, good for solid colors only draw back is probably the shrinkage between hard and soft grain which can impact the finish look. I personally like the sunken grain look after a few years but there are ways around that.
    Soft Maple - weight can be an issue depending on the piece but outside of that it checks a lot of the boxes for an easier build.
    Cherry - same a maple in many respects

    This is definitely the Poplar thread though and frankly I have to agree, if you want paint grade it's the way to go. If your concerned about the rep the Strats gave you, see what the construction of those were... if they're 6,7,9 pieces then your probably just hear the glue!...lol . . . I bet a 1 or 3 piece body sounds fantastic w/ the right neck and player ;)
     
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  5. BlueTele

    BlueTele Tele-Meister

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    Howdy - you don’t mention your fretboard wood. Before I suggest a Paulownia wood body…

    When Leo Fender didn’t like the visual appearance of his player-worn maple necks/fretboards on TV, he decided to go with rosewood to hide the play wear that the maple showed. What he discovered during development is that the rosewood tamed the trebles and warmed up the Tele tone - no more “ice pick” trebles most of the time. It is no accident that almost all of the greats played Teles with rosewood fretboards: Muddy Waters, Mike Bloomfield, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton (Yardbirds), and Robben Ford, etc. Yes…”many” Tele greats played ash bodies and maple necks/fretboards, but I noted years ago that my favorite Blues players (all of the above) played rosewood fretboard Tele’s, most with alder bodies, but some (some of the transitional ‘59’s) had ash bodies.

    One thing about alder no matter the cost, is that it is rare to find a nice piece that is “one piece.” It is out there but you’ll pay bigger $$$ for it. So if you use alder, it will likely be a 2-piece body, and there is near-divine, unwavering beliefs about the quality of tone between 1-piece vs 2-piece guitar bodies, especially Teles. Now…

    All of that said…check out Paulownia wood. It is super light weight, lighter than Swamp Ash, and stains nicely. I haven’t played a guitar made of the wood, but I have listened to several YouTube demos of Mario Martin Teles made with Paulownia wood, and they sound great! A few other builders are starting to use it. Part of Mario Martin’s business is selling pre-cut bodies and necks (the “Guitar Mill”), so you could make life easy and buy a pre-cut body and finish it the way you want. But…

    One big question: what pickups do you intend to use? Pickups are half of the tone equation as you know. Body wood and neck/fretboard wood are half, but your pickups are a huge part. If you want your “Tele” sounding like a Les Paul, then use a mahogany body (heavy unless you shape/size it’s width down to 1 1/2” thick instead of 1 3/4” like an old Gibson Melody Maker. And of course, a mahogany neck and your favorite humbuckers. But if you still want Tele twang, try Paulownia wood, maybe with that rosewood fretboard…or ash with a rosewood fretboard. I have had both Teles and Strats with ash bodies and rosewood Fretboard’s on maple necks. They sound amazing. Good luck!
     
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  6. Rigel7

    Rigel7 Tele-Meister

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    Now that's above and beyond!
    I was slightly drawn to Butternut because... well... I'd never been drawn to it before. Zero baggage!
    Thanks!
     
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  7. Rigel7

    Rigel7 Tele-Meister

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    @BlueTele Good call on what I left out. So far I've been making maple on maple 2 piece cap necks. The build on the horizon I'd like to use a piece of Indian Rosewood for the board. Pickups, TBD but I'd be going with a vintage style bridge and a vintage voiced bridge pickup - probably '60s, maybe '50s... I know that doesn't narrow it down much. The neck pickup likely will not be a Tele pickup.
     
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  8. kodiakblair

    kodiakblair Tele-Meister

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    I picked up a one piece blank of roasted Ayous last summer. It's very soft, the end grain turned to powder when doing the binding rebate.

    Headless Slab.jpg

    Personally I'd go with Poplar over Alder.
     
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  9. CapnCrunch

    CapnCrunch Friend of Leo's

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    Discussion of tonal differences between wood species in solid guitars is always interesting. There is no question that different guitar sound different, but predicting how different wood species is going to effect tone is, in my opinion, impossible. @Ronkirn has made this pretty clear in many threads here, and his experience certainly jives with my own. I have built Teles out of some very non traditional woods and combinations of body/neck/fretboard woods, and have had some eye opening experiences. I'll give you a few personal examples that I've built.

    1. Basswood body with a Eastern hard Maple cap and one piece Maple neck. This is probably my most balanced sounding Tele. It has great sustain has excellent lows and mid range and it is not spikey or overly trebly. It is a great sounding and playing guitar.

    2. Honduras Mahagony semi hollow Tele with Maple cap, Spanish Cedar neck with Cocobolo fret board. Even though this is a semi hollow guitar, it is one of the brightest guitars I've ever played. It requires significant EQ'ing on the amp. It's a great playing guitar because it is very light, but it is not nearly as balanced tone wise as #1 above. It does not have the mid range bite that you would expect from the woods used.

    3. Doug Fir body with one piece Maple neck. This guitar reminds me a lot of #1 above with the significant exception that it does not have as much low end or low mids. It sounds thinner but it is not overly bright either.

    4. Alder body with one piece Maple neck. Also very balanced. Over all a great sounding and playing guitar that I would not classify as a "bright" guitar. Interestingly, I've swapped necks on this one to experiment. I've A/B'd the one piece maple neck with a maple neck with Pau Ferro board. If you were blind folded, I don't think you could pick them apart. As a player the necks definitely feel different though and the one piece neck has more sustain and sounds bigger.

    Edit: I almost forgot, maybe my favorite Tele I've ever built is a Black Limba (Korina) body, with Western Big leaf Maple cap, Black limba neck and Pau Ferro fretboard. I built it with a single Gibson humbucker in the bridge, Esquire style. It is a phenomenal playing and sounding guitar. I'd put it up against the best vintage LP Jr any day.

    As a player, I prefer one piece Maple necks, and in my experience they are not brighter than a Maple neck with Rosewood board. They sound fatter to me with longer sustain. Obviously, YMMV. I firmly believe that it is almost impossible to predict how different woods are going to impact tone before you actually build the guitar.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2021
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  10. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Butternut is the new swamp ash.

    butternut.jpg


    butternut.jpg
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2021
  11. Rigel7

    Rigel7 Tele-Meister

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    @guitarbuilder You know what I'm liking about Butternut? That I don't like the little open mini grains... which means I can feel like I have a "prestige wood" and not feel bad about painting it. This is now a wood of interest for me.
    This - at least for me - has been a great thread so far! Thanks everyone!
     
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  12. Rigel7

    Rigel7 Tele-Meister

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    @CapnCrunch Excellent stuff. I've seen mention of a basswood maple combo before - maybe it was one of your old posts - and it seems interesting to me.
     
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  13. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Butternut isn't the easiest wood to work with. It gets fuzzy, but it is pretty lightweight and open grained like walnut, so you may want to fill it before painting. There is a blight now, so get it while you can.
     
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  14. crazydave911

    crazydave911 Doctor of Teleocity

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    I only own two Teles, so far, and bought them both kinda sorta. I originally only wanted two but hey.
    I had wanted a vintage cream and finally found it, not Fender. I already had the electricals I wanted on hand which left the neck. A faithful EXACT copy of a one piece maple neck. Was quite comfortable but that Tele headstock :oops:. Most who know me know I love a Tele neck, just not ON a Tele :rolleyes:. I had just traded for what became my only Strat, with a sexy Ibanez profile maple neck with a maple gloss fretboard. A few hours later the trade had been done with friends howling FOUL! :D But I was happy :) and proceeded with my GFS Lil Puncher rail humbuckers, 500k pots and .020 cap, sigh. And found along the way it was a two piece mahogany body :eek:. Well I wasn't sanding it down so there lol
    So there was a Strat I didn't plan on to deal with. It was dark blue over a 5 piece poplar body (good so far), had a vintage bridge and neck pickup and cheap ceramic middle. I kept the neck pickup, put in a knockoff PAF in the bridge and was happy with my Motown tunes.
    The point is, use poplar, use a neck humbucker (low wind) and a good bridge pickup. My latest (a thinline I swore I'd never get) is keeping me quite occupied ATM :lol:
     
  15. Mojotron

    Mojotron Poster Extraordinaire

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    I live in a place where Alder grows everywhere, but given where you are in the world... I have put 1/4" - 1/2" Hard Maple caps on pine and douglas-fir with an interesting result: Not a mid heavy as Alder, but if you added an upper mid bump and a bump in the low-mids/upper-lows Douglas-Fir+maple cap is very Alder sounding while being a little harder to dent - generally - if tight grained. Douglas-fir is very different to finish though - need to use a sanding block for everything. Douglas-fir and hard maple is one of my favorite combos though.
     
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  16. CapnCrunch

    CapnCrunch Friend of Leo's

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    I know John Suhr touts Basswood and maple as a kind of "Holy Grail" combo on his website. I don't know if that is true, but his endorsement was what made me try it. I don't know if it is any better than any other wood or combination, but it is light weight and I've made two guitars with that combo and like them both. I would not shy away from it if you're looking.

    Someone above endorsed Obeche, and I have a well known luthier friend who uses it a lot. It's very light, easy to work and sounds good. It needs grain filling though and it is really soft, those are the draw backs.
     
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  17. crazydave911

    crazydave911 Doctor of Teleocity

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    My current thinline is basswood body and SOME flavor of maple top. It's a beginner job from China, neck humbucker and bridge Tele type pickup. And it's resonant as all hell. Back in the day I had a little money in my pocket and went in my favorite music store (RIP) and found a Fender and Squier version. I tapped both cautiously, bonk on both. Now I'm not crazy enough to think this makes ALL the difference but it does make A difference. Fast forward these years later and I'm watching my favorite review guy, gets all the stuff I could never afford but does occasionally review cheapies. And sure enough, he reviewed this one. First was amazed at how light (under 6lbs) and proceeded to put it on his bench to disassemble (my favorite part) but accidentally bumped it on his bench and it RANG! :eek: And with crappie strings and the cheapest pickups known to man proceeded to impress me and himself.
    Sold! I proceeded through his link and 5 days and $119 later I had one :D. I've made a few small changes but mostly just restrung, setup and played ;)
     
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  18. perttime

    perttime Friend of Leo's

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    I know of some guitar builders/luthiers like to use birch for a lot of their electric guitar tops. And I have an acoustic guitar with neck, back and sides in birch. It works fine if you know what you are doing. More specifically, people are using Betula pendula, commonly known as silver birch, warty birch, European white birch, or East Asian white birch.


    Ruokangas-Mojo-Grande-308-M_20.jpg
     
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  19. Rigel7

    Rigel7 Tele-Meister

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    Hey, here's a question, and maybe it'll take some research, but would a "back cap" change much? Like 1/4 maple, 5/4 basswood, 1/4 maple? Kinda like what Paisley did with spruce and paulowina?
     
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  20. crazydave911

    crazydave911 Doctor of Teleocity

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    Not really, wouldn't know why you'd want to. I've done that with other things, specifically oak over poplar but I had a reason and so did he. He wanted a light but gorgeous guitar for his shows which are usually quite long but hey, whatever floats your boat
     
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